How Long Will an Opened Bottle of Whisky Stay Good?

Credit: morberg

Credit: morberg

1-2 years.

If it’s sealed and kept in the right conditions, it could (theoretically) last forever. In fact, famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton abandoned an Antarctic expedition in 1907. That expedition included several bottles of Mackinlay’s and three were discovered over a hundred years later after sitting in -30 degrees Celsius. They were recovered (and replicas were made) so if you can keep it at -30 Celsius, presumably it would last over a hundred years!

While I wouldn’t try it, the key to keeping your whisky safe is to avoid light, temperature, and air (oxygen specifically).

Light is not good for any spirit, which is why so many beers are bottled in brown or green bottles, so you want to keep it out of the light whenever possible. If you have a dark room, that generally will suffice, but a cupboard or cabinet is best. You want to avoid leaving it in direct sunlight. Ultraviolet light destroys tannins, which aren’t present in a high quantity in whisky but are still there (they actually come from the cask).

Temperature should be cool though short periods in high temperatures will not severely impact the whisky. Anything from cellar temperature (45-65 degrees F, 7-18 degrees C) to room temperature (70 degrees F, 21 degrees C) will be fine for your scotch.

Air ends up being your biggest enemy. So we have two things to consider with respect to air. First, when storing whisky, always store it standing up. The cork can dry out, which is why experts recommend storing wine on its side, but the high alcohol content of whisky can eat away at the cork. The cork can also impart unpleasant and undesirable flavors into the whisky, obviously bad, and also allow more air in during storage.

Second, most experts agree that if you have less than half the bottle left, you should finish it within 1-2 years. If you have a quarter left, finish it within 3-4 months. The oxygen in the air oxidizes the whisky, which can impact the flavor.

Alternatively, you can always use wine preservers like Private Preserve. Wine preservers are essentially compressed air without the oxygen. Private Preserve is nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and argon – all of which will not oxidize your whisky. Personally, I say finish it.

If you want some help, give me a call. 🙂

97 thoughts on “How Long Will an Opened Bottle of Whisky Stay Good?

  1. I believe your saying a liquor like Johnny walker black label will go bad after just 1 or 2 years? I’ve been reading on this subject and get different opinions, some people say it’s a opened bottle last for a long time,( years), some say forever. I have a bottle 1/2 full, tightly capped, stored at room temp in medium light, about 7-8 years old. Can someone please tell me if I should dispose of it or can I still drink it?

    • I’ve got a bottle that I sip now and again, dam thing’s well over a decade old and running about 2/3 empty. Tastes more like delicious alcohol candy every sip. I guess the only way to know if yours is still good is for you to take a sip or two.

    • I would fear the fuel from the fire tainting (or even poisoning) the whiskey. The fire creates a vacuum (same thing cupping; glass cups on the body). So you get Less air.

    • I’ve just drank about 4 shots of “Penderyn”, a Welsh whisky single malt that I found at the back of a cupboard dated 07 (That’s 10 years stored) and it seems OK. I’m no connoisseur but it had the usual hit I remember a good whisky having and no funny tastes.
      The bottle was 90 % full, stored upright and sealed only with the original cork (which seems still effective) and the cupboard was totally dark. I feel great after about 3 hours and If I’m still alive tomorrow I shall certainly drink more.

  2. I’ve also heard using a long BBQ lighter can help with storing. I was told to light the lighter and put in to the bottle past the neck (only if bottle is half full or less). The oxygen and fumes will quickly flame out then quickly cap. I tried on a cheap open bottle and was able to not burn down the house. The cork was difficult to remove later on when opening. A vacuum was formed inside. I don’t know if the whiskey was affected. Its still cheap and tastes ehhh. Anyone else heard of this, or tried this?

    • I’m not a fan of that idea, if you want to remove it then I’d just get one of those wine preserver pumps and do it that way. I realize it works but when you light the air inside, do you leave behind a residue of particulates in the air you burned up?

    • Googled this article. As for storing opened bottles, instead of burning out the oxygen (you risk leaving propane gas in the bottle), get a bottle of Private Preserve (Amazon). It’ll leave a layer of carbon dioxide (which is heavier than oxygen) in the bottle separating the alcohol from the oxygen, thereby minimizing the effects of oxidation.

  3. I have a bottle of whisky bought in Scotland during my honeymoon 29 years ago called THE CLAYMORE and I think it’s just as good now as when I first bought it in 1984

  4. Come on people.
    How can you have a bottle of Scotch open for so long without drinking it.?
    Even cheap Scotch is good stuff. 🙂
    Cheers.

