Does Rum Go Bad? (How To Tell If It Is Bad!)

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Did you know that rum is one of the deadliest distilled spirits in the world due to its high alcohol content? Yes, that’s true!

This is why rum is also called Kill-Devil, Nelson’s Bloods, Demon Water, and many more.

Its high alcohol content makes it an enjoyable drink and the liquor of choice of hardcore drinkers.

But there’s another way people look at it. The high amount of alcohol it contains also makes it resistant to spoilage and contamination.

This simple realization will beg us to ask this question: Does rum go bad?

Here’s a simple answer: Rum can go bad, BUT it’s not resistant to contamination and spoilage.

What do we mean by this? Keep reading, and we’ll share with you lots of exciting information about rum, including:

  • How long does rum last?
  • What happens if you don’t store rum properly?
  • How to know if rum goes bad?
  • How to store rum?

If you’re excited to learn more about rum, let’s get down to business.

Can Rum Go Bad?

The answer is yes and no.

Confusing, right?

That’s because it depends on how it’s stored and the type of rum you have.

When stored properly, the shelf life of rum is long. Even opened bottle of rum can last for years and even decades. This is because of the liquor’s high alcoholic content, preventing bacterial growth.

The information we’ve mentioned applies only to pure rum. The shelf life of rum liqueurs or flavored rums is significantly shorter, so those are prone to going bad a few months after the bottle has been opened.

But get this: While rum may not go bad in the sense that it will get spoiled, it can go bad in a way that it will start to lose its flavor and color over time.

How Long Does Rum Last?

The shelf life of rum will depend on its condition and type. Please continue reading to understand what we mean.

Shelf Life of Pure Rum

Let’s talk about the shelf life of an unopened rum bottle first. As long as the bottle has remained unopened, the seal hasn’t been compromised, and it’s been stored properly, it will be able to retain its flavor and quality indefinitely.

Once opened, the shelf life of rum is still indefinite. But listen: its flavor and quality will deteriorate slowly depending on how well it’s stored. So to enjoy opened rum at its finest, distillers recommend consuming rum within 6 months after opening.

Shelf Life of Flavored Rum or Rum Liqueurs

However, there are also a few rum-based products like the RumChata or Malibu Rum (a coconut-based rum liqueur). The indefinite shelf life doesn’t apply to these products since most of these do not contain enough alcohol to maintain an antimicrobial environment.

For these products, you should check out the expiration date on the rum bottle or research the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life. Usually, liqueurs would last for 6 months to a year after opening.

Pro Tip: To determine if the bottle contains liquor or a liqueur, check out the proof or ABV. If it’s less than 80 proof or 40% ABV, it’s a liqueur, and therefore, has a short shelf life.

What Happens if You Don’t Store Rum Properly?

As we’ve talked about, rum can last for decades but only if it’s stored properly.

So what happened when it wasn’t stored properly? Here are some potential scenarios

1. Oxidation

The oxidation process occurs when the rum is exposed to light, hastening the liquor’s quality and flavor deterioration.

2. Bacterial Contamination

If left uncorked, it would be exposed to air, increasing the risk of bacterial growth and spoilage.

3. Cork Taint

Most distillers use natural cork for their rum bottles. But, unfortunately, natural corks contain the chemical Trichloroanisole (TCA), which contaminates the liquor and leads to the phenomenon called cork taint. (*)

In small amounts, it can make the taste and odor of rum seem muted. On the other hand, high amounts will cause the rum to have an unpleasant aroma similar to a musty basement.

All in all, improper food storage can cause the rum to go bad to the point that it will become spoiled and will no longer be safe for consumption.

How to Know if Rum Goes Bad

With that said, how can you know if rum has already spoiled? Here are the steps you need to take:

1. Inspect the rum.

Look for any impurities at the surface or bottom of the rum or in its bottle. If there are impurities and the rum has gotten murky or cloudy, it means it’s already spoiled.

2. Smell the rum.

If the rum has a weird, musky, or sour smell or if its aroma has decreased significantly, it may no longer be a wise idea to drink it.

3. Taste the rum.

When the rum is oxidized, it will become tarter and more acidic. It’s still safe for consumption, but the taste may not be as enjoyable as before.

But if the rum already tastes sour, discard it right away.

How to Store Rum?

If you want your rum to last forever, you need to protect it from spoilage and contamination. To do that, you should understand the science behind storing rum properly. Here are food storage tips you need to know:

1. Place rum in a dry, dark, and cool place.

Same with other spirits, you should put rum in a dark, cool, and dry place—far from sunlight and heat sources to protect rum from oxidation.

Of course, the best option for this would be your cellar. But if you don’t have one, your kitchen cabinet and pantry will do as long as it’s far from the kitchen windows, oven, or stove.

2. Keep bottles tightly closed.

Regarding opened bottle of rum, make sure that the cork or the lid of the opened bottle is tightly closed. This is a crucial step in preventing oxidation and evaporation and protecting the rum from any potential contaminants.

3. Store the bottles in an upright standing position.

All rum bottles should be stored vertically to prevent cork taint. Never store it horizontally the way you store fine wines.

4. Transfer leftovers in a smaller bottle.

If you left a small amount of rum and don’t plan to consume it anytime soon, transferring the leftovers from the opened bottle to a smaller one would be best.

A big bottle has empty space and will therefore have more air.

When there is more air in the bottle, there’s a high risk of oxidation and evaporation, which may cause the rum’s quality to deteriorate faster. Therefore, the smaller the bottle, the less air it will have.

When choosing a smaller bottle, we recommend going for a glass bottle or decanter and avoiding plastic bottles at all costs.

5. If the rum comes with a natural cork, replace it.

To prevent cork taint, replace the natural cork with either a synthetic cork or a cap.

6. Don’t store your rum with the pourer attached.

Since the pourer won’t give your rum a tight seal, evaporation and oxidation will still occur, so make sure to remove the pourer and replace it with a cap.

Final Words

Like all the other distilled spirits, rum (whether it’s opened or unopened bottle) is shelf-stable and has a long shelf life. However, poor food storage conditions can cause rum to lose its flavor quickly, and even worse– get spoiled.

So it all adds up to this: Pure rum won’t go bad as long as you store it properly.

Luckily, storing rum is not rocket science. All you need to do is follow the food storage tips we’ve shared to protect your rum from evaporation, oxidation, and spoilage. If you do so, you can enjoy the rum for a few years—even decades—to come.

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Up Next: Does Sake Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

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