Have you always wondered what the XXX in old moonshine jugs means?
Well, this triple X design indicates how many times a batch of moonshine has been distilled.
Before modern distilling techniques came into play, moonshiners had to conduct three still runs to create a high alcohol content (40 to 80% ABV), making moonshine one of the strongest alcoholic beverages on the market.
But at the same time, it makes you wonder: With its high alcohol content, does moonshine go bad?
Short Answer: The answer is yes and no. It will all depend on what type of moonshine you have.
That’s a little vague, right?
Well, you just keep on reading, and we’ll expound on this answer a little bit more.
We’ll also share with you the answers to the following questions:
Does Moonshine Go Bad? How Long Does Moonshine Last?
Moonshine is a clear and unaged whiskey that comes in two types—the standard moonshine and the flavored moonshine.
Just like other plain spirits, plain moonshine doesn’t age or go bad. When properly stored, moonshine has an infinite shelf life, and you can enjoy it for years and decades to come.
On the other hand, the said rule doesn’t apply to flavored moonshines like apple pie moonshine, cherry pie moonshine, key lime moonshine, and many more.
Flavored moonshine can go bad because it contains flavorings, added sugar, and fruits that may rot and eventually cause spoilage.
What is the Shelf Life of Moonshine?
The shelf life of moonshine will depend on its type. Here, we will discuss what to expect when dealing with flavored and standard moonshine.
As mentioned, plain moonshine spirits have an indefinite shelf life. In addition, unlike most alcohols, moonshine has been heavily distilled, so it has zero sugar content and has no less risk of spoiling.
With that in mind, opened or unopened moonshine can retain its flavor and quality for many years.
But there’s a catch. Once the bottle of moonshine has been opened, it will be exposed to air which will cause oxidation and evaporation. The oxygen that enters the bottle can change moonshine’s flavor, characteristics, and quality.
Because of this, it’s recommended that you consume the opened bottle of moonshine within 6 months after opening.
And as we’ve talked about. You can’t exactly expect flavored moonshine to last as long as pure moonshine since it has a lower alcohol content. And although it has a high sugar content, it’s still bound to deteriorate faster than alcohol.
With that said, unopened flavored moonshine or fruit-infused moonshine can last for 2 to 3 years if it’s properly stored. However, once opened, its shelf life will be reduced to around 3 to 6 months due to oxidation and evaporation.
How to Tell if Moonshine Is Bad?
Please keep in mind that the abovementioned shelf lives are only applicable to properly stored moonshine. If the moonshine is improperly stored, its risk of spoilage is relatively high.
That’s why it’s crucial that you closely inspect the moonshine before consuming it. This is most especially true if the bottle has been in your pantry for ages.
But what are the signs of a bad moonshine?
The best telltale sign of a bad moonshine would be its taste. Because of this, it’s recommended that you take a small sip of the distilled spirit to test its flavor to see if it has any weird or off-taste.
But before you can identify if the moonshine has an unusual flavor, you need first to understand what’s the original taste of moonshine.
So what does moonshine taste like?
Since this alcoholic beverage is made with distilled and fermented corn mash, it has a strong and smooth alcohol characteristic flavor with slight tones of corn. If you’re dealing with flavored moonshine, it will have a strong and smooth alcohol taste with varying flavor tones based on the fruit or flavor it has.
If the moonshine tastes sour or bitter or has a flavor that’s anything out of the ordinary, you should discard it right away.
How to Store Moonshine?
Same with other alcoholic beverages, you need to store moonshine properly if you want it to last longer. Here are some tips on how to do that:
1. Keep away from light and heat.
When the moonshine is exposed to high temperatures, the alcohol might expand and evaporate, which may cause reduced quality and poorer taste. On the other hand, air exposure can hasten oxidation rates, changing flavor and loss of color.
That’s why the best storage place for moonshine is in a cool and dark place like your kitchen cabinet, pantry, or wine cellar. For best results, it’s recommended that you store the alcoholic beverage at room temperature—between 55 to 60 degrees. (*)
2. Don’t freeze
While it’s essential to ensure that your moonshine won’t get too hot, it’s also a must to ensure that it won’t freeze.
Since the water content will freeze way before the alcohol does, you may end up with a moonshine with a higher content than usual.
This is where the problem starts. Moonshine’s alcohol content is already around 40 to 80%. Consuming drinks with an alcohol content higher than that will lead to many health risks.
3. Store flavored and opened bottles in the refrigerator.
When it comes to flavored and opened bottles of moonshine, refrigeration may be a good idea as it may reduce oxidation and slow down the degradation of the sugars and fruits in flavored moonshine.
4. Keep home-brewed in glass jars.
If you decide to brew your moonshine, don’t store them in plastic bottles as it’s prone to leaching, which may cause flavor changes over time.
Instead, go for heat-resistant glass containers, which are safer and more effective in protecting the liquor from oxidation and evaporation.
5. Store leftover in smaller bottles.
When the air to liquid ratio inside the bottle increases (which is the case when a big bottle contains a small amount of moonshine), the risk of oxidation increases as well.
To prevent this, your best bet is to finish the entire bottle. But if that’s too much, your next option is to transfer the leftover to a smaller glass bottle.
6. Skip the decanter.
Decanters are not tightly sealed, so the risk of oxidation is higher. The best storage container for storing moonshine would be glass bottles with tightly sealed caps or synthetic corkage.
7. Store upright.
Prolonged contact between alcohol and cork may lead to cork disintegration and contamination of the liquor. That’s why the storage guidelines for high-proof alcoholic beverages are to store them upright to prevent contact between the alcohol and natural cork.
8. Keep cork wet.
On the other hand, prolonged storage may also cause the cork to dry out and crack. The biggest problem when this happens is you might find floating cork particles in your moonshine upon opening.
To avoid this, it’s essential to keep the cork wet by flipping the bottle upside down from time to time.
The Bottom Line
Be warned: the moonshine industry is a complicated world to navigate in.
In addition to making sure that you’re not drinking bad moonshine, you also have to be aware of the various dangers that come with consuming moonshine with methanol.
More than ensuring that your moonshine is properly stored, we want to emphasize the grave importance of buying moonshine from a reputable dealer to protect yourself against these risks.