Does Bourbon Go Bad? How To Tell For Sure…

It’s nice to keep a good bottle of Bourbon whenever you have the mood for it or whenever you’ll have visitors who will come over at home. However, most of the time, we cannot quickly finish the whole bottle in a few days or even a month!

So if you don’t use it that much, you might ask yourself does Bourbon go bad?

It’s great to know that Bourbon does not spoil quickly. You can even consume it when you have it stored for even up to 10 years. All you have to make sure is that you placed it under ideal storage conditions.

Read on to find out all you need to know about Bourbon. In this article, you will get the answers to the following questions:

  • What is the shelf life of Bourbon?
  • How to tell if Bourbon has gone bad?
  • How to know if it’s time to move on to a new bottle of Bourbon?
  • How to store Bourbon properly?
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What is Bourbon?

Bourbon is a type of whiskey that comes from the United States of America. It is known that about 95% of bourbon production comes from Kentucky.

As a distinctive product of the United States, Bourbon must be at least 51% maize (corn), and it must be aged in brand new flame-charred oak barrels.

Does Bourbon Go Bad?

No matter how old your Bourbon is, it can never actually “go bad” to the point that it can make you sick. Bourbon has a high alcohol content which makes it not a suitable environment for microbes to survive.

However, the taste may go bad if you don’t store it in suitable storage conditions.

What is the Shelf Life of Bourbon?

So, how long does Bourbon last?

If you haven’t opened your Bourbon yet, you can keep it for decades without losing its quality. As long as no air has come and contact with your Bourbon, then you don’t have to worry about changes in its taste quality.

On the other hand, an opened bottle of Bourbon can last up to 10 years when properly stored. But if you are after for its prime flavor, you should consume it within one to two years after it is opened.

How to Tell if Bourbon Has Gone Bad?

As mentioned earlier, an opened bottle of Bourbon can hold its best quality for up to 2 years.

After that, it may begin to lose quality, depending on how it has been stored. You can still safely drink it after 2 years, though. Just be aware that it won’t be as flavorful as it used to be.

Bourbon does not actually spoil. Only its flavor significantly diminishes over time if it is exposed to too much heat or light.

How to Check if Your Bourbon Has Gone Bad?

1. Smell the liquor before tasting.

If it has a sharp and unpleasant aroma and not the usual smooth bourbon fragrance, that can signify that it is not suitable for consumption.

2. Check the appearance.

If you see a sign of discoloration, that indicates a decrease in quality, which might have already affected the flavor.

How to Store Bourbon?

Storing Bourbon is easy!

An unopened bottle of Bourbon can almost have an indefinite shelf life without losing its quality as long as you keep it in a dark and cool place.

  1. You have to make sure that the bottle is tightly sealed so that no air can quickly get in.
  2. Store it in an upright position. If you place it on its side or let it lay down in the storage, the alcohol content of this liquor will break down the bottle’s cork. If that happens, chemical reactions can occur, which can negatively affect the quality and flavor of your Bourbon.
  3. Make sure to keep it away from sunlight. The best storage place for Bourbon is to hide it in a dark cabinet or liquor cabinet where no direct light contact can seep in. Why? Sunlight can speed up the evaporation of liquid and increase the oxidation process, which can destroy the flavor of your Bourbon.
  4. Keep your Bourbon away from any sources of heat. That can be your oven and other heat-producing appliances that might increase the storage temperature where you kept your Bourbon.
  5. It is okay to store your Bourbon at room temperature, especially when you live in a relatively temperate or tropical location. However, you may need to keep your Bourbon in the refrigerator during the hot summer season, especially if temperature fluctuations occur.
  6. You don’t need any particular storage container to transfer in your Bourbon. The glass bottle of your Bourbon itself is all good, especially if it is a dark-colored one. A dark-colored bottle helps keep light out.
  7.  If you have a half-full bottle or a small amount of liquor left in your bourbon bottle, that’s the time you may need to transfer it into a smaller bottle. Keeping a few amounts of liquid in a big bottle can be subjected to more air exposure, affecting the flavor of your Bourbon. Hence, It is best to store your Bourbon in a bottle with as little air as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I Put Bourbon In the Freezer?

Nothing can stop you from storing your Bourbon in the freezer. However, keep in mind that freezing hard liquors like Bourbon can ruin the flavor. It is best to consume your expensive Bourbon at room temperature.

2. Should Bourbon Be Chilled?

It is perfectly fine to store your Bourbon in the refrigerator. However, alcohol experts advise that there is no need for you to refrigerate your Bourbon. Note that Bourbon is best served at room temperature. So, chilling it in the fridge will not make your Bourbon taste better.

Refrigeration does not do anything to improve the taste of your Bourbon. It will only pull the flavors away from your liquor.

3. Can I Drink Old Bourbon?

Some decades-old of Bourbon won’t make you sick. Although Bourbons can almost have an indefinite shelf life, they will likely turn unpleasant if exposed to more oxygen.

Note that the quality of a 2-year-old bourbon is not the same as a 20-year-old bourbon. You can drink a glass of old Bourbon if it has been exposed to a little bit of oxidation. However, it will likely have a much less desirable taste.

4. How is Bourbon Different From Whiskey?

Bourbon and whiskey may look about the same as brown liquors, but they have their own distinction regarding aging. Let’s say all Bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is Bourbon.

Bourbon and whiskey differ in their fermentation process.

Whiskey is generally distilled from fermented grains such as barley, corn, wheat, and rye and then aged in wooden barrels.

On the other hand, Bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn and are aged in charred oak barrels.


Bourbons can last in the best storage condition for several decades.

To keep the quality of your Bourbon for a longer time, make sure that you should not have it in contact with heat, light, and air.

Check the smell and appearance before tasting it if you’re unsure if your Bourbon has gone bad. If it smells unpleasant and shows signs of discoloration, that will be the time for you to get a new bottle of Bourbon.

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