  5. While cleaning out my mother’s home after her move, I ran across an old Early Times Bicentennial Whisky Bottle that my dad has had stored since ’76 – still in the semi-sealed (wire twist tie) bag from the liquor store ($6.99!). I noticed that the decorative lid w/cork had broken off but the cork in the neck appeared intact. By the time I got the bottle home, I noticed that the cork in the neck was damp and there was actually a bit of whiskey in an indentation in it. I am going to assume that my dad always stored it upright and that it had just fallen over on the car ride home, but I have read in several places now about whiskey damaging corks and the corks leaving a bad taste in the whiskey. Also, if the whiskey is able to seep through the cork, how much air has gotten through the to whiskey over the years? Long story, I know, but, not being much of a connoisseur (or even drinker), I have to wonder if the whiskey inside is even worth keeping. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Hmmm it sounds like there are a lot of variables here, all of the things you’ve read are true. It can have an impact over the course of 40 years but the only real way to find out is to open it up and taste it. I know nothing about it but given the sticker price of $6.99, I’d be shocked if it had value but it just might… you never know what becomes collectible. 🙂

  6. My grandfather bought a bottle of Famous Grouse in the 70’s. It was more than 3/4 full when I found it in 2011. My brother and I sampled it. It was delicious. I’ve never had smoother whisky or whiskey. We both thought it was more intoxicating than other Scotch we have had. I know they say it won’t age in the bottle or improve over time and I believe that but my experience says otherwise. Anyone have a similar experience?

    • I assume it is because alcohol vaporizes faster than water. Therefore, the percentage of alcohol slightly decreased which resulted in a smoother taste.

  7. Have a gallon bottle of Dewar’s white label that has about .5 gal. left, it had been opened for about 40 years and it was very very rough. I think I’ll just toss it.

  8. I have a bottle of White Label that has been sitting undisturbed in a dark area in my cellar for over a decade. The cap is secure and there are no visible signs of damage. My basement is constantly cooler than 70 deg F with no huge temp fluctuations. Any thoughts about how dangerous it would be to serve it? Thanks much!

  9. Hi my story. I recently located a bottle of Chivas Regal that had gone missing after the last new years eve party. It was in a shady part of the backyard so I’m pretty sure someone tried sneaking it off but had failed. The bottle was a gift and it was opened in 2007 but I had never taken a sip after that. After locating it outdoors after this much time I’m wondering if it’s still safe to drink.

    • It’ll be safe, it might be different having been outside in the sun (has it been hot?). I wouldn’t be worried about safety though.

  10. Hi Jim – I was gifted a decanter that does not have a good stopper and will definitely let air in (the stopper is a “ball” that is placed on top of/into the bottle)

    I love the look and would like to use it.

    What is the effect of air getting in? I understand oxidation, but how will that effect the whiskey? How long does it take? Will the whiskey smell and taste worse?

  11. Whats wrong with you people- drink the bloody stuff! If a bottle of whiskey is lasting you more than a week you either have serious issues with alcohol and should just avoid it or no friends!

  12. Hi, I have a question about martini torino in our house. My dad already open it and didn’t finish , and we think that its already open 1 year ago, is still safe to drink it?

  13. I bought 4 bottles of the shackelton scotch last year and one to my brother in law in Thailand and stashed the rest. I might bring 1 more this year for Chinese New Year. The others will stay in storage until the right time.

  14. I have a Chivas Regal, aged 12 years of which I have been saving unopened for 2 years.

    I have been told whisky is ideal for tooth ache as it numbs it. I am just not sure whether to open it as I was hoping to save it til Christmas at least however since reading the above I am no longer concerned so thank you for this post.

  15. I have a bottle of Ambassador Deluxe Scotch that is at least 52 years old. It was distilled and bottled by Taylor & Ferguson Ltd, Scotland. I can’t find any info on the company, but I just want to know if the scotch is stilll good to drink. It has been stored in kitchen pantry’s in the very back. Can you tell me?

  16. My boyfriend had an opened Chivas Regal in his cupboard that he said was opened 10 years ago. It’s a quarter full. Is it safe to drink?

  17. Ifound about third of a bottle of Wisers Oldest bought in 1959 and one bought in 1971 about three quaters full stored in a cabnet not in the cellar of a house. Is this safe to drink

  18. I have a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label Whisky that I won at a Golf Tournament in 1996, still in its box. Been standing upright under my stairs in the dark, still sealed. Reading the comments above it should still be drinkable. How can I tell how old it actually is? It has a serial number on the box.

  19. “Is it safe to drink?” It’s whiskey, not a quart of unpasteurized milk! Spirits have been used to disinfect & preserve items since antiquity. Look up “Nelson’s blood.”
    Sheeeesh.

