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Opened bottle life

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Opened bottle life

Postby Scotty Mc » Thu Aug 04, 2005 6:38 pm

Hi,

I don't know if this is true, but does whisky have a shelf-life (so to speak) after being opened?

Cheers
Scott
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Postby Deactivated Member » Thu Aug 04, 2005 9:35 pm

Hi Scotty, welcome aboard. (Just beamed up, did you?) This is a topic which has been much discussed here recently. Just run down the topics here under Q&A and you'll find lots of discussion about just this. Short answer: It doesn't really go bad, but it'll lose its oomph eventually, varying from bottle to bottle; no pat answer. Advice: Drink within a year, or better, six months; don't let it sit long once it gets much below half full.

Edit: Look below for "Does opening a bottle do bad things?" and "Decanters and containers" for a start. A little searching will find some other related threads.
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Postby bjorn » Fri Aug 05, 2005 9:48 am

do people find that cask strength whiskies have a longer shelf life than the standard 43%? i've had a bottle of old granddad 114 go a good 6 months at less than half full and find it to still pack a good punch. i'm asking because i would like to stretch a bottle of cask strength laphroaig out for a good year or so.
thanks
bjorn
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Postby lambda » Fri Aug 05, 2005 10:04 am

From personal experience I can say that it is no problem to have a bottle of laphroaig CS opened for a year or more. But I think that's mostly because it's a relatively young whisky, which in general do not degenerate from a bit of oxidation.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Aug 05, 2005 7:03 pm

Interesting take on the "oxydation business" lambda! Most of the speculation is about the strenght or other unknown parameters affecting oxydation. Age could very well be that/a parameter too!

Skål!
Christian
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Postby lambda » Fri Aug 05, 2005 7:46 pm

Well, it's definately a factor with wine. Very old wine can be dead in an hour after pulling the cork. Young wines, however, are sometimes decanted (and even vigorously shaken) to 'let it breathe', i.e., to promote oxidation.

I expect the same with whisky, although you're probably right there are other, more complex factors involved.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:04 pm

Well, untill not too long ago there was an ongoing dispute between what one could call the french and the english way of preparing clarets. The english way would be to always decant the bordeaux wine while the french prefered the wine to be opened and left in the bottle and let the wine develop while it' in the bottle. The question is if the level of oxygen is large enough in the bottle to really matter? However, most of the time we are talking about letting wine breathe for hours (unless it's very old) to open themselves up and, to get rid of residuals. I actually believe most wines gain from being decanted but young wine made for immediate consumption only gains from decanting if it's unfiltered and you wish to seperate the residuals from the wine. Some older wines older than the last century still develop - like port!

Skål!
Christian
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Postby Scotty Mc » Sun Aug 07, 2005 5:52 pm

Hi Guys,

Thanks for the advice! I know that a whisky wouldn't go off but may possibly suffer after opening. I've got a few bottles sitting waiting to be drank, so I'll just do one bottle at a time!

Currently it's Bowmore which I get for £10 ($17-18 USD) from a friend who works for Asda Walmart, most excellent! :wink:
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Sun Aug 07, 2005 6:55 pm

Hi Scotty!
I suspect there isn't a rule but some say drink it within 6 months to a year after opening. If the bottles content is less than half empty/half full some suggest it should be finished in a relatively short time. Usually I have 7 or 8 bottles open at the same time and although I've noticed that some whiskies have changed a little when nearing the bottom of the bottle I honestly cannot say they became "bad" in any way. It might even be a result of imagination triggered by fear of the whisky going bad....
I do believe though that the lovely Bruichladdich 10 lost some of its lovely butterscotch taste and that an earlier bottle of Ardbeg Ten lost some of its "rubbery" smell and taste - but as I said, it could just as well be purely due to imagination.

