Does Bourbon Go Bad? Know the Shelf Life and Best Storage Tips

Bourbon does not spoil or go bad due to its high alcohol content and lengthy aging process. When stored properly, it can last indefinitely, but the flavor and quality may deteriorate over time.

Bourbon lovers are no strangers to the exquisite taste, aroma, and texture of a perfectly aged liquor. While some prefer to savor it, others save it for a special occasion or keep it as a collectible. However, many people are unsure of whether bourbon goes bad or not.

Bourbon is a type of whiskey made from a minimum of 51% corn and aged in charred oak barrels. The aging process contributes to the rich, complex flavor that bourbon is famous for.

Whether you want to enjoy your bottle tonight or keep it for years, understanding how long bourbon lasts and how to store it properly is essential.

Does Bourbon Go Bad? Know the Shelf Life and Best Storage Tips


The Shelf Life Of Bourbon

Bourbon is a type of whiskey that is distilled in the united states and known for its distinctive flavor profile. If you’re a bourbon lover, you may find yourself wondering, “does bourbon go bad? ” The answer is no, bourbon does not go bad.

However, the longer you keep it, the more its flavor profile changes. In this blog post, we will discuss the shelf life of bourbon, including the factors that affect it and how long it lasts in an opened and unopened bottle.

Definition Of Shelf Life In Bourbon

The shelf life of bourbon refers to the amount of time a bottle of bourbon remains at its optimal flavor profile. Over time, the flavor profile changes due to oxidation and evaporation.

Factors That Affect Bourbon’S Shelf Life

Several factors affect the shelf life of bourbon, including:

  • Age: The older the bourbon, the longer it lasts.
  • Wood: The type and quality of wood used to store the bourbon can affect its shelf life.
  • Temperature: Extreme temperatures can affect the flavor of bourbon over time.
  • Light: Exposure to light can cause discoloration and a decrease in the quality of the bourbon.
  • Air: Once the bottle is opened, the air in the bottle reacts with the bourbon and alters the flavor.

How Long Does Bourbon Last In An Opened And Unopened Bottle?

The shelf life of unopened bourbon bottles can last indefinitely. However, once the bottle is opened, the oxidation process begins, and the flavor profile starts to change.

The length of time it takes for the flavor to change varies based on several factors, including how much air is in the bottle.

  • Opened bottle: Once a bottle of bourbon is opened, it typically lasts between six months to two years. The bourbon’s flavor profile changes as the oxygen interacts with the liquid.
  • Unopened bottle: An unopened bottle of bourbon can last indefinitely as long as it is stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. The flavor profile can change over time, but it does not spoil or go bad.

While bourbon does not go bad, it does have a shelf life. The factors that affect the shelf life of bourbon include age, wood, temperature, light, and air.

An unopened bottle of bourbon can last indefinitely, but once the bottle is opened, its flavor profile can change within six months to two years.

Stored properly, bourbon can be enjoyed for many years to come.

Signs That Bourbon Is Going Bad

Bourbon lovers claim that the drink only gets better with age. Still, everyone mistakes the aging process and the drink’s expiration date.

The question, therefore, is, does bourbon go bad? The answer is yes, it does. Bourbon can go bad, just like all other liquors.

Here are a few signs that bourbon is going bad.

Top Indications That Bourbon Is Deteriorating

Bourbon that has gone bad has several indications. It’s essential to recognize these signs before taking sips of bad bourbon.

  • Change of color: Bourbon typically ranges from amber to brown. If it appears hazy or cloudy, it’s a sign of spoilage.
  • Strong acetone smell: The smell of spoiled bourbon is often unbearable and similar to nail polish remover.
  • Foul taste: The taste of bad bourbon is sharp and unpleasant to the palate.
  • Sediment at the bottom of the bottle: The presence of residue at the bottle’s bottom indicates that oxidation has occurred, and the flavors have started deteriorating.

How To Tell If Bourbon Has Turned Bad

Suppose you’re unsure whether your bourbon has gone bad.

Here’s how to tell:

  • Use your senses: Sight, smell, and taste. If the bourbon appears cloudy, smells like nail polish remover, or tastes bad, it has gone bad.
  • Check the bottle: If the bottle is nearly empty, it is more likely to go bad, as exposure to air causes deterioration.
  • Age of bourbon: Bourbon is aged in barrels, which contribute to its flavor. Therefore, the age of the bourbon determines if it has gone bad. If it’s older than ten years but tastes sour, its quality has degraded.

It’s essential to keep your bourbon in a cool and dry environment, away from direct sunlight. Once you open the bottle, consume it within a reasonable timeframe to enjoy the best flavor. Bourbon that has gone bad can cause discomfort and lead to unpleasant experiences.

