Can we drink 2 year old rum?

Rum that is 2 years old can generally be safely consumed, but the quality and taste may have diminished over time. There are a few key factors to consider when deciding if a 2 year old rum is still drinkable.

What happens to rum as it ages?

As rum ages in the bottle, it goes through chemical changes that affect the flavor. Freshly distilled rum tends to have sharper flavors and higher alcohol content. As it interacts with oxygen in the bottle, the rum becomes smoother and more mellow. The alcohol content also gradually decreases through evaporation.

These aging processes happen more quickly in the first 2 years and then taper off. So a 2 year old rum will taste noticeably different than when it was first bottled, but the changes slow down after that initial period.

Does rum go bad?

Unlike wine, rum does not really “go bad” in the sense of becoming unsafe to drink. The high alcohol content prevents microbial growth. However, rum can go “off” in that the flavor becomes unpleasant over time.

The main causes of bad flavor in old rum include:

  • Oxidation – Interaction with oxygen makes the rum taste ‘flat’
  • Evaporation – Alcohol evaporates, leaving watery flavor
  • Light exposure – Sunlight accelerates chemical reactions

Properly stored rum can last for many decades. But once opened, the oxidation process accelerates which can degrade the flavor after a couple of years.

How to tell if 2 year old rum has gone bad

Examine the rum carefully before drinking. Check for these signs that the rum has deteriorated:

  • Color changes – Raw rum is clear. Darkening color can indicate oxidation.
  • Cloudiness – Particles in the rum suggest contamination.
  • Off aromas – Smell for sour, bitter, medicinal, or rotten odors.
  • Off flavors – Taste a small sample for undesirable flavors.
  • Low alcohol burn – The spirit should cause a burning sensation. Weakness suggests evaporation.

Any distinct color changes, precipitation, or weakened alcohol effect likely means the quality has diminished significantly. But subtle flavor variations do not necessarily mean the rum has “gone bad”. It may just taste a little different due to aging.

Tips for proper rum storage

To extend the shelf life of a bottle, store rum properly:

  • Cool and dark place – Store at 55-65°F out of direct sunlight.
  • Tightly sealed – Keep lid closed tight to minimize air exchange.
  • Vertical orientation – Store bottle upright to prevent leakage.
  • No extreme shifts – Avoid letting it get very hot or cold, which accelerate aging.

With proper storage conditions, an unopened bottle of rum can remain drinkable for many years beyond 2. Once opened, try to use the bottle within 1-2 years.

What does aging do to the taste of rum?

Here’s how the flavors tend to change in rum as it ages:

Fresh rum 2 years aged Several years aged
Strong alcohol bite Smoother, mellower Very smooth
Fruity, spicy Muted raw flavors Develops oaky flavors
Harsh burn Soft rounded taste Rich, complex

Keep in mind these are generalizations – aging effects vary widely between different rums based on ingredients, climate, barrel conditions, and other factors. But for most rums, the raw heat mellows out after 2 years while the bright fruity notes decline.

How aging effects rum color

For golden and dark rums, color also deepens with age. This is due to:

  • Caramelization of sugars into darker compounds
  • Extraction of color molecules from the oak barrel
  • Oxidation reactions that darken compounds over time

So a 2 year old gold rum may take on a deeper golden or light brown compared to when first bottled. Aged dark rums become even darker and richer in tone.

Changes to alcohol content

Due to evaporation, a portion of the alcohol dissipates over time. Fresh rum generally starts off 45-95% ABV. After 2 years, the ABV may drop around 5-10% as alcohol evaporates through the barrel and bottle. Higher proofs experience more evaporation.

The flavor also becomes more concentrated as water evaporates, which can contribute to smoother mouthfeel. But extensive loss can leave the remaining spirit with a weak, watery taste.

How long does rum last after opening?

Once opened, oxidation occurs much more quickly. An opened bottle of rum generally lasts:

  • 6-12 months – If less than 25% full
  • 1-2 years – If 25-50% full
  • 2-4 years – If more than 50% full

For maximum freshness and to prevent flat or off flavors, try to finish an opened bottle of rum within 1-2 years. Transferring to a smaller bottle can help minimize oxidation.

Proper storage and minimal exposure to air and light help extend shelf life after opening. But the clock starts ticking as soon as the bottle is uncorked.

Can expired rum make you sick?

Fortunately, rum’s high alcohol content prevents microbial growth. So “expired” rum that’s been stored properly is very unlikely to cause food poisoning or other illness.

However, very old rum may develop small amounts of potentially toxic chemicals over decades. This occurs primarily in rum aged 10+ years. Excess levels of:

  • Ethyl carbamate (urethane) – A known carcinogen
  • Ethyl acetate – Causes headaches/nausea
  • Methanol – Toxic in large amounts

A 2 year old rum is highly unlikely to contain dangerous levels of these compounds. But very old rum with distinct color changes or a flavor that seems clearly “off” is best avoided.

For comparison, an unopened bottle of wine generally lasts only 2-5 years before becoming undrinkable. So rum has a relatively long shelf life of a decade or more before safety could become a concern.

Does rum go bad if unopened?

An unopened bottle of rum has an exceptionally long shelf life. Rum stored at 40-95°F may last:

  • White rum: 5-7 years
  • Golden rum: 7-10 years
  • Dark rum: 10-20 years
  • Spiced rum: 2-4 years

Higher proof and more neutral spirit (like cachaca) last the longest. Spiced rum has a shorter shelf life due to the spices and added sweeteners.

With ideal storage conditions of under 55°F and in the dark, rum can potentially stay drinkable for 50 years or longer before deteriorating.

So a 2 year old unopened bottle is still well within the lifetime for quality. However, check carefully for any leaking, evaporation, or changes in aroma before consuming very old rum.


In summary, a 2 year old rum may exhibit some subtle changes in color and flavor compared to when first bottled. But it is generally safe to drink if stored properly.

An unopened 2 year old bottle should not pose any risks, though taste may start to decline. Once opened, try to finish within 1-2 years. Examine closely before drinking very old rum over 5 years.

With proper aging, blending, and storage techniques, rum’s high alcohol content allows it to stay drinkable long after many other spirits. But excessive age will eventually cause fading color, evaporation, oxidation, and loss of flavors.

For a 2 year old rum, minor changes are expected but it can still be enjoyed. Drink and assess based on aroma, appearance, and taste rather than age alone. And store rum appropriately to maximize shelf life after opening.

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