Skål!
Christian
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Aug 08, 2005 2:57 am

Mr Fjeld wrote:Usually I have 7 or 8 bottles open at the same time and although I've noticed that some whiskies have changed a little when nearing the bottom of the bottle I honestly cannot say they became "bad" in any way. It might even be a result of imagination triggered by fear of the whisky going bad....


It's the dreaded backwash, Christian. Next time, use a glass!

There is a tendency when one nears the end of a bottle to try to stretch the last few drams out, to savor them. This should be resisted, I think--a very small amount in the bottle is subject to much greater proportional evaporation. Ideally, parcel out those last four drams to some good friends. If, like me, you have no friends, just don't leave that last dram sitting any length of time.

Instead of stretching that bottle of Laphroaig CS out for a year, why not drink up and buy another? Or is there some purpose to this?
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Aug 08, 2005 3:19 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:It's the dreaded backwash, Christian. Next time, use a glass!

:D That'll be the day! I wonder how many cl my mouth can hold - and what would you call such a dram? A mouthfull perhaps, but how would you define that? By measuring the length of the tongue X 2 * radius * 3.14 (pi) = Hey barkeeper - bring me that measuring tape, I'd like a mouthfull of Uigeadail!

There is a tendency when one nears the end of a bottle to try to stretch the last few drams out, to savor them. This should be resisted, I think--a very small amount in the bottle is subject to much greater proportional evaporation.
I think you are right about that. Usually I'm not fond of long goodbyes and I guess it's better to say down the hatch than stretching it.
Ideally, parcel out those last four drams to some good friends. If, like me, you have no friends, just don't leave that last dram sitting any length of time.

Hehe, like you I'm also the typical "lone drinker" .
Instead of stretching that bottle of Laphroaig CS out for a year, why not drink up and buy another? Or is there some purpose to this?
I'll drink it up soon and problay won't replace it in the nearest future as it currently isn't available in Norway. However, I plan on buying the QC when it reaches my shores in September/October.

Skål!
Christian
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Postby bjorn » Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:58 am

Instead of stretching that bottle of Laphroaig CS out for a year, why not drink up and buy another? Or is there some purpose to this?[/quote]

it's the simple rationale that i'm a (financially) poor bastard and i have a hard time locating laphroaig CS in my region...though i do doubt that it will last the whole year
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Postby Scotty Mc » Fri Aug 12, 2005 9:24 pm

Well on that note (don't want to start a new thread!) would an un-opened bottle lose any of it's character and taste?
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Aug 12, 2005 9:55 pm

Although I cannot quite remember where (Maltmaniacs site?) I've read that some people suspect that the peat level will be reduced after a long period in an unopened bottle. Can't say I belive that this is the fact with glass bottles but I wouldn't bet a bottle of Ardbeg Ten that it won't happen to a plastic bottle. Can't say I've seen many plastic bottles containing single malt though!

To sum up I'd say no - (most) unopened bottles last forever!

Skål!
Christian
Last edited by Mr Fjeld on Fri Aug 12, 2005 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Jan » Fri Aug 12, 2005 10:05 pm

How about sunlight - would that not have some kind of effect over time ?

Say like a bottle that has been on display on a dusty shelf at a shop for years...

The standard advice on most other alcoholic liquids, beer, wine etc. is to store them dark and cool.

But perhaps the abv makes a difference ?

/Jan
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Aug 12, 2005 10:14 pm

I'm afraid I don't know Jan. I suspect sunlight won't do any good to whisky. Maybe the UV rays etc break down some of the substances in the whisky but I'm not aware of any scientific research proving this or that. Maybe someone in the forum knows?

Oh, and velkommen skal du være her på forumet Jan :)

Skål!
Christian
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Postby Jan » Fri Aug 12, 2005 10:21 pm

Tak skal du have, Christian.