Follow these guidelines to make sure you’re drinking safe and savory bourbon.

Reasons Why Bourbon Goes Bad

No whiskey enthusiast wants to admit that they have a bottle of spoiled bourbon in their possession. The truth is, all whiskey, no matter how well-made or high-end, has a shelf life. Bourbon, in particular, has a relatively long shelf life, but there are factors that lead to the deterioration of its quality.

We will explore the reasons why bourbon goes bad, with a focus on the factors that lead to the deterioration of bourbon quality.

Factors That Lead To The Deterioration Of Bourbon Quality

Bourbon, like all whiskey, is a delicate spirit that requires special care and storage. There are several factors that can lead to the deterioration of bourbon quality.

Here are some of the most common factors:

  • Exposure to light: Bourbon that is exposed to light for an extended period can undergo a chemical change that affects its flavor and color.
  • Exposure to air: When bourbon is exposed to air, the alcohol content begins to evaporate. As a result, the flavor and aroma of the bourbon can change.
  • Temperature: Extreme temperature changes can affect the taste and quality of bourbon. If the temperature gets too high, the alcohol can evaporate, and the flavor can be altered.
  • Time: As bourbon ages, the flavor and characteristics of the spirit change. While some people prefer older bourbon, others believe that bourbon has a peak age in which it tastes the best.
  • Storage: Bourbon that is stored in a location with high humidity or with other spirits can absorb their flavors, leading to an unpleasant taste.

Importance Of Aging In Bourbon Production

The production of bourbon involves aging the whiskey in charred oak barrels for a period of at least two years. Aging is a crucial step in the process that contributes to the unique flavor and character of bourbon.

Here are some reasons why aging is essential in bourbon production:

  • Oak barrels contribute flavor: The charred oak barrel adds flavor and color to the bourbon during the aging process. The wood imparts flavors of vanilla, toffee, and caramel.
  • Oxidation improves flavor: During the aging process, the bourbon is exposed to small amounts of oxygen through the barrel’s pores. This exposure contributes to oxidation, which improves the bourbon’s flavor.
  • Age contributes to smoothness: As the bourbon ages, the alcohol content mellows, and the flavor becomes smoother and more nuanced.
  • Consistency in the final product: The aging process allows for consistency in the final product as the different barrels are blended together to create the same flavor profile.

While bourbon may have a relatively long shelf life, it is not immune to the effects of time, light, air, temperature, and storage. To ensure that your bourbon tastes its best, it is essential to store it in a cool, dark place away from other spirits.

The aging process is essential in the production of bourbon and contributes to the unique flavors and characteristics that make it a beloved spirit around the world.

Best Storage Tips For Bourbon

Bourbon is a popular type of whiskey that is loved by many for its distinct taste and aroma. But, as with any other alcoholic beverage, proper storage is key to ensuring the longevity and quality of your bourbon.

Here are some of the best storage tips for bourbon:

Ideal Conditions For Storing Bourbon

The ideal storage conditions for bourbon are:

  • Temperature: Bourbon should be stored at a consistent room temperature of around 65-75°f (18-24°c). Avoid storing your bourbon in extreme temperatures, as this can affect the flavor and aroma.
  • Light: Bourbon should be stored away from direct sunlight, as this can cause the liquid to age faster and affect the quality.
  • Humidity: It is best to store your bourbon in an area with moderate humidity, as extreme humidity levels can cause the cork to expand and release the seal, leading to oxidation and spoilage.

Tips For Storing Unopened And Opened Bottles Of Bourbon

Whether your bourbon bottle is opened or unopened, proper storage is essential.

Here are some tips:

  • Store your unopened bourbon bottle in an upright position in a cool, dry, dark place, preferably away from any heat sources.
  • If you have already opened your bourbon bottle and have some leftover, transfer the contents to a smaller bottle or decanter. This will reduce the amount of air in the bottle, helping to slow down the oxidation process that can affect the quality of the whiskey.
  • If you plan to store your opened bourbon bottle for an extended period, make sure to secure the cork or cap tightly to prevent air from entering the bottle.

How To Properly Store An Already Opened Bottle Of Bourbon

If you have already opened a bottle of bourbon, follow these steps to properly store it:

  • Close the bottle tightly to prevent air from entering and causing oxidation.
  • Store it upright in a cool, dry, and dark place such as a pantry, cabinet, or liquor closet.
  • If possible, store your bourbon bottle away from other items that produce strong odors. Whiskey has the ability to absorb the scents and flavors of its surroundings, which can affect the taste and aroma.

