How long can I keep spirits in my cabinet?
If spirits are your drink of choice you will be happy to know that unopened bottles of stable, unsweetened spirits can be kept indefinitely without any significant changes. Beverages such as vodka, cognac, whisky, rum, gin and tequila will remain the same, unlike wines which continue to evolve in the bottle over time. As soon as the seal is broken however, a chain of events begins to slowly rob your favorite drink of its character and freshness. This can take quite a long time in some cases, but less in others. In order to keep your bottles in the best shape possible, simply follow these golden rules.
Identify the enemies: air, heat & sun
Air is public enemy number one for spirits. The moment you open the bottle and expose the drink to the elements, two things start to happen: evaporation and oxidation.
Alcohol evaporates at a low temperature so it will disappear relatively quickly once in contact with the air. As it does this, the strength of the spirit will naturally decrease, taking some of its character with it. Avoid this as much as possible by limiting the contact the spirit has with air and storing bottles upright, so that there is less surface area of the liquid left exposed. It’s understandable then that the emptier the bottle becomes, the quicker the remaining spirit will age due to more air being present in the bottle.
Oxidation is a natural, chemical reaction that takes place when a spirit is exposed to oxygen. With oxygen exposure, flavor compounds in the spirit gradually disintegrate and disappear, though this can take several months or even years for this to be noticeable. Tip: always try to use the original stopper or cap to ensure the best seal possible and make sure your bottle is kept upright, rather than on its side. Due to the liquid's high alcohol content, contact with the bottles cork may cause damage to it.
Sunlight is no friend of spirits either; the ultra-violet rays break down organic compounds such as alcohol and some flavorings. This is why some spirits come in dark colored bottles; to block out the harmful UV rays. Keeping the bottle in excessively high temperatures can also damage the quality and balance of spirits.
The conclusion? Seal tightly and store all your spirits in a cool, dark place away from radiators, other heat sources and windows. A cellar is ideal, if you have one.