  20. It would help if you clarified what you mean by Whisky “staying good”.

    It’s clear from reading these comments that a lot of people are under the impression they might get poisoned from drinking old opened whisky. Old whisky is not going to poison you but it’s sure to have lost some of its original color/flavor/personality. The amount lost depends on what its been exposed to and for how long.

    Basically the longer you leave it around after opening, the higher the chance that it will not taste the way it did when it was originally bottled.

  21. I have a bottle of Jack Daniels from the 1970s that was stored on it’s side and a little leaked out, do you think it’s safe to drink?

  22. I found a bag of fruit the other day that I remember picking from our tree about 4 years ago. They were left in a cool place under the house. They look all dehydrated, grey and furry. Do you think they would be safe to make a nice fruit conserve with? I think they were oranges, so they might make great marmalade.

  23. I have an expensive bottle of whisky.. (which I don’t anticipate finishing quickly! perhaps 6-12 months?)

    – if I keep it in the original bottle, is a small/thin piece of saran wrap around the cork advised?
    – if I keep it in a glass decanter (glass stopper), is that less desirable than the original bottle?

    thank you!

  24. I have a bottle of VAT 69 scotch whiskey unopened. It’s probably 60 years old. You think it’s drinkable?

  25. What if the bottle of whiskey’s been in the trunk of a car in the summer for a week after it’s been opened. Just need to know.

  26. During a home restoration I found a bunch of bottles in my grandparents liquor cabinet that has been sitting there for years untouched..Not sure if it was stored properly…Seagrams VO 1966 (completely sealed), 1958 canadian club (opened missing a shot or 2….1976 canadian club (completely sealed),and a 1976 canadian club with a broken cap (slightly leaking)……..what do you think…I smelled the 1958, it smells ok, but not sure….what is the worst that can happen??? prob a stupid question but can you get alcohol poisoning???

  27. Someone gave me a bottle of Macallan 12 year old scotch about 10 years ago. I put it down in my basement with the neck up and forgot about it. I found it the other day and saw that the cork dried out and was loose in the neck of the bottle. What taste would I notice between this old bottle and a brand new bottle that had a good air tight cork?

  28. My uncle recently passed away and while cleaning his home, we found a gallon of black velvet, that’s at least 20 years old my grandpa thinks, it’s open…though it looks like only a few shots have been poured out of it, would it still be good?

      • I was give an opened bottle of an eight year aged Ambassador Deluxe Scotch. 2/3 full. It has been sitting for a couple of years in my house. 86 proof 4/5 of a pint flask shaped bottle. Have heard from my cronies that scotch doesn’t go bad. The bottle is probably from the 60’s or 70’s. No way to really know. Today I had to taste it. Shot glass looking cap was tight. Smelled wonderful. Clear amber. Half a shot later… an almost immediate warming sensation in my temples and torso. Tasted very smooth.

  29. I dont know but for me it dont last long with the original taste
    seem to oxidize very fast same as a beer does

    at 1/2 of the bottle left just the day after is less FRESH

    so yes it can keep foreever but dont expect it will be FRESH and NEst same as when you just opened the bottle

  30. Found an old 5cl bottle of The Castle 15 year single malt. It was a gift from many years ago, tasted, and then got lost behind everything else in the cabinet. It now has some sediment in it. Do we dare finish it?

  31. I recently received a sealed bottle of Macallan 22 year old scotch. Is there a date any where on the bottle to tell me how old it is?

  32. I just found a Bottle of Chivas Regal Distilled Scotch Whisky 100% Scotch . It was opened at one time only a small amount was taken out. Says ” Product of Scotland.” Blended Scotch Whisky . I know it has been in a dark moderate Temperature Cupboard for at least 20 Yrs. If it is still good to drink ?—What can be mixed with it besides Water to Drink? Chivas Brothers Bottled!

  33. I have to add to my comment. 10 yrs ago cleaning out our cabinet there were about 10 Bottles of Whiskey of various Names……. We gave them to a friend who said They were good and he wanted them as we were going to dump them out…………I understand that he and a friend were drinking them………. A year after he started to get loss of memory and was diagnosed with Cancer .He went through chemo and in 3 months he died and they diagnosed him with Liver Cancer……Could he have had Poisoning from that Whisky? I know it may be far fetched but what are the symptoms of poisoning from Bad liquor if it does happen.

  34. i’hv founded a Johnnie Walker blue lable scotch in a empty house and it is fully packed but the packet was damaged to the some extant…
    sould it be safe to consume that liqueur?

  35. I have noticed that once a bottle of “quality” Scotch (meaning one that is meant to be consumed neat), single barrel single malt, not a blend (but even with blends like Cutty Sark’s Prohibition) you begin to loose the light weight ester components of the drink and it begins to become unbalanced (burns more and feels more peaty and smokey). I notice this even the next day after opening a virgin bottle. Any ideas how to extend the balanced flavor for two weeks?

