How long can you keep whiskey?

Whiskey has an incredibly long shelf life if stored properly. Many factors impact how long whiskey lasts unopened versus opened. With proper storage techniques, an unopened bottle can last decades or even longer. Once opened, whiskey lasts between 1 to 5 years before the taste begins deteriorating. After decades, even unopened whiskey can become undesirable due to changes in color, clarity, and flavor.

How long does unopened whiskey last?

An unopened bottle of whiskey has an almost indefinite shelf life. Properly stored whiskey can remain safe to drink and maintain quality and taste for many decades. Significant factors impacting opened whiskey’s shelf life include:

  • Alcohol content – Higher proof whiskey lasts longer.
  • Storage conditions – Cool, dark place maintains quality best.
  • Type – Bourbon and Scotch last longer than blends.
  • Bottle – Glass preserves better than plastic.

Whiskey’s high alcohol content inhibits microbial growth. As long as the bottle remains factory sealed, the whiskey remains fresh and safe to drink. Over decades, the whiskey can slowly interact with oxygen permeating the bottle, resulting in gradual changes to the liquor’s taste, color, and aroma.

Ideal storage conditions

To get the most longevity out of whiskey, store it sealed in a cool, dark place:

  • Cool temperatures – Store between 55°F and 68°F. Minimize temperature fluctuations.
  • Dark area – Completely protect bottle from light exposure.
  • Stable humidity – Maintain between 60% to 80% relative humidity.
  • No vibration – Avoid shaking or rattling the whiskey.

With ideal storage conditions, an unopened bottle of whiskey lasts easily for decades. Lower alcohol content or poor storage accelerates deterioration. Even then, the liquor remains safe to drink, though undesirable in taste and aroma.

How long does opened whiskey last?

Once opened, oxygen exposure forever changes a whiskey’s shelf life. With proper care, an opened bottle lasts between 1 to 5 years before noticeable fading in taste, smell, and color. Significant factors impacting opened whiskey’s shelf life include:

  • Alcohol content – Higher proofs last longer after opening.
  • Storage conditions – Refrigeration extends shelf life.
  • Bottle fullness – More airspace means faster oxidation.
  • Type – Bourbon and Scotch last longer than blends.

Higher alcohol concentrations slow oxidation, extending the opened bottle’s shelf life. For maximum freshness, store opened whiskey in a cool place out of direct light. Refrigeration is ideal. Consort to limit oxygen exposure by keeping the bottle full. An opened whiskey bottle stored properly lasts between 1 to 3 years before flavor decline. After 5 years, oxidation significantly degrades taste and color.

How to store opened whiskey

Once opened, whiskey is extremely vulnerable to oxygen. To extend its shelf life:

  • Refrigerate – Store opened whiskey in the fridge if possible.
  • Freeze – Freezing whiskey preserves quality but may alter taste.
  • Fill bottle – Keep bottle completely full to limit air exposure.
  • Use smaller bottles – Split whiskey into smaller containers.
  • inert gas – Replace oxygen with argon or nitrogen gas.

Proper storage extends the shelf life of opened whiskey to 1 to 5 years. Even with ideal conditions, oxidation still slowly degrades the liquor’s flavor over time.

How long does whiskey last after opening?

Whiskey Type Shelf Life After Opening
Blended Whiskey 1 to 2 years
Bourbon 2 to 4 years
Scotch 3 to 5 years

Different whiskey types vary in their shelf lives after opening. High-quality bourbon or Scotch lasts longer than cheaper blended whiskey. Factors impacting opened whiskey shelf life include:

  • Alcohol content – Higher alcohol prolongs shelf life.
  • Ingredients – Malt whiskey lasts longer than grain whiskey.
  • Age – Older whiskey lasts longer after opening.
  • Storage – Refrigeration extends shelf life.
  • Exposure – Partially filled bottles deteriorate faster.

With ideal storage conditions, an opened bottle of Scotch or high-end bourbon remains enjoyable for 3 to 5 years. Well-made blended whiskey lasts 1 to 2 years after opening. Even with proper care, noticeable oxidation still occurs. Consume opened whiskey within a few years for best taste.

How to tell if opened whiskey is bad?

Over time, oxidation degrades opened whiskey’s color, aroma, and flavor. Signs of spoiled whiskey include:

  • Discoloration – Darkening color as it oxidizes.
  • Cloudiness – Particles form causing clouding.
  • Weak aroma – Smell becomes less potent.
  • Off tastes – Development of undesirable flavors.
  • Dryness – Mouthfeel becomes less lush.

Whiskey’s high alcohol content prevents harmful microbes from growing. But chemical oxidation still gradually degrades taste. Consume opened whiskey within 3 to 5 years for best quality and flavor.

Does whiskey expire?

Whiskey has an exceptionally long shelf life but does gradually expire over time. For an unopened bottle stored properly, whiskey lasts indefinitely. The liquor remains safe to consume but slowly declines in quality. An opened bottle lasts 1 to 5 years before oxidizing and noticeably deteriorating in aroma, taste, and color.

Whiskey expiration depends primarily on:

  • Opened vs. unopened – Unopened whiskey lasts decades, opened lasts years.
  • ABV – Higher alcohol content prolongs shelf life.
  • Storage conditions – Cool, dark place preserves quality best.
  • Type – Bourbon and Scotch last longer than blends.

