How to Store Bourbon Whiskey and Rye

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How to Store Bourbon Whiskey and Rye

    • 187 posts
    March 29, 2021 10:22 AM PDT

    How to Store Bourbon Whiskey and Rye

    See below for optimal bourbon storage conditions and reasons for degradtion of taste.

    There are 4 major factors that affect whiskey taste and stability in storage:

    1) Light

    2) Temperature

    3) Exposed to air (oxidation)

    4) Diffusion of volatile ethanol vapors


    The list above is in order from most to least impactful.

    TL;DR:  So the real takeaway is keep your bottles out of direct sunlight and for long term storage keep it out of indirect light (lamps or lightbulbs).  Then don't expose whiskey to high temps, and keep the number of bottle openings to a minimum or zero for long term storage. 


    1) Light is the most impactful (in a bad way) to whiskey storage and subsequent taste. The taste of a specific bourbon whiskey is a unique chemical composition that can be impacted greatly by photos of light.  The strongest of light is direct sunlight. Direct sunlight hitting your bottles should be avoided at all costs.  

    2) Temperature can be the next biggest factor in long term optimal storage of your bourbon.  Generally lower temps are preferred. However, you should prevent freezing or water freezing temps (as the high ethanol content in whiskeys generally doesn't freeze at most normal freezer temps) They key is preventing exposing your bourbon to high temps, generally regarded at above 85F/ 30C.  Optimal temps are the same as with wine, approx 57F or 13C is ideal. Creating an environment like this is best for long term storage of your bourbon.

    3) From what I have read, and hearing Julian Van Winkle III on the subject, it appears the oxidation of whiskey when exposed to air (oxygen being the issue) can have a major impact on some whiskey.  It appears not all whiskeys are oxidized at the same rate. Generally speaking, the older the bourbon/bottle the more likely it is to experience degradtion due to oxidation.  JVWIII has confirmed that most Stitzel-Weller distillery (old bottles) products are oxidized rather quickly upon opening now (2020+). He even mentions that the profile may change significantly in within a few hours of opening. Little can be done about that orver time, but the inert gas (nitrogen, as found in private reserve) will help slow the oxidation process if applied quickly (within seconds of pouring) and the bottle recapped tightly.  It should be noted that oxidation of bourbon can be a beneficial process (benefitting taste) to many whiskies, especially newly produced/bottled whiskies. NOTE: Whiskey bottle should be stored standing upright, NOT LIKE WINE. You do not want the cork sitting in the whiskey for long periods of time.  

    4) Release or diffusion of volatile gas (ethanol) over time within the non-liquid head space and openings can affect taste.  As for the diffusion of ethanol out of the whiskey liquid, that can be mitigated by 3 factors Temp, pressure and space. The release of volatile gas (ethanol) in whiskey is inveresly proportional to temperature (lowere diffusion in lower temps). However, we can't realistically keep our bottles in very cold temps for extended periods of time (see #2), we can focus on the other 2 (pressure and space), but each opening will cause changes over time - how much, depends on the whiskey and many factors. Many connoisseurs suggest adding glass marbles to one's bourbon bottle to reduce the headspace and keep the liquid level near the top. While this will reduce the headspace, it may also add contaminates by just havingmarbles exposed to air.   The marbles should be void of any liquid, dirt, dust, anything - as to prevent changing taste by the marbles themselves.  Having a way to keep whiskey under pressure of an inert gas while allowing it to be poured would be optimal. I am not sure that exists now for the average consumer.

    -BEX Opinion

    This post was edited by admin at March 29, 2021 5:36 PM PDT
    • 3 posts
    March 29, 2021 11:11 AM PDT
    I keep most bottle boxed up and also have a big Rubbermaid cabinet I keep the bottom two shelves for my taller bottles.
    Shop at Thrive. The boxes they use to deliver are great and come with amazing packing you can reuse to cushion your closeted bourbon.