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Sep 15, 2010 01:16 PM

Any Booze Experts Here?

Does anyone know what the shelf life is for an unopened bottle? About 10 years ago I was given a Christmas gift of a bottle of Wild Turkey. Not being much of a drinker, I wanted to save it for a special occasion. Is it still good?

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    1. re: cacio e pepe

      Excellent news. Thanks. I was worried that it would not be drinkable after so many years. That bottle will probably last the rest of my life.

      1. re: mucho gordo

        People would kill for whiskey aged that long...of course it would be better in an oak barrel.

        1. re: nang

          I don't think whiskey ages in the bottle like wine does.

          1. re: tommy

            It does not - but it will oxidize once opened, which can improve the flavor to a point but eventually becomes undesireable I have read it is generally best to try to finish a bottle in 4-6 months.

            1. re: ncyankee101

              As you say, once opened it should be consumed within a few months because of oxidization. But spirits do age in the bottle because of some of the chemical components. Slowly, but there are changes and they do become smoother over time.

              1. re: JMF

                Could you provide a citation explaining how spirits age in a bottle? I've not found anything supporting this, assuming by "age" you mean an appreciable "improvement".

                1. re: tommy

                  I have heard of extremely old spirits - those that have been in the bottle maybe 40-50 or more years - taking on a very "soapy" taste through a process called transesterification, but not what is normally meant by ageing. Not really a concern since your bottle is only 10 yrs old (though I did buy a bottle of Lunazul Reposado tequila recently that I thought tasted slightly like dish soap).

                  A lot can also depend on how it has been stored, light and heat are not friendly to alcohol long-term. I would also be interested in seeing any info regarding liquor improving in the bottle.

                  1. re: tommy

                    "Change" doesn't necessarily mean "improvement"...

                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                      I understand this. I'm questioning those who are suggesting that a spirit will improve.

                    2. re: tommy

                      This is something a group of us distillers and spirits folks have been talking about for awhile. There are fusel and other oils in the spirit and they break down over time. Positive, negative, it varies. Many spirits taste fine just prior to bottling, and then after bottling go into something we call 'bottle shock' where the spirit flavor profile locks down and closes up for a month or so before returning to its prior state.

                      Then there are the changes that happen in the bottle. If the spirit is highly rectified there won't be much change. The less rectified, the more it will change. So vodka will stay the same for a very long time. Rum and whiskey may change quite a bit. Gin can vary, but artisanal ones can change a lot over time because of the oils from the botanicals.

                      I made some rums and brandies in a 19th century style direct flame heated pot still that allows lots of the oils to pass over and they have steadily been mellowing and improving after aging and being bottled. I have been checking on them every few months for several years and they have gone from being great rums, to fantastic. I sat some of the top rum and spirits experts down last summer for a taste test. They had tried the same rums when they were just bottled and we tasted them and then looked at the new notes and the old. You wouldn't think they were for the same rums.

                      1. re: JMF

                        So am I to understand that my mid 60's bottle of White Horse whiskey 's taste has changed? and if so ,would you say for the better or worse?It has been in a cool dry basement all it's life.

                        1. re: Duppie

                          I wouldn't attempt to guess how it may have changed. It's a blended Scotch, so it's made from many different barrels. I don't know how rectified it is, but Scotch is a 'dirty' whiskey with lots of heads left in, which is why Scotch needs to age in the barrell so long before it is mature. Also barley whiskeys like Scotch tend to be very light in character and get most of their flavor from the barrel, the water, and peat. So it may be have remained relatively unchanged. But that is just a W.A.G. on my part.

                          That said, it's supposed to be a very tasty blended Scotch. My friend Jim Murray chose it as best blended Scotch in 2006. I wonder how the 1960's blend is? Why not crack that sucker open and have a dozen friends over and do a tasting with notes. Maybe get a new bottle and see how the blend differs from old to new.