While whiskey can technically expire, old liquor is still safe to drink. With ideal storage, whiskey lasts upwards of 50 years unopened. Opened bottles stay enjoyable for 1 to 5 years. But over decades, even unopened whiskey slowly oxidizes and declines in quality.

How long does whiskey last unopened?

Liquor Type Shelf Life Unopened
Blended Whiskey 50+ years
Bourbon 75+ years
Scotch 100+ years

Unopened whiskey can remain fresh for exceptionally long periods. Scotch and bourbon outlast blended whiskey unopened. Factors impacting unopened shelf life include:

  • ABV – Higher proof whiskey lasts longer.
  • Age – Older whiskey endures better in bottle.
  • Storage – Cool, dark conditions prolong shelf life.
  • Oxygen – Minimal air exposure prevents oxidation.

With ideal storage, whiskey lasts 50+ years unopened. Over time, slow chemical changes still degrade quality. But whiskey should remain safe and drinkable for upwards of a century or longer.

How to store whiskey

Whiskey stored properly maintains peak quality and taste for decades. Follow these whiskey storage tips:

  • Cool place – Store at 55°F to 68°F temperature.
  • Dark area – Protect from light to prevent fading.
  • Stable humidity – Maintain around 70% relative humidity.
  • No vibration – Prevent shaking to avoid oxidation.
  • Upright – Keep whiskey bottle upright to keep cork moist.
  • Opened – Refrigerate opened bottles and keep full.

Avoid radical temperature swings. Do not freeze whiskey as expansion can crack bottles and alter the taste. With ideal storage conditions, an unopened whiskey bottle can remain fresh and drinkable for 50+ years.

How to store opened whiskey

Opened whiskey oxidizes rapidly. To maximize opened bottle shelf life:

  • Refrigerate – Keep opened whiskey in the fridge.
  • Freeze – Freezing prevents oxidation but may alter flavor.
  • Full – Keep bottle completely full with minimal airspace.
  • Smaller bottles – Split whiskey into smaller containers.
  • No oxygen – Replace air in bottle with an inert gas like argon.

Store opened whiskey cool and out of direct light. Refrigeration or freezing helps minimize oxidation and prolongs shelf life. Consort to limit air exposure inside the bottle. With ideal storage, opened whiskey lasts 1 to 5 years before fading.

Does whiskey go bad?

Whiskey does not spoil in the traditional sense but does slowly deteriorate over time. Due to its high alcohol content, whiskey is shelf-stable and does not grow harmful microbes. But chemical oxidation still degrades color, aroma, and flavor.

Signs of spoiled whiskey:

  • Discoloration – Darkening from light amber to brown.
  • Cloudiness – Particles form causing foggy appearance.
  • Weak aroma – Smell becomes less bold.
  • Off flavors – Unpleasant tastes develop.
  • Dry texture – Mouthfeel becomes less smooth.

Over decades, even unopened whiskey gradually expires due to slow oxidation through the bottle. Opened whiskey lasts 1 to 5 years before “spoiling” from too much air exposure. But old whiskey is still safe to drink, just with faded quality and taste.

Can you drink expired whiskey?

Yes, you can safely drink expired whiskey. While whiskey can degrade in quality and taste over time, it does not spoil in a way that makes it unsafe.

The high alcohol content of whiskey prevents the growth of dangerous molds and bacteria. Over time, oxidation causes changes in aroma, color, and flavor. But expired whiskey does not become harmful to drink.

The taste of expired whiskey may be off from fading over time. But drinking decades-old whiskey is completely safe, though the quality is diminished. There are no health risks to consuming very old whiskey stored properly.

As long as the whiskey bottle has remained unopened and stored upright, the liquor inside remains safe to drink indefinitely, though not as tasty. Once opened, whiskey lasts 1 to 5 years before oxidizing. But even then, it is still safe to consume.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does whiskey last unopened?

With proper storage, unopened whiskey can last 50+ years before quality begins declining. Higher-end bourbon and Scotch can remain good for 75+ years and 100+ years respectively.

Does whiskey go bad if not refrigerated?

Whiskey stored at room temperature still lasts for decades unopened and years opened. However, refrigeration extends the shelf life. Unrefrigerated whiskey declines faster in quality once exposed to oxygen.

Can old whiskey make you sick?

While old whiskey eventually degrades in taste, it does not make you sick. The high alcohol preserves whiskey indefinitely. Very old whiskey may taste off but remains safe to drink.

What happens if you drink very old whiskey?

Nothing harmful will happen if you drink very old whiskey stored properly. The main effects are a decline in taste, aroma, and color. The alcohol prevents microbes from growing, so old whiskey is safe, though not as enjoyable.

Does whiskey get better with age after bottling?

Unlike wine, whiskey does not improve with additional aging after bottling. Aged whiskey may continue mellowing for the first few years sealed. But after decades, oxidation gradually degrades quality over time rather than enhancing it.


Whiskey can remain drinkable for an exceptionally long time if stored properly. Unopened bottles last 50+ years due to whiskey’s high alcohol content and the airtight seal preventing oxidation. Opened whiskey lasts 1 to 5 years before fading in quality.

Over time, all whiskey will slowly oxidize and degrade. But whiskey does not spoil in a harmful way. Old whiskey is safe to drink but lacks the bold flavors and smooth texture of fresh whiskey. Refrigerate opened bottles and drink within 3 to 5 years for best taste. With proper care, whiskey can be enjoyed decades after bottling.

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