We all have those bottles at the back of the bar or cupboard that are simply collecting dust. Perhaps you aren’t sure how to use them or maybe it was a gift. Or perhaps it’s an expensive bottle of whisky that you are savouring and only having a dram or two on special occasions. Over time, open or not, these bottles will start to change in flavour.
Improper storage and changing temperatures can make your spirits and liqueurs taste terrible. But what can you do to maximise their shelf life and keep the flavours from changing over time?
6 tips to store your spirits
1 Store all bottles away from light
A bar trolley can be stylish, but it is often the worst place to store your spirits and liqueurs unless you keep it in a dark room. Bottles should be stored away from light and these bar carts allow too much exposure to sunlight at different times of the day. If you are using one, try to choose a location in the room that does not get any direct sun. Direct sunlight will cause chemical changes in the liquor as well as changes in colour.
2 Find the right temperature
Obviously, exposure to sunlight will also increase the temperature. Avoid storing your spirits near a radiator, by a windowsill or on top of the fridge. All spirits and liqueurs are best stored in a dark and cool place, although general room temperature is fine if it doesn’t alter too much. High temperatures will evaporate the alcohol.
3 Some bottles do better in the fridge
The fridge is the best option for lower ABV bottles, especially for cream liqueurs and wine-based aperitifs. Do you have a wine fridge? Perhaps you could add some of your liqueurs, sherries, mead and vermouths to that. You can extend the shelf life of vermouth from three weeks up to six months simply by storing it in the fridge.
Liqueurs that are made from a spirit base can be stored at room temperature.
See my previous blog post on what to stock for you home bar. Home Bar Essentials
4 Seal the bottle properly
Make sure the bottle is closed properly and the top is airtight. Some liqueurs especially can build up sugar on the neck, which can make closing the bottle more difficult. This can easily be avoided by wiping the bottle after each use. Cleaning your bottles at times will also prevent any dust getting in. Any screw tops or corks that seem damaged should be thrown away and replaced by an airtight closure.
5 Store spirits upright
Any spirit bottles that have a cork top should be stored upright to avoid contact with the cork itself. The cork can react badly to the strong spirit, which can then have a negative impact on the taste of the liquor.
6 Put it into a smaller bottle
Oxidation impacts your bottles’ shelf life in a very bad way. Too much contact with air will alter the taste of the liquid. Oxidation will, for example, remove the smokiness from peated whisky. Therefore, it is important to close bottles properly to avoid air getting inside.
When you first open the bottle and have a few serves from it, it is fine to store it as it is for some time. But if you are not planning on drinking it anytime soon, the best way to keep the quality consistent is to put the liquid into a smaller airtight bottle. The more you consume, the more air there will be in the bottle. And more air means the flavour profile will start to change faster. This is why decanters should not be used for long-term storage; they expose the spirit to too much light and air.
How do you store your bottles? Have you ever noticed any flavour changes in opened bottles?