                          1. re: JMF

                            I've got a birthday coming up and some friends have been eying that bottle for years so perhaps now will be a good time. Not much of a Scotch man myself but you've peaked my interest and the tasting sounds like a good idea. Thanks.

                  2. re: ncyankee101

                    Thanks for the info. Now I have back up for the need to drink on a regular basis. Got to clean out the bar by the end of the month. hick up

          2. Unopened, no worries....kept somewhere out of direct light, even better. No extra "aging" however with distilled spirits

            8 Replies
            1. re: Gatogrande

              Although JMF makes some very intriguing points about how spirits can change in the bottle.

              1. re: cacio e pepe

                As time goes by I hope to be able to do some solid scientific research on this. I have a friend at a major university, a PhD who is testing the chemical components in spirits before, during, and after barrell aging. I have to ask him to also do follow up after time spent in the bottle. I will be sending him samples from my distillery on a long term basis to build up a solid mass of research. I'm sure the big companies have done this, but if so, they sure as heck aren't letting out their info. We plan to write papers and books on the topic for the artisanal distillers.

                1. re: JMF

                  No distiller would want you to save a bottle, not if they hope to sell you a replacement.

                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                    The thing is, you're still buying presumably to drink, so you're buying the same amount of bottles. Your consumption wouldn't go down. In fact it might even go up, if there is suddenly this news that spirits age to an appreciable level in the bottle, which would spark interest in buying and consuming.

                    This would certainly fly in the face of years of widely accepted wisdom, and turn the industry on its head. I suspect it's not the case.

                    1. re: tommy

                      Some of us artisanal distillers are the ones who will see that our spirits are aging slightly in the bottle, because they are much less rectified and have much more fusel oils and other compounds that break down with time.

                  2. re: JMF

                    That is just really cool stuff. What chemicals appear after aging? Are these chemicals inherent in wood? Are they inherent only in charred barrels (formed as side reactions during the combustion of the wood)? Or is it a reaction between a compound in the spirit and a compound found in the wood. If so, which compounds are key for the spirit to contain. I imagine that could allow distillers to work the still differently for spirits that they plan on aging versus spirits that will be consumed on a shorter time line.

                    If it then turned out that some of those changes were due to an aging process in the bottle then less spirit could be lost due to the evaporative loss from barrel aging.

                    Wine makers have a lot of science and chemistry at their disposal which they can use to really manipulate the character of the wine they are making. This research could bring some interesting new tools to distillers. Fun stuff.

                    1. re: cacio e pepe

                      There is a lot of experiments in aging going on both at the big distilleries, and especially us little guys. The 'angel share' can be a big hit in lost income to a small distillery. Some places are aging in stainless steel with toasted wood pieces or planks, others micro-oxygenate, etc. How you run your still, what type of still, etc. affect what chemical compounds are created and destroyed. I won't go into the science of it here, but during aging certain compounds break down and/or evaporate. Methanol (which tastes great, sweet, but in pure form poisonous. Acetone, and more. Compounds picked up during barrel aging are vanillins, tannins, sugars, etc. Wait a few years for my friend and I to publish the research for full details...

                      1. re: JMF

                        Sorry I was being unclear. I didn't mean to put you on the spot. I was just thinking of the kinds of questions that could be addressed by that type of research.

                        But I love all the extra info. I didn't know about most of that stuff so thanks again.

              2. I have a bottle of Whiskey in what is called Cyrus Noble "The Assayer" decanter. It was given to me in 1972 and has never been opened. Does anyone know if there is a market for something like this? (It's the full sized decanter, not the mini)

                4 Replies
                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    I thought of that, but I kinda want to know what an approximate value might be before I looked at something like that (I do still have the original box with the conformed Styrofoam).

                    1. re: boyzoma

                      what previous bottles sold for on ebay is the best way to find out what folks are willing to pay.

                      The full size, unopened, collectible is probably worth in the $60-70 range. Mint condition with the original box, also in good condition, you may be able to get as much as $100, if you find the right collector.

                      1. re: JMF

                        Thanks JMF. I appreciate the info.