Aged Whiskey – How Old is Too Old?

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You’ve heard of aging wine, and it’s actually preferable to develop a more sophisticated taste, but have you ever considered aging whiskey? If so, then you might want to read this first. A quick internet search and conversations with spirit connoisseurs will reveal that some whiskeys are good for twenty or even thirty years after you first pop the lid, but then there are those that last only one to two years. Sometimes it has to do with the environment, and perhaps it has to do with the way it was made.

Something interesting to note is that a few bottles of Mackinlay’s whiskey were found in the Arctic after sitting dormant for a hundred years, and they were still in pretty good shape. Unfortunately that doesn’t really apply to everyday life unless you have a freezer in your home that can keep your sprits below 30 degrees Celsius. Spoiler alert: you probably don’t.

What Causes Aging in Whiskey?

When it comes right down to it there are three factors that change the way in which your wine ages. These are:

  • Light
  • Temperature
  • Air

So let’s address the first one, which is light. Light seems harmless, at least to us, but have you ever noticed that the majority of spirits are bottled in green or brown glass? Have you ever wondered why that is? It’s not for aesthetics, it’s to mitigate the amount of sunlight allowed into the bottle and thereby cut down on aging. This is a great start, but if you really want to cut down on the aging then you will want to keep it in a dark room. The biggest concern is ultraviolet light, which is also an issue with wine, leading to wine cellars and other cubby holes to keep them away from the light.

In the opening paragraph we did mention that temperature was a factor, and our recommendation is to keep it in cool temperatures. Sure, you might not be able to keep them at below freezing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improvise a little.

Finally we’re going to talk about air. Air is great, your body loves it, everyone loves it, but when it comes to spirits, you should really keep air out of it. When you’re storing whiskey, make sure you store it standing up. Many people prefer to store them on their side, but alcohol, especially hard liquor, is a corrosive and will eat away at the cork. This will allow air to penetrate the bottle and ultimately cause the whiskey to degrade.

There are a lot of factors that play into it, but in the end, it’s all about your own preference. Keep it cool, keep it closed, and most importantly, keep it in the dark.

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