:D
/Jan
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Aug 13, 2005 7:25 am

The major problem with beer is that ultraviolet interacts with certain hop compounds to produce that very distinctive skunky aroma. That's why all beer should be bottled in brown glass--I'm sure many of you have noted that skunky beers almost always come in green glass, which is not nearly effective enough. This skunking process can happen very quickly--pour yourself a glass of your favorite and put it in open sunlight. You'll notice a change within minutes, unless you're drinking some mass-produced crap that has virtually no hops. (Maybe even they will get skunky, but I'm not inclined to find out.)

Whisky doesn't have hops, so it won't suffer in this way. Prudence, nevertheless, would seem to dictate avoidance of direct exposure to sunlight. Over time, such exposure would affect about anything, I think. (Prudence is Mr Picky's girlfriend.)

I've been wondering about the effect of the summer heat on the numerous bottles lying hereabouts. I probably ought to keep them in the cellar.
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Postby kallaskander » Sat Aug 13, 2005 7:57 am

Hi there,

in another thread we talked about the added colourings. These do definitely interact with sunlight and for the worse to the worst if they are exposed to sunlight long enough. That is the sole reason that same whiskies come in green or brown bottles.
As for "pure whisky" eg. with no colouring we can surmise that the organic components from the barley and the wood of the barrel will be sensitive to high light levels. To these effects we would have to add the exposure to oxygen after the bottle is opened. The result in taste and flavour is what we call "deterioration", the reduction of the quality of the whisky over time.
So drink up. Within reasonable time, that is.

Greetings
kallaskander
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Postby Scotty Mc » Mon Aug 15, 2005 7:57 pm

Sorry about the amateur-ish questions! I have quite a large collection of un-opened bottles, I don't want to leave them if they are going to get worse!

Cheers :wink:
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Aug 15, 2005 9:25 pm

Don't worry about that. It's not an amateurish question at all!
Quite the contrary as most amateurs believe spirit lasts forever without loosing quality!

Skål
Christian
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Postby Crispy Critter » Tue Aug 16, 2005 3:40 am

Not only that, but it seems that a case can be made that whisk(e)y does age in the bottle, albeit very slowly. I've often come across reviews of old bourbon and Scotch bottlings, even of "bottom shelf" brands, that imply that changes (generally for the better) occur in the bottle over time.

Of course, the quality of the bottle seal may play a role, as some old bottles show evaporation even though the seal hasn't been broken, and I occasionally read of a bottle with "moldy cardboard" aromas or palates, that would imply a bad cork.

It would be interesting to get two bottles of something, from the same lot, then open one and do a GC/MS assay on it, and then do a GC/MS from the second bottle ten years down the road. Tasting notes for the two would also be interesting, but tastes change over time, too.
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Postby Ed » Thu Aug 18, 2005 7:23 am

Hello All,
On StraightBourbon.com I have read about old unopened bottles having a very low level of bourbon in them. Apparently, the bottles "breath" through a weak seal. When hot, whiskey escapes from the bottle. Later when it is cool, air gets in. This repeats until, in some cases most of the whiskey is gone. Obviously, this is undesirable. Another reason to welcome screw tops. This can happen and probably does happen after a bottle is opened. I doubt that a cork seals as well the second time it is put in the bottle. Ten or more times later I think that it would be significantly weaker and with the added air space the "breathing" would take place more rapidly than in a mostly full bottle. That also assumes that there are fairly large temperature swings in your home. Still, I doubt that very much happens in under a year, very little with a good seal. Of course, an even greater source of outside air is the air that enters the bottle as whiskey is being poured out. Also, the highly volatile elements of the whiskey will been floating around in the space over the whiskey and some of these will escape with each pouring. This will take place no matter how quickly the bottle is drunk. Oh, if you finish something off in a couple of days you probably won't notice much change! However, I think that the differing impressions that many people express as they work their way down a bottle over the course of a month or two might be registering this distillation off of the more volatile esters and congeners. Depending on what they are, that will be either a good thing or a bad thing. I have often heard people say that they thought the first dram was disappointing, the middle of the bottle was spectacular, but by the end of the bottle they thought that their earlier impressions were perhaps wrong, that they didn't like the whiskey as well as had thought and probably wouldn't be replacing it. I am not saying that my theory explains this completely, but it might be a contributing factor in some cases. Of course, oxygen will be interacting with the whiskey in the bottle especially when there is a large amount of air in the bottle and a long time passes, but this has been covered by other posts.
Ed
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Postby philbert » Fri Sep 09, 2005 2:23 am

