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Apr 26

Does Whiskey Age in the Bottle?

Royal Salute 21 Year Old Blended Scotch DetailAnother great whiskey debate – does your bottle play a factor in the aging process?

Most people will say “no”, and dismiss anybody who says “yes” as naive.  And naivety may very well be the case when it comes to those individuals.  But, I’d like to dig a little deeper into this question.

Before we go any further, let’s define what aging is in relation to whiskey.  Traditionally, maturation occurs when the whiskey is in the barrel, and anything housing the whiskey before or after does not impart any flavor or other characteristics to the whiskey.

Fair enough, but are we to believe that the whiskey in your bottle that’s been there for a year is suspended in time and has not changed, for better or worse?  Isn’t the air in that bottle interacting with the liquid?

Yes, of course it is.  Not to mention that a cork or (gasp!) twist-off cap don’t always seal your bottle as well as you think it might.

So what exactly happens, then?  Well, as time goes on and oxygen has the opportunity to interact with what’s in your bottle, some of the alcohol will evaporate.  This can reduce the proof of your whiskey.  Some will argue that with less alcohol comes less flavor, while others will say that less alcohol means more of a chance to taste the whiskey.

No, I do not have a clear-cut answer to this question, and I don’t think anybody else does either – although there are plenty of bloggers out there that think they do.  I’m much more interested in hearing your opinion.  Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

 

-Ryan

11 comments

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  1. G-LO

    I don’t if what happens once it’s bottled can be called aging, but I truly believe that the whisk(e)y will change over time once you crack the seal and introduce air to the spirit. And I think the higher the ABV, the bigger the change, since like you said, some of the alcohol evaporates. Does it get better over time? Not sure, but I will tell you this, the last dram always seems to be the most memorable. Maybe it’s a sense of loss when the bottle is done. Kind of like saying goodbye to an old friend….

    1. Ryan

      I’d venture to guess that it wouldn’t get any better, necessarily, as time goes on. I do think that it changes. The last dram of a bottle is always memorable, though!

      -Ryan

  2. Nadine R

    In have a bottle of five star that sealed from 1985 what would that be worth now a days?

    1. Ryan

      Hi Nadine.

      While I cannot give you an exact answer, I will tell you this – it’s probably not worth any more than the day it was purchased. Whiskey bottled decades ago isn’t really much different than whiskey bottled today. Had that same liquid stayed in the barrel and been bottled today, that would be a different story.

      Thanks for the comment!

      -Ryan

  3. Marie

    I have a bottle of your Virginia Gentlemen Whiskey that is about 30 years old. Just opened the seal and there is sediment in the bottle. Is it still good?

    1. Ryan

      Hi Marie.

      I really do not know what to tell you since I am not the distiller of Virginia Gentleman. What I will tell you is that you might as well pick up a new bottle since you’ll only be paying $15 or so for a handle.

      -Ryan

  4. Bob

    I recently obtained several bottles of whiskey that are over 50 years old. I see that it should be still good, but was wondering if the taste is the same as the original?

    1. Ryan

      Hi Bob.

      It depends if the bottles were opened or not. If they are still sealed, they should taste the same as the day they were bought. If they have been opened, then air has had a chance to interact with the whiskey in those bottles for five decades. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’ve gone “bad”; they will just be different.

      Cheers!

      -Ryan

  5. Dave

    I don’t drink alcohol, and was given a bottle of 12 year old Chivas Regal in 1986, it came in one of those silver cylinder containers. It’s never been opened and has a screw on top with a shrink wrap cover. I’ve had it 28 years. I would like to donate it to some taste testers and compare it to a newly purchased bottle. Just to see if their is a difference, wheather good or bad. Are you aware of any such org. in S. Florida that would be interested?

    1. Ryan

      Hi Dave.

      I am not aware of any such organization. Perhaps another reader can chime in?

      -Ryan

  6. Gary Patschke

    Opened or not any whiskey over time I believe will have some difference– a bottle unopened for 5 years —– time itself would have to due something— you say no it would not— what about 20 years— 30 years—- I’m not even considering temperature changes or oxygen just time itself— there are no studies on this — but how scientific is a taste test even by the so called experts

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