Overall, proper bourbon storage is essential to maintaining the quality of your whiskey. By following these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite bourbon bottle for years to come.

Strategies To Maintain The Quality Of Bourbon

Bourbon is a beloved spirit among many, and it’s not uncommon for people to keep a bottle for special occasions or collect rare editions. However, it’s important to know that bourbon, like any alcoholic drink, can go bad over time.

So, does bourbon go bad? The answer is both yes and no. While bourbons won’t spoil like food, they can lose their quality if not stored or maintained properly.

We will discuss strategies to maintain the quality of bourbon, focusing on the effects of sunlight and temperature on bourbon quality, how to protect your bourbon from sunlight and temperature, and the pros and cons of decanting bourbon.

Effects Of Sunlight And Temperature On Bourbon Quality

Sunlight and temperature are the two most critical factors that can affect the quality of bourbon. Direct exposure to sunlight and high temperatures can cause oxidation and evaporation, changing the flavor of the bourbon.

Here are the key points to consider:

  • The heat from sunlight can lead to the expansion and contraction of the bourbon, which in turn can damage the cork, leading to air exposure.
  • Direct sunlight can heat up the liquid, making it evaporate faster, and cause the bourbon to lose its flavor and aroma.
  • Temperature fluctuations can lead to condensation and dilution of the bourbon, ruining its taste, aroma, and texture.
  • Bourbon should be kept in a cool and dark place, away from direct sunlight, to maintain its flavor and quality.

How To Protect Your Bourbon From Sunlight And Temperature

Bourbon lovers can take various measures to protect their precious bottle from sunlight and temperature.

Here are some tips:

  • Store the bourbon in a cool, dark, and dry place, away from windows and heat sources.
  • Consider using a climate-controlled storage unit to keep your collection safe and in ideal conditions.
  • Use blinds and curtains to block out sunlight from entering the room where the bourbon is stored.
  • Avoid storing bourbon in the kitchen or near any heat-producing appliances like ovens, stoves, or radiators.
  • Keep the bourbon in its original container or a sealed container to prevent air and sunlight exposure.

The Pros And Cons Of Decanting Bourbon

Decanting bourbon is a popular practice that many whiskey lovers follow. But what are the pros and cons of decanting?

Here are the key points:


  • Decanters can be aesthetically pleasing and make great centerpieces.
  • Decanting can be used to store bourbons for a long time and prevent air exposure.
  • It can be used to mix bourbons and create a unique blend.


  • Decanters expose the bourbon to air and can alter its flavor.
  • They can also expose bourbon to light, leading to oxidation and degradation.
  • Decanted bourbon can develop off-flavors and lose its aroma over time.

If you want to enjoy your bourbon to the fullest, you need to maintain its quality by storing it in a cool and dark place, away from sunlight and temperature fluctuations, sealing it in a container, and avoiding using decanters for long-term storage.

By following these strategies and guidelines, you can enjoy your bourbon collection for many years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions On Does Bourbon Go Bad

How Long Can An Unopened Bottle Of Bourbon Last?

An unopened bottle of bourbon can last indefinitely if stored properly. Keep it in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and heat. However, over time the flavor and quality may decline.

Can Bad Bourbon Make You Sick?

Drinking bad bourbon is not likely to make you sick, but it may taste unpleasant. Signs of bad bourbon include a sour smell or taste, cloudiness, and discoloration.

How Do You Know If Bourbon Has Gone Bad?

To determine if bourbon has gone bad, check for changes in color, consistency, and smell. If it smells sour or rancid, has a different color, or looks cloudy, it may have gone bad.

Does Bourbon Expire Once Opened?

Bourbon does not expire once opened, but it may lose flavor and quality over time due to exposure to air. It’s best to consume it within a year or two after opening.

How Should I Store My Bourbon?

Store bourbon in a cool, dry place away from light and heat, like in a pantry or closed cabinet. Avoid keeping it in a place with large temperature fluctuations, like the kitchen or near a window.


After conducting extensive research into the question of whether bourbon goes bad, it seems that the answer is a bit complicated. While technically bourbon won’t spoil or go bad over time, it can lose some of its desirable qualities, such as flavor and aroma.

Exposure to oxygen, light, and high temperatures can all contribute to the degradation of bourbon over time. However, if stored properly in a cool, dark place, bourbon can last for years without any noticeable changes.

Ultimately, the best way to ensure the longevity of your bourbon is to invest in a high-quality brand, store it correctly, and enjoy it in moderation.

So, whether you’re a casual bourbon drinker or a seasoned connoisseur, you can rest assured that your favorite whiskey will be just as enjoyable today as it was when you first opened the bottle.

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