Does Whiskey Go Bad?

While some alcohol ages well and the older it is the better and more valuable it becomes, but you may be wondering if whiskey can go bad. I will be answering that question as well as providing other important information that will help you make it last longer.

Whiskey can and does go bad. Proper storage can help whiskey last longer. Whiskey scientists say that an opened bottle can last about 1 to 2 years if it is at least half full. If it is less than a quarter full, it will expire in approximately six months. The reason for this is because the less whiskey there is in the bottle, the more oxygen there is. Oxygen causes oxidization and the more oxidization, the faster the whiskey goes bad.


You’re going to want to know how to properly store your whiskey to make it last as long as possible. Read on to find information on how to do just that.

Does Whiskey Go Bad? How Long Does Whiskey Last?

There are several places in your house you may try to store your whiskey. Some places will work better for the longevity of the whiskey than others. We are going to explore how long whiskey lasts when it is stored in different places.

How Long Does Whiskey Last Outside?

As previously mentioned, whiskey can last from six months to 2 years depending on how full the bottle of whiskey is. It does better when stored upright and sealed tightly.

An unopened bottle of whiskey can last from 10 years to indefinitely. Occasionally there can be a decrease in taste or quality. It can also evaporate through the cork so the volume may decrease even if sealed.

If whiskey is left out on the counter, there are some things to be mindful of. Whiskey should not be left in the sunlight or near a hot appliance.  While it won’t technically cause the whiskey to spoil, it could negatively affect the taste.

How Long Does Whiskey Last In The Fridge?

The reason some alcohols are kept in the freezer is to mute the flavor. For example, vodka does well in the freezer because the point is for it to be neutral.

For whiskey, when it is too cold, you can lose some of the flavors. For people wanting a full flavor whiskey, storing it in the fridge may not be the best option.

Storing it in the fridge does not shorten or prolong the shelf life but can temporarily affect the flavor as it is usually best served at room temperature.

How Long Does Whiskey Last In The Freezer?

Similar to what you learned about keeping whiskey in the fridge, it does not need to be kept in the freezer to make it last longer.

You do not have to worry about whiskey freezing because 80 proof spirits freeze at -16°F and an average freezer is usually about 0°F.

Again, while storing it in the freezer does not prolong or shorten the shelf life of whiskey, it does dull the flavor and reduce the aromatics that enhance the flavor.

Now you know that unopened whiskey can have an indefinite shelf life and opened whiskey shelf life depends on how much whiskey is in the bottle and how you store it does not typically affect that shelf life.

How To Tell If Whiskey Has Gone Bad/How To Know If Whiskey Is Fresh

There are ways to tell if whiskey has gone bad and ways to tell if you should not drink it.

Look: If the whiskey has changed colors, it is probably not good to drink. If you notice any debris in the bottom of the bottle, you should not drink it.

Smell: If it smells bad or sour, it is probably best to discard it.

Taste: If the taste is mild or flat, it is okay to drink. If it has a sour, metallic, or otherwise strange taste, don’t drink it.

Just as there are ways to tell if whiskey is bad, there are ways to tell if whiskey is good.

Look: Good, fresh whiskey should be amber-colored to brown. The longer a whiskey is aged in a barrel, the darker the whiskey will be.

Smell: Good whiskey should not smell overly of alcohol. There are seven scent groups when it comes to whiskey. They are esters, aldehydes, phenols, sweets, woods, oils, and cereals. Each scent group has a unique scent that you should look for when scent testing a whiskey.

Taste:  The flavor varies greatly too based on the type of whiskey. You can get whiskeys that are sweet, savory, spicy, smoky, smooth, or strong. The whiskey should taste like it is described on the bottle.

How To Store Whiskey

There are storage recommendations for whiskey to help ensure you keep your opened or unopened bottle tasting its best for as long as possible. Read on for those tips.

Unopened bottles: Unopened bottles of whiskey should be stored in a cool dark place with stable temperatures. They should also be stored away from humidity. Bottles should be stored upright and turned occasionally to wet the cork to keep it from crumbling upon opening.

Opened bottles: Opened bottles should also be stored in a cool, dark place and be protected from light and heat. The container it is being stored in needs to be well-sealed.

Can You Freeze Whiskey?

While some liquors can and should be kept in the freezer, whiskey isn’t one of them for a couple of reasons.

It affects the flavor: Freezing whiskey doesn’t ruin the whiskey but it can make it less flavorful. Freezing any liquid makes it more viscous and in whiskey, increased viscosity means a reduction in flavor. If you are expecting a full flavor whiskey, it should be served at room temperature because as whiskey warms, it releases volatiles which are compounds that can be readily vaporized.

It won’t freeze: Keeping whiskey in the freezer shouldn’t freeze it. Most liquor over 40 proof will not freeze. Whiskey is at least 40 proof and usually higher. The average freezer is 0°F and whiskey won’t freeze unless temperatures reach -17°F. A commercial freezer can reach as low as -0.4°F and that still isn’t cold enough to freeze whiskey.

Frequently Asked Questions About Whiskey’s Shelf Life

There may be a lot of questions when it comes to the shelf life of whiskey. Read on to find the answers to a couple of those questions.

How do you store whiskey long term? When storing whiskey bottles for long periods of time, bottles should sit upright, never lying down to protect the cork. If the whiskey has prolonged contact with the cork, the cork could degrade or affect the flavor of the whiskey. Protect whiskey bottles from direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, risk of water damage, and humidity.

Can you get sick from drinking old whiskey? If the bottle is unopened, the whiskey won’t ever go bad. Old bottles of opened whiskey risk being contaminated especially if it was improperly stored or if the cork or lid is not tightly secured. If an opened bottle has been properly stored, there are no health risks with drinking it. You may only experience a duller taste.


Now you know all about whiskey and its indefinite shelf life when unopened and properly stored. You’ve also learned the best way to store it is in a cool, dark place, and the best way to drink it is at room temperature.

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