Whisky Shelf Life: When Does It Go Bad?

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whisky shelf life: how long does it lasts? | Food & Drink | Elle Blonde Luxury Lifestyle Destination Blog

Have you ever found a bottle of whisky hidden inside your liquor cabinet and wondered if it has gone better with time or whether it is time to toss it out? Is whisky like a fine wine that only gets better as it ages, or can it actually go bad?

Well, here’s a short answer: No, unlike a bottle of fine wine, whisky – once bottled- does not get better with time, instead as it ages, it will experience significant changes to flavour, colour as well smell, especially if it is open.

In this blog post, we’ll be covering everything related to whisky shelf life along with some simple yet useful tips for storing whisky so that you know how to make a bottle last long. 

whisky shelf life: how long does it lasts? | Food & Drink | Elle Blonde Luxury Lifestyle Destination Blog

What we’ll cover: 

  • Whisky Shelf Life 101
  • How to Tell Your Whisky Has Gone Bad
  • Tips for Storing Whisky


All whisky types, including scotch, bourbon, rye, and even the famous Jack Daniels, when stored the right way, has nearly an indefinite shelf life; nonetheless, there are few things to consider for both sealed and opened whisky bottles:  

Sealed Whisky Bottles – Theoretically, a sealed whisky bottle can last you forever if stored in the ideal conditions. Keep in mind that distilled spirits do not go bad like beer or wine usually does. But as we said, this is largely contingent on how you store the whisky. When stored the right way, a whisky bottle can last at least ten years – undoubtedly a lot longer, too – before you can notice any obvious changes to the quality or flavour.

Another thing to remember is that whisky evaporates even through the cork; hence it might decrease in volume even if it has not been opened.  

Opened Whisky Bottles – Unlike sealed whisky, opened bottles have an approximate shelf life ranging from 6 months to 2 years. Once a bottle of whiskey is opened, the alcohol present in it will slowly begin to evaporate with time, making it taste smoother.

Additionally, as the volume of liquid reduces, the amount of air surges, which speeds up the oxidation process as well as alters the whisky’s flavour. Although there aren’t any fixed rules, still it’s best to drink the whisky within 6 months if only half a bottle is remaining. On the other hand, finish whisky within 3 months if only a quarter or less is left. 


Although, over time, whisky does change, it doesn’t always mean it has gone bad. In fact, several whisky experts actually prefer the subtle alterations to aroma and flavour that ensue as whisky gets old. As shared above, an open whisky begins evaporating due to the fact that alcohol vaporises quicker than water, resulting in the loss of alcoholic kick many drinkers enjoy. Nonetheless, there are drinkers who prefer smoother and more mellow whisky.

Bear in mind that the lower the whisky volume remaining in a bottle, the faster changes will occur. Here are some leading factors that might indicate your whisky has gone down the hill:

Colour – When opened, some of the watery components of whisky will evaporate over time, making it slightly syrupy and darker. In case the colour gets lighter, this might signify that the bottle has been excessively exposed to sunlight.

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Smell – If an old, opened bottle of whisky looks or smells bad, for your own sake, discard it immediately!  

Flavour – If your opened bottle of whisky has turned slightly milder in taste, don’t fret. I might be old but completely safe to drink. However, if it has a metallic, sour, or another strange flavour, throw it away.

Mould/Debris – Debris and mould in the bottle’s bottom are huge indicators that the whisky has no saving. 


Here are a few simple yet useful tips for storing whisky that can help you maximise the shelf life of your whisky bottles: 

Store in cool temperatures – Whisky should always be stored at or below room temperature – preferably 15°C to 20°C and no higher than 24°C. The best places to keep your whisky bottles include the pantry’s bottom shelf, a root cellar, or the basement. 

whisky shelf life: how long does it lasts?

Keep bottles away from direct sunlightBear in mind that sunlight can harm both sealed and opened whisky bottles. Thus, store all your bottles of direct light by keeping them in a liquor cabinet, dark room or a box.

Store whisky bottles uprightWhy? Because the spirit can slowly eat away at the bottle’s cork, letting air inside, and by now, you should know what happens when air homes a whisky bottle.

Lastly, if you really want to make sure that your bottles of whisky do not go downhill, the best thing you can do is to drink them (in moderation, of course)! If you are looking for more tips and info regarding whisky varieties, we recommend you to join a Whisky Club, where you can find like-minded folks sharing the love of whisky. After all, the more, the merrier! 

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