    By the way, I think I have a fairly educated palate having sampled over 400 expressions of Scotch over the last eight years.

  36. I found my Lagavulin 16 a bit…soft? After sitting 6-8 months less than a 1/4 full
    I noticed it lacked something…It tasted muted for lack of a better word.. Now I wish I had cracked open the replacement I had sitting right there for a proper comparison…

  37. I found a bottle of Kentucky tavern shrine aaonms decanter opened but 75 percent full in my mother in laws house while cleaning out cabinets smells good cork intact is this safe to drink

  38. I have had a bottle of Crown Royal still sealed and in the purple velvet bag hidden in the closet since 1992. will this get better if I leave for another 20 years?

  39. I have one Glenlivet (12 years) and one Jack Daniels in one of my travel bag in India since 2010. They never came in direct sunlight though. During summer (5-6 month per year), the average temperature becomes 104 degree F (40 degree C).
    Are they safe now after 6 years with that temperature?

  40. So let me get this clear in my mind. After my parents passed away I found a hoard of various open bottles of brandy,whiskey liqueurs, and unopened wine. From what I’ve gathered here any hard booze will keep indeffinatly stored under the correct conditions and even poorly stored whisky wont HURT a person it just might not taste good. Correct ? I have a 40 year old bottle of Beam with maybe two shots out of it. I’d like to gift it to a friend who is a Beam fan but wanted to make sure it was safe. It is in a very collectible decanter….unfortunately if I’m right its only worth the value of the empty bottle because it was opened.

  41. Hi Jim-

    Since I don’t have a whiskey cabinet or a cabinet can I just leave it in the original boxs unopened and in the dark? Or does it matter if it’s in the dark?

    Thanks!

  42. Okay so just to clarify. Opened scotch that’s been sitting around for a year or more is safe to drink right? This is what I figured but I just wanted to make sure. I really don’t want to dump out what’s remaining of my Dewar’s white label. For me that’s high end stuff. Bottle cost $21.

    • It’s always going to be safe, it just might taste a little different with all the exposure to air. You won’t get sick… unless you chug the whole thing at once. 🙂

      • Yeah I drank some, wasn’t poisoned. May have been a dumb question but I just wanted to confirm. I mean they leave the stuff sitting around for years before they even sell it.

    • I wish we could pay $21 for a bottle, would make an awesome mixer, here in Oz, the bottles start at around 34$ on special and Dewar is one of the cheapest. An “OK” bottle of scotch here is between $50-$80

  43. Hello, I picked up an old bottle of whiskey half full dates from around 1900 by the company name on it. It looks to have been stored indoors out of the light judging on the household it was found in. My question is that it appears part of the cork looks like it had fallen into the bottle when it was originally opened. I was wondering if it would possibly be any good to try yet. I understand it may have a bad flavor. Would it be toxic? I figure I could run it through a coffee filter to strain out the cork and then give it a little pinky tip taste to see if it is any good. Thanks in advance!

  44. Well. I drunk a bottle of rum last year that was bottled in the 1970’s. It was fine but I get the feeling it was cheap stuff. Because I had to mix it.

    I have a bottle of italian :-O rum that was bottled in the 1960’s and I will drink that at some point too.

  45. I have 2 bottles from my grandparents old liquor hiding cabinet. Which we found after the both passsd, both unopened with the old paper seal strips over the caps. Canadian Club which 2 of the seal strips with the year 1977. Chivas 12 yr, bottle strap without a date. Torn on opening them. But would be good!!

  46. I recently went to a family gathering and my sisters’s 73y/o father-in-law said that he had a bottle of of unopened Pinch Scotch which he had received as a Bar Mitzvah gift some 60 years previously. What effect would time have had on the bottle’s content’s?

  47. Hi Jim,

    Nice article.
    In my opinion you’re are right, at the end of the day air(with its O2) component it’s what’s harming everything alive. We are paying the same tribute as humans, we can use it, we need to use it but in the same time it’s killing us.
    Saying that and using the same logic as above, the more “passion juice” you have in the bottle even if it’s open, less O2 you have so longer you can keep it and vice versa.

    Cheers,
    Tony
    just another Whiskey armature but passionate

  48. Say, Jim, quick question. Based on what you’ve said, holding some dry ice over a bottle of scotch/wine/ Port for a few seconds should allow enough CO2 to sink into the bottle and create a protective layer from oxidation when the bottle is stationary, now in Australia, we don’t just have that stuff lying around so it’s an experiment I can perform, but I’ve heard it’s much more readily available in the states. Do you think it would be viable? (A Fire extinguisher wouldn’t contain food grade co2 so that’s outa the question lol)

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