For most people, being a whisky collector often ends at simply doing their research and buying a bottle of their favourite whisky. Not many people end up paying enough attention to how whisky requires to be meticulously stored and cared for, which is absolutely crucial to retain the best from your prized possessions and indulgences.
A whisky collection is only as good as the whisky itself, and like all good things in life, even this goodness comes to an end. Confused? What we are referring to is retaining the best qualities and ‘goodness’ of your whisky by storing it in the right way, in the right conditions.
Preserving the integrity of your whisky collection must be the foremost priority if you are to be the whisky collector you aspire to be, and doing it right isn’t quite as simple as you may think.
So how does one know how to store whisky? Let’s ask the right questions to know the right answers.
Is there a wrong way to store whisky?
The answer is yes, there are lots of wrong ways to store your whisky that can mildly, or even seriously affect the quality of your treasured spirit. There are a number of ways to ensure no deterioration in the quality of your whisky once the bottle is opened, and there are also numerous ways to screw it up. Let us discuss all the wrong ways you can store whisky to better understand the subject.
Storing a whisky bottle horizontally
One of the most often made mistakes when storing and holding whisky bottles is to display, or keep them horizontally. Storing a bottle in this manner highly proliferates the contact between the spirit and the cork, which needless to say will cause the cork to crack and eventually rupture. Whiskies are always bottled at a significantly higher proof than wine, and prolonged contact between the whisky and the cork is not good for the latter.
How is that a problem? Well, if you decide to open that particular bottle for a dram before storing it back again indefinitely, the cracked, or God forbid, broken cork won’t go back in the same way. This will result in something every whisky lover dreads like nothing else, and that is ‘oxidation.’ We shall discuss oxidation, what it does to your whisky and how to avoid it further in the article but for now, let’s discuss the second most common enemy of fine whisky.
How to store a bottle of whisky?
Upright, always. Storing the bottle upright ensures there is minimal contact between the spirit and the cork, ensuring the integrity of the cork is not compromised. Although, once a month, do make it a point to flip all your bottles upside down for a brief moment, ‘wetting’ the cork.
A momentary contact with the liquid ensures the cork does not dry out, and rupture.
Helpful tip: Keep handy a few corks from bottles you have finished for emergencies like a broken cork.
Storing a bottle in direct contact with sunlight
Sunlight can do to your favourite 18 Year Old Scotch what even pouring cola into it wouldn’t. Direct contact with sunlight over prolonged periods of time will not only diminish the quality of your booze, it will also diminish the beautiful golden amber and liquid gold colours of your whisky. Heat can have a severely negative effect on your whisky, and you must avoid both, exposure to direct sunlight and higher temperatures.
The flavours, aromas and just about everything you once loved about that particular bottle of whisky will cease to exist, and all that will remain in the bottle is something you don’t recognize at all. Exposure to direct sunlight and high temperatures should be avoided at all costs.
Exposure to heat and sunlight can ruin a whisky.
How to avoid ruining an expensive bottle by exposure to sunlight?
The very reason that most beer bottles are dark is to avoid the effects of sunlight on the beer. As you may know, whisky bottles are more often than not clear and not opaque which means the whisky depends on you for refuge.
How can you offer refuge to a bottle of whisky? By storing it in a room that has minimal sunlight, or is often off-limits such as inside a cellar, a man-cave or even inside a cabinet. A cellar or a room that has a lower temperature would be best recommended since the indirect cause is not sunlight itself, but the heat that ruins the whisky. The ideal temperature to store a bottle of whisky is between 15-20 degrees Celsius.
Storing an opened bottle for too long
Once you have opened a bottle of whisky for consumption, don’t let too much time elapse before you wipe off the entire spirit. Here is where we discuss oxidation of a whisky, and how it ruins the drink completely.
Avoid storing whisky in a bottle with a lot of empty space. This will ruin a good whisky by leaving more space for the oxygen to react with the whisky.
When you open a bottle of whisky, enjoy some of it, then store it back again with the cork put back in place properly, the chances of oxidation still exist. Only the rate of oxidation may differ depending on how much whisky is in the bottle, and how much empty space exists for the air to occupy. The lesser the whisky in the bottle, the quicker the oxidation.
How to avoid oxidation from ruining your whisky?
First off, try consuming the entire thing when you open a new bottle of Scotch, or fine Bourbon. Wait a minute, don’t do it all by yourself. Invite a few friends over to sample some whisky, enjoy some levity and lively conversation.
If you prefer to drink in solitude, and refuse to share your good whisky, try transferring the whisky into a decanter or other smaller containers with an impeccably tight seal. Eliminate the space for air to occupy, and prevent oxidation of your cherished spirit.
Although oxidation does not occur rapidly, it would be a great idea to finish a bottle of whisky within a moment of cracking it open, or maybe adopt a benevolent ‘sharing is caring’ attitude (or not?)
Here are a few more absolutely crucial tips and hacks for you to salvage as much integrity of your whisky as possible. Stick to these religiously, and you will never have to worry about your treasures going bad.
- Keep a few small containers handy to store your whisky in the event of a broken cork, or if it is a whisky you only bring out a few times a year. Prevent oxidation by transferring the whisky in smaller containers that are completely airtight and you are good to go.
- As harmful as heat is to whisky, so is the cold. Of course the cold does not affect whisky as adversely as the heat, but just keep this in mind; do not, under any circumstances, try to freeze your whisky to preserve it. It does not work.
- Only invest in an airtight decanter, or your whisky will oxidize way too soon. Also, only decant a whisky that you drink on the regular, and not the one you only bring out for special occasions.
- Another important thing to keep in mind is that a whisky collection is nothing without the envy it invites, and for that very reason, showing them off is necessary. Build your home bar in a place with scant sunlight, cooler temperatures, away from appliances that produce heat and in a corner of your home that is the most relaxing for you.
Stick to these basic tips and hacks for whisky storage, and you will be a master in no time. Over a period of time, you can fine tune your strategy and methods according to your surroundings to preserve your priceless whisky collection in its true form, even dishing out advice to your friends and fellow whiskyheads. Cheers!