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Preserving Liquid Gold: How Long Does Bourbon Last?

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Bourbon is a type of whiskey that has been aged for at least four years in new, charred oak barrels.

This aging process gives the bourbon its dark color and distinctive smoky flavor.

Bourbon can be made from corn, rye, or wheat, and it must have an alcohol content of at least 40% ABV (80 proof).

Bourbon is typically drunk neat or on ice with a twist of lemon peel.

The how long does bourbon the last question is not easy to answer because it varies depending on how you store your bourbon.

What is Bourbon?

what is bourbon

Bourbon is an alcohol distilled from corn, rye, and barley.

The first written mention of bourbon is in 1785.

Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, but most bourbons are from Kentucky because that state produces a high-quality product.

The Bluegrass State requires bourbon to be at least 51% corn and aged for two years in new oak barrels before it may carry the name “bourbon”.

Any whiskey age less than four years cannot legally be called “straight” or “aged,” although producers may label their products as if they contain no additives—a distinction irrelevant to many drinkers.

Bourbon was initially known as Monongahela rye whisky (RYE) when distilled near present-day Pittsburgh, PA, which was then part of Virginia and considered an essential trading item.

Over time bourbon has been produced in other countries, such as Canada or Scotland, where distilleries use wheat instead of oats to make their whiskey (Scotch).

How to Store Bourbon?

how to store bourbon

If you value the contents of your bourbon bottle, store it in an upright position.

Bourbon has a much higher alcohol content than wine, so if the cork and bourbon are left together too long, they might corrode one another.

It must be kept in an area with temperatures between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit and not exposed to direct sunlight or moisture.

There is no hard proof that direct sunlight will ruin bourbon (it may or may not), but it certainly won’t help the quality.

Put your collection in an area that does not get direct sunlight to avoid any risk.

The ideal bourbon storage area has consistent temperatures.

Avoid storing your drinks in an attic space in which the temperature varies, as this can lead to rapid evaporation of aroma and flavor compounds from the glass.

A well-ventilated living room where air circulates freely will produce the best results.

Storing bourbon can seem like a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be with the right know-how.

Allow yourself to get creative and try new things for an occasional treat.

How Long Does Bourbon Last? Does Bourbon Go Bad?

how long does bourbon last

Expect a bourbon to be aging nicely after one year in oak barrels; however, if it has been sitting on store shelves for too long, its flavors will become less complex, and it will still be drinkable.

That’s not to say bourbon never goes bad, however.

It can go “bad” for several reasons: exposure to light or heat, being stored in an unsuitable container, changes in the temperature range exposed to overtime, and how often the bottle has been opened and closed.

All these things can hasten oxidation, leading to change in flavor compounds and loss of aromatic complexity (i.e., less intense).

Though not much different from other whiskeys, bourbon’s lifespan is relatively brief once it has been opened.

You may store an unopened bottle for decades, but 1 to 2 years after the bottle is opened, its flavor will be altered.

How to Tell if Bourbon is Bad?

how to tell if bourbon is bad

Bourbon lovers enjoy the drink for its sweet taste, resulting from competing for smoky and sugary flavors.

The term “Bourbon” has been debunked as a marketing tool to emulate French Cognac, but it is recognized as an American spirit that can be diluted according to preference.

During aging, the whiskey’s color is primarily dictated by barrel char.

The charred wood in a bourbon barrel gives off compounds like vanillin and oak lactones responsible for flavors such as vanilla, caramel, or buttery tones.

However, if aged too long, it can result in tannins that impart an astringent taste to the drink when diluted with water.

A bottle of bourbon goes bad when its distinctive brown color fades away.

The satisfyingly sweet, spirited, and smoky flavor turns to dullness when tasted from the bottle.

In extreme cases, a Bourbon that has been opened for too long can cause the alcohol to evaporate faster than the water, providing an environment for mold growth inside of it.


In conclusion, bourbon has a relatively long shelf life, so you can save it until the time is right.

Bourbon does not go bad most of the time as long as you store it in a cool dark place like your basement or cellar, where the temperature remains stable year-round.

If you keep your bourbon in a room where it’s exposed to light, then oxidation may cause the taste of the bourbon to become changed over time.

How Long Does Bourbon Last? Does Bourbon Go Bad?

Recipe by Kimberly Baxter Course: Shelf Life


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  • Bourbon

  • Labels and markers


  • Read the guide thoroughly to learn how long it lasts.
  • Check the “Best-by-date” to know when it expires.
  • Make sure to store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (pantry or fridge).
  • Always check for signs of spoilage before using.

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