Had a couple of bottles of Highland Park that seemed to lose their sparkle a little prematurely, ie within a couple of weeks of being 1/3 full.

I did wonder if the bottle shape here was partly to blame - with its narrower base and wider shoulders, allowing for more dissipatory air circulation above the nectar below.

On the other hand one bottle of Lagavulin 16 lasted a year and only seemed to improve. Go figure.

Everything else I've tried seemed to fare well over a typical lifespan of a couple of months or so. My 2 cents worth of very subjective, and lamentably unscientific impressions.
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Postby Crispy Critter » Fri Sep 09, 2005 6:01 am

philbert wrote:On the other hand one bottle of Lagavulin 16 lasted a year and only seemed to improve. Go figure.


I wonder if the phenols from the peat might have an antioxidant effect? More than once I've heard that peaty whiskies tend to stand up to air.

Then again, bourbons are known to keep well when opened... perhaps tannins from the barrel might be a factor as well.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Fri Sep 09, 2005 7:22 am

Crispy Critter wrote:
philbert wrote:On the other hand one bottle of Lagavulin 16 lasted a year and only seemed to improve. Go figure.


I wonder if the phenols from the peat might have an antioxidant effect? More than once I've heard that peaty whiskies tend to stand up to air.

Then again, bourbons are known to keep well when opened... perhaps tannins from the barrel might be a factor as well.

I think your suggestions (both of them) are spot on. Of course, regarding the peat I can only speculate but if you consider that smoking food in the old days was done for preservation rather than adding flavour then there must be a point to it. I don't know if it affects fluids though....but it's possible. Another point is that in the dampest areas in Norway the traditional way of preserving meat was smoking rather than salt because salting just isn't effective enough if you have a lot of humidity in the air.

But you're right about the tannins. Maturation of wines for example is determined by the amount of tannins.

Skål!
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Postby robertk » Fri Sep 09, 2005 8:47 am

Personally I've always been a little sceptical about the impact of opening a bottle... (maybe because I have too many open myself?).

However, when I a few weeks ago attended a tasting at a friends place we tried an Ardmore bottled at 58.1%. This one had been opened for about 2 years. And I can assure you.. it had no alcolhol in the nose nor mouth, it was like drinking a bland blend! The owner promised that it had the punch one would expect when it was opened..

So, one way his kids had watered it down (not very likely ;)) OR the effect of opening and leaving it open for this period of time had altered it hugely. Quite an eye-opener for me atleast.

regards, Robert
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Postby Deactivated Member » Sat Sep 10, 2005 4:08 am

Christian, with regards to smoking foods as a method of preservation, it seems to me that alcohol is a better preservative than smoke, as it inhibits bacterial growth more effectively and more permanently. I therefore don't think the idea translates to whisky, which is full of alcohol, anyway. Maybe the phenols simply cover the flaws produced early in oxidation. That's less than speculation--just throwing the idea out for discussion.

Last night I had a dram of Talisker Distiller's Edition at the Lunar Rogue. There was very little left in the bottle (and indeed, I wouldn't have ordered it if I'd seen that). It wasn't terrible, but it was plainly not in proper condition. Of course, I have no way of knowing how long it had been open, or sitting with only an ounce or two in it.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Sat Sep 10, 2005 5:24 am

MrTattieHeid wrote:Christian, with regards to smoking foods as a method of preservation, it seems to me that alcohol is a better preservative than smoke, as it inhibits bacterial growth more effectively and more permanently. I therefore don't think the idea translates to whisky, which is full of alcohol, anyway. Maybe the phenols simply cover the flaws produced early in oxidation. That's less than speculation--just throwing the idea out for discussion.

