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What’s the Shelf Life of Distilled Spirits?

on 21/05/12 at 4:35 pm

Booze News

Unlike some wines, distilled spirits do not age (or mature) in the bottle. This means that your 20 year old, unopened bottle of 18 year Scotch will taste the same as it would have the first day it was bottled. However, like beer certain liquors can “go bad” and after months or years almost any spirit in an opened bottle may loose some character, “punch” and flavor. To really answer this question we need to break it down into a few categories of distilled spirits and other bottles in the liquor cabinet.

Base Liquors:
The base liquors (brandy, gin, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey) are typically the most stable distilled spirits and can be stored for a long time. Unopened, these bottles have an indefinite shelf life but once opened they may begin to lose certain flavor qualities over the years.

Liqueurs and Cordials:
The shelf lives of liqueurs are more temperamental than the base spirits because they contain sugar and other ingredients which can spoil, some more than others. Most opened (and well sealed) liqueurs should last for months and even years depending on their alcohol content and preservatives. Again, opened bottles are likely to lose some of their characteristics due to exposure to air. Once you begin to see any sugar crystallizing on the bottom, discoloration, curdling or other changes you will want to throw that bottle away or at least give it a taste test before mixing with it.