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What does whisky taste like when it has 'gone bad'?

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What does whisky taste like when it has 'gone bad'?

Postby Dan G » Mon Apr 23, 2007 4:27 pm

I've looked through a lot of threads here about how long a bottle will last after opening, but never seen anything that actually says what the result will be of keeping an open bottle for too long.

I have (now had) a bottle of Glen Breton that had been open for more than 2 years - probably closer to 30 months. It wasn't a very good whisky - as has been discussed here at length - and I only bothered with it when I probably just should have stopped drinking anyway!

Saturday night, after a bottle of wine with dinner and finishing off the last 6 or 7 ounces of a bottle of ardbeg 10 yo, I realized there was still some of the GB in the back of the cupboard. I poured some into a glass, took a sniff...didn't smell like what I had remembered, but I questioned both my memory and my senses at that point. I took a sip...and immediately spat it back into the glass.

I can't describe the taste, but it wasn't the Glen Breton palate of petrol and chocolate covered walnuts that I was expecting. More of a rancid beef...

I ended up just pouring the rest of the bottle down the drain - maybe 1/4 of a bottle.

Any other comments about what whisky gone bad (versus never was very good) tastes like? I'm assuming an old Lagavulin or Ardbeg would age very differently.
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Postby Lawrence » Mon Apr 23, 2007 4:54 pm

Hi Dan, there are two things at work here; whisky is a perishable product and goes bad after the bottle has been opened DEPENDING on how long it has been opened and how much is missing from the bottle. Think of the whisky to air ratio.

The other is your palate. Geln Breton, on the scale of whiskies is not a heavy whisky and for you to drink wine and then have Ardbeg and expect to taste a lighter whisky afterwards never works, IMHO. Especially a peated whisky, it's my rule never to go backwards on the peating scale when tasting whiskies, it just doesn't work.

However after 30 months of being opened I would have to say your GB has suffered from exposure to air.
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Postby dcb » Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:02 pm

The last time we visited my parents house I had a pour from a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15 that they've had for literally 10 years (open). It's maybe half full since they don't drink much and it was a gift. It was still quite good to me, though it didn't taste fresh at all, if that makes any sense. A similar bottle of Glenmorangie 10 they've had open for about as long tasted awful, though.
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Postby Dan G » Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:21 pm

Lawrence wrote:The other is your palate. Geln Breton, on the scale of whiskies is not a heavy whisky and for you to drink wine and then have Ardbeg and expect to taste a lighter whisky afterwards never works, IMHO. Especially a peated whisky, it's my rule never to go backwards on the peating scale when tasting whiskies, it just doesn't work.

However after 30 months of being opened I would have to say your GB has suffered from exposure to air.

No, this wasn't just a case of going from a big peaty whisky to a lighter one...the GB had a very strong flavour! And it was also at least 45 minutes and a couple of glasses of ice water between the two whiskys, so I had a fairly clean palate.

No real loss on pouring the Breton - if it took me that long to drink it, I didn't need it any more.

But what surprised me was the reaction to age. I guess I was expecting a loss of flavour, or a loss of balance (i.e. maybe a more alcoholic taste or something like that), not a complete change to something undrinkable.

I also wonder would it have made me sick if I would have (or could have!) drank any quantity.
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Postby vitara7 » Mon Apr 23, 2007 6:14 pm

what does whisky like when its went bad, im not too sure as i dont leave then open for long :wink: but id guess theyd taste like a young nas ledaig
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Postby kljostad » Mon Apr 23, 2007 7:17 pm

I drank a Glenmorangie 18 last week, that has been opened for 6-7 years. It was still very good.
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Postby aarkwilde » Mon Apr 23, 2007 11:09 pm

Cutty Sark.

(sorry, couldn't resist)
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Postby Lawrence » Mon Apr 23, 2007 11:50 pm

Dan G wrote:
Lawrence wrote:The other is your palate. Geln Breton, on the scale of whiskies is not a heavy whisky and for you to drink wine and then have Ardbeg and expect to taste a lighter whisky afterwards never works, IMHO. Especially a peated whisky, it's my rule never to go backwards on the peating scale when tasting whiskies, it just doesn't work.

However after 30 months of being opened I would have to say your GB has suffered from exposure to air.

No, this wasn't just a case of going from a big peaty whisky to a lighter one...the GB had a very strong flavour! And it was also at least 45 minutes and a couple of glasses of ice water between the two whiskys, so I had a fairly clean palate.

No real loss on pouring the Breton - if it took me that long to drink it, I didn't need it any more.

But what surprised me was the reaction to age. I guess I was expecting a loss of flavour, or a loss of balance (i.e. maybe a more alcoholic taste or something like that), not a complete change to something undrinkable.

I also wonder would it have made me sick if I would have (or could have!) drank any quantity.


Fair enough, it's most likely exposure to air that's done it in.
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Does open whisky go bad?

Postby Muskrat Portage » Tue Apr 24, 2007 1:06 am

Dan G:
A very good question. I've noticed with my collection that there's not been a discernable difference in taste until the bottle reaches the 1/2 full point and below.