I think you are right about the spirit and in a way you're right about the meat as well. Spirit is a better preservative, however, with meat as in whisky you aim for developement of taste and structure. When salting and smoking you don't want to keep the meat as it is because your goal is also to make it taste better in a specific time. If spirit is used it's the opposite, hence you see body parts in glass jars topped with spirit or formaldehyde at the university hospitals. Meat however tastes best if it starts mellowing - or the early process of decaying if you will. Apart from that I suppose the logistical problem when storing practically the whole leg of a sheep or a pig in spirit would be enourmos. Would make a "meaty" whisky though....

Anyway, I think you're right. I was only wondering if the added phenols had any effect, but as you say it's probably the smoke that mellows in time. Still, it's hard to know exactly what happends without being a chemist. Any chemists around here?

Skål!
Christian
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Redbreast

Postby rymon » Wed Mar 15, 2006 4:40 pm

My two cents worth...
I finished a bottle of Redbreast 12yo Pure Pot Still last week. I had it about 2 years, the first year or so it was open but almost full. Then over a short period of time I drank most of it, until there was only about 2oz left.

Then it got pushed the back of a cabinet and was forgotten about, until last week.

I think that last 2oz was almost untouched the whole year or so.

I was afraid it would be oxidized, off taste. I know that Jack Daniels does this fairly quickly.

However, when I poured and sipped it, I'd say I enjoyed it probably the most of anything I've had in the past few weeks. The flavours, though possibly changed (I don't know because I didn't have a new bottle to compare it to) were delightful. It was very creamy and had that definitive Redbreast ripe fruit flavour to it...

So at least in that case, 2 years opened, and at least a year with tons of air and very little whiskey left in the bottle, and it was still delightful.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Mar 15, 2006 6:38 pm

I think you're very lucky! In most cases I would expect a pretty poor dram in that circumstance.

We like to throw around the term "oxidation" here a lot, which implies a chemical reaction, like rusting. My speculation is that the biggest problem is simply evaporation, of alcohol particularly, and perhaps also other flavorful volatiles.
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Thu Mar 16, 2006 3:49 pm

Any bottle I've had open over a year has never really showed any signs of going off but to be quite honest they never really last to be a year old in the first place. Only once noticed an effect and that was 4-6mths in a half fill bottle but it still held on to most of the quality so no major dissappointment.
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Postby Jan » Thu Mar 16, 2006 4:25 pm

I have experienced it several times, most notably with young ones, as Benriach Curiositas & Laphroaig QC, which both lost something I find a bit hard to define... Freshness, edge, zing, whatever.

It did not make them bad whiskies, just a little bit different.

Currently I worry over my Balvenie 21yo port, which has not been it's usual refined, mellow self, the last couple of times I have visited. As this has only been open for 4 months and there still is about half left, it seems strange.
Could be that I have had some offdays, will investigate and report back.

Cheers
Jan
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wine saver

Postby rymon » Thu Mar 16, 2006 4:42 pm

Has anyone had success with Wine-Saver type products? A gas in a can (nitrogen i think) that is heavier than air and so it settles down over the surface of the whisky and pushes oxygen away? It seems to work ok with wine... what about whisky?
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Postby lexvo » Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:30 pm

Jan wrote:Currently I worry over my Balvenie 21yo port, which has not been it's usual refined, mellow self, the last couple of times I have visited. As this has only been open for 4 months and there still is about half left, it seems strange.
Could be that I have had some offdays, will investigate and report back.


It is my expierence too that whisky changes its taste after 4 months or so. I had this with Balvanie DW, Lagavulin 16Y and Highland Park 18Y. The first few drams of a bottle mostly taste the best for me.
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