Does Bourbon Go Bad

Does Bourbon Go Bad?

No one likes waste, right? And when it comes to waste, there’s nothing more devastating than having to pour your favorite drink down the drain. I get shudders just thinking about it.

So, if you’ve got a bottle of bourbon collecting dust in your home you might be a little apprehensive about sipping at it straight away.

But I come baring good news: regardless of whether you popped open that bottle months ago, or how long it’s been left forgotten about in your pantry, in most cases, it’ll be safe to drink. And what’s even better, and arguably even more vital, is that it’ll still taste amazing.

No one wants bad-tasting bourbon.

In this article, we’ll delve in a little deeper in terms of all things bourbon (if you’re new to bourbon, read our guide here). Learn how to store it, it’s shelf life, and bourbon going bad!

How To Store Your Bourbon

I used to just chuck my bottles of liquor down on the side after purchase an just leave them where they were until I wanted them. I am happy to say that I have learned from these previous mistakes. Storing your liquor correctly is a pretty important thing to do.

Bourbon is a type of whiskey, and so you’ll store it in a similar fashion.

Unopened Bourbon

If your bottle of bourbon is sealed it means two things. Avoid light and temperature. Light and temperature are an unopened bourbon’s biggest foe. They will cause catalyze chemical reactions which simply put will completely change the taste of your whiskey. And we don’t want that. 

So you’ll want to pop it somewhere that doesn’t get too much light or heat. I’d opt for a basement or wine cellar if you have one. But don’t worry if you don’t, you can use a closet or a cabinet. Even just a box will do. 

Once stored properly, it can be left to its devices for as long as you want really. You can leave an unopened bottle of bourbon for years and it won’t affect the taste or flavor.

Opened Bourbon

A good bottle of bourbon is not something that you’ll down in one night. You’ll want to savor that delicious flavor over time. And that will mean you’ll want to store it properly.

Much like with unopened bourbon, you’ll want to avoid light and temperature. However, you’ll have a third foe to contend with once it’s opened and that is oxidation. This is where the compounds in the drink are changed by the introduction of oxygen. This is a fancy way of saying that oxygen will massively impact the bourbon’s flavor.

This means that you’ll want to ensure that the lid of your bourbon is always nice and tight. Oxygen will also get into your bottle too though. So once you start making your way through the bottle, you’ll want to empty the contents into a smaller bottle to ensure less oxygen can get o your liquor.

Does Bourbon Go Bad

Bourbon’s Shelf Life

As I’ve mentioned above, bourbon’s shelf life is pretty impressive. In fact, it’s almost indefinite. So, if you stumble across a forgotten-about bottle, you shouldn’t really have to worry about it going bad especially if it is unopened.

However, the said can’t always be said about an opened bottle. The good news is that it won’t make you sick. It won’t go bad in terms of the beverage making you ill. It may go bad in terms of not tasting great though.

As stated earlier, if it’s spent a long time in the presence of oxygen, temperature, or sunlight it’s probably not going to taste the nicest. And the longer it’s been left, the worse quality you can expect.

How To Tell If Your Bourbon Has Gone Bad

So, you won’t ever really be looking to see if your bourbon is safe to drink. The high alcohol content will kill any bacteria that dare go near it so you won’t be getting sick.

You may, however, feel the churning of your tummy if you taste a bourbon where its quality has significantly deteriorated because it is not going to taste good.

As it gets older, some of the alcohol is likely to evaporate though and its taste and odor is going to noticeably change. If you pop open the bottle and it smells a bit…funky or a sip tastes a little off then it’s probably best to cut your losses.

It’s always best practice to just trust your human intuition too. It’s there for a reason. If you look at a bottle and you notice that something is off or a bit different about it, it’s probably best to just leave it and get yourself a new bottle.

If you’re not sure about drinking it, it’s usually a good indication that you shouldn’t. 

Final Thoughts

Bourbon when stored correctly, has pretty much an infinite shelf life. So it’ll be very rare that your bourbon will actually go bad.

As I’ve mentioned in this article, it is very unlikely that you’ll ever get sick from bourbon because it doesn’t tend to go off in the way that, say,  some food will because it’s not perishable.

However, when bourbon has been in direct heat, light, or oxygen for extended periods of time the compounds will start to break down and this will massively alter the flavor of the drink. And not in a very nice way at all.

The general rule to remember is that unopened bottles of bourbon that have been out of light and sunlight will be good to go no matter when you decide to open them.

If you have opened the bottle though, you’ll want to ensure that as you start to make your way through the bottle you transfer the liquor into a smaller bottle to minimize its access to oxygen to keep it tasting delicious.

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