The original flavours are muted, yet still there, but a slight bitterness seems to creep into the finish. This would be for bottles that have been open over 5 years (there are a few). I have a Singleton of Auchroisk 1981 that's been open for 15 years and yet is still quite palatable... Hang on... live tasting notes...
Colour: Deep gold
Nose: Honey, heather notes, a slight hint of almonds.
Palate: Very little of the flavours I enjoyed seem to be there, almost like water with a spicy finish. Palatable but no longer a lovely dram.
Finish: Long dry finish, a hint of spice and a hint of bitterness underlies. Ends on the sides and tip of the tongue.

Okay, it appears that the cogeners have left, leaving a few of the afternotes behind. I had kept this bottle sealed with plastic wrap, yet despite this, the angels have returned for their remaining share. This would appear to be a spoiled bottle simply due to the interaction of the air in the bottle, but it's not something I'd spit out from a horrible taste, rather it's merely lost almost all of it's character.

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Postby pmullin » Tue Apr 24, 2007 1:29 am

I had a similar issue with a new bottle of Jameson Gold a while back.

In this situation, the "off" taste manifested itself in a similar fashion to what you describe with your Glen Breton. My taste buds immediately communicated the "reject & expel" signal to the brain.

Although I can't say that I really analyzed it at the time, I recollect that it tasted somewhat like really cheap rot-gut, as opposed to the smooth and subtle palate normally associated with the Gold. At first, I thought it was just my taste buds that were off for one reason or another, but a re-taste a few days later confirmed that something was really wrong with the bottle.

The local liquor store happily exchanged in for another bottle which was perfectly fine, confirming that it was not "all in my head".
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Postby irishwhiskeychaser » Tue Apr 24, 2007 1:04 pm

Yes I think bad whiskey is different from over exposed whiskey also. I've had a few bottles open for over a year and notice the differences but these differences don't actually make the whiskey taste bad. I think dull or dumbing down of the whiskey would be more appropriate. However I have only noticed this in a very few.



However I did have a bottle of Tamavulin 12yo OB which I thought was gone off. It was very acrid and I could get very little taste beyond an alcohol type taste eventhough I could smell malt.

I currently have an IB bottle of Glenrothes by Signatory and it is totally ruined by sulphur.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:16 pm

I've never experienced a "bad" whisky, i.e. one that has spoiled in some way so as to radically change the flavor. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, of course. But usually what I have experienced is a loss of character. If it's a very peaty whisky, the result can be very unpleasant, but for the most part, it just gets weak and watery.

I would argue very vigorously against Lawrence's iron-clad injunction about going backward on the peaty scale. It's a fair rule, I suppose, but one which can be broken to marvelous result. Many unpeated drams taste marvelously malty after a peat monster. I've found this works well with unfiltered cask-strength bourbon-casked whiskies, and I think it's worth experimenting.

I will agree with him, though, that tasting is very subjective, and I'd never pour a bottle down the drain based on one taste in one circumstance, unless there were cooties swimming in it or something. That said, I'm sure your bottle of Glen Breton won't be missed!
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Postby RufusA » Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:34 pm

One thought, but could @Dan's issue be cork taint, similar to the that suffered by the wine industry.

An unloved bottle of whisky may can stored less graciously and allowing for the cork to dry out, and be sufficiently removed from the liquid for the mould to be killed. Then the cork getting washed by the whisky as it's recovered from the back of the shelf. Anything nasty that's grown on the cork will have made it in to the nectar!

If it smelt of wet dogs, stale cardboard and mouldy rotting newspapers, and had a similar taste profile, then it's likely to be the cork.

If you still have the bottle try giving the cork a good sniff for taint. Or soak it overnight in a heavily diluted blended whisky you are willing to sacrafice and see what it tastes like in the morning.

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Postby Dan G » Tue Apr 24, 2007 5:57 pm

I doubt if it was 'corked'. I've had corked wine (to various levels, only one or two fortunately that were undrinkable) and this tasted nothing the same. And the only time the bottle has been upright at all times since I bought it - except for the occassional tipping to pour :D
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Postby peergynt323 » Tue Apr 24, 2007 8:16 pm

Sometimes a new bottle is harsh and closed and takes a few weeks of air exposure to reach full potential. But a bottle that is old will taste weak and slightly rotten to me.

I would compare it to eating apple pie made with freshly picked summer apples and apple pie made with apples imported from the southern hemisphere in the winter and left around the house for a few days. Less of what makes it good.
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Postby Ganga » Mon Apr 30, 2007 11:53 pm

I've had one bottle go bad. It was tucked away in the back with a low fill level. Cork dried out and that was that. :yuk:

I have also had bottles last for 5 to 7 years with no apparent change in quality. :D
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Postby atoto » Sat May 05, 2007 2:37 am

I recently had to throw away the remaining 1/5 bottle of Laphroaig 15YO due to spoilage. The bottle sat unattended about 2 weeks at that level. I had the bottle opened (and was enjoying its fruits) for about 1 1/2 months prior to that dreaded oxidation took it's toll! The bottle turned on me like a rabid dog - tasting like flat bad medicine - borderline gagging! (Sorry to be so blunt). I've modified my drinking habit :mrgreen: so no one bottle stays open for more than 1 month in my crib. Oh the pain!!!!
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