Bourbon is American Whiskey brewed under specific circumstances. To be considered Bourbon, the liquor must be produced in the United States and made up of 51% corn with 80 proof.
Bourbon, like other spirits, does not spoil to the point of poisoning you, but its quality does deteriorate over time. If sealed and kept out, bourbon can last for 10-12 years without spoiling. Once opened, bourbon will last 1-2 years before its taste worsens. It’s not recommended that bourbon be refrigerated or frozen but should instead be kept in a dark, cool place.
If you have a bottle of Bourbon in storage or a cellar and are curious if it’s still good, read on.
Does Bourbon Go Bad? How Long Does Bourbon Last?
Bourbon has Best-By dates that usually range from 2-4 years from the bottling date. This date is the manufacturer’s estimate for when the bourbon quality is optimal. However, Bourbon has an indefinite shelf life if protected from the elements.
How Long Does Bourbon Last Outside?
Unopened: Bourbon lasts for 10-12 years when unopened and stored correctly. Air is kept out of the bottle when sealed, retaining its flavor and appearance for quite a while. Bourbon is safe to drink well, past the “Best By” date.
Opened: Bourbon lasts 1-2 years when opened and left out. Once air enters the bottle, bourbon will deteriorate over time and its taste and appearance will suffer. Direct sunlight will also hasten the deterioration process. While still safe to consume, the taste may be unpleasant after 2 years, and most owners would opt to throw it out.
How Long Does Bourbon Last In The Fridge?
Unopened: Bourbon will last the same amount of time in the fridge when kept outside, 10-12 years. Bourbon is not usually stored in the refrigerator because there is no need. Bourbon has a long enough shelf life when kept in a dark, cool place away from sunlight that it doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge.
Opened: Bourbon will last 1-2 years when kept in the refrigerator. Bourbon doesn’t like temperature fluctuations, so a consistent temperature is preferred when storing Bourbon. If you drink your Bourbon chilled, it’s perfectly fine to keep it in the fridge. However, it does not extend the life of bourbon by much.
How Long Does Bourbon Last In The Freezer?
It is not recommended to keep Bourbon in the freezer, regardless if it’s sealed or opened. Bourbon usually has a high alcohol content. To freeze spirits with high alcohol content, you would need an industrial-grade freezer that drops to temperatures below -27℃ or -17℉. Standard home freezers reach up to 0℉ and cannot freeze Bourbon.
To conclude, Bourbon lasts longest when it is kept away from direct sunlight in a cool, dry place. If it’s already been opened, you have the option of storing it in a liquor cabinet or the fridge. Freezing Bourbon isn’t ideal because standard freezers will not drop to a temperature cold enough to freeze Bourbon.
How Can You Tell If Bourbon Has Gone Bad?
As discussed, Bourbon does not spoil to where it degrades or becomes rotten. Any bacteria that comes in contact with Bourbon will die due to its high alcoholic content. The following conditions will tell you if your Bourbon has lost its original taste and appearance.
Taste: The taste of Bourbon is distinct, full of rich, full-bodied flavors. Give your Bourbon a quick taste. If you taste something ‘off’ or sour, it means the Bourbon has begun to deteriorate. You can still drink it, but the taste may be too unpleasant.
Odor: One of the main properties of Bourbon is its smell. It can be sweet or nutty, depending on which type of barrel was used to age it. Take a whiff of your Bourbon. If you can still smell some of the sweetness or wooden smell, then the Bourbon is still good. If you smell something ‘funny’ or weird, it means oxidation has begun to break down the Bourbon. It’s your choice to keep or throw out the Bourbon, but most owners will cut their losses and throw it out.
Appearance: Bourbons have a light to dark amber color that attracts Bourbon aficionados. Pour yourself a glass and lift the glass to the light. If you can still see its original color, the Bourbon is still good. If it seems light or gives an off-color, it’s best to throw it out.
How Do You Store Bourbon?
Unopened: The best way to store new, unopened bottles of Bourbon is in a cellar or liquor cabinet. Any place that’s away from direct sunlight with a cool, dry temperature should do the trick. Keep the bottle upright. When the bottle rests on its side, the liquor seeps into the cork and could break it down over time. Keeping the bottle upright ensures the cork remains dry and does not break apart.
Opened: Open bottles of Bourbon can be kept in the same fashion as unopened bottles of Bourbon. You also have the option of keeping the bottle in the refrigerator. Ensure the bottle is sealed tightly and there isn’t too much space between the cork and the liquor. If the bottle is more than half empty, it’s best to transfer the Bourbon into a smaller, sealed container.
Should You Freeze Bourbon?
As stated above, it’s not advisable to freeze Bourbon. Due to Bourbon’s high alcohol content, it will not freeze in a conventional freezer. Instead, opt to keep the Bourbon in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
Now that you know everything there is to know about Bourbon’s shelf life, enjoy a highball of your finest Bourbon with your friends. Bourbon tastes excellent neat or on the rocks on a hot summer day. If you’ve had a bottle of Bourbon locked away for a long time, make sure you give it a quick taste test before serving it to your friends. Drink responsibly, and enjoy!