How to Tell When Whiskey Is Bad?

By Tucker Cummings

Whiskey (sometimes spelled whisky) is produced in many countries all over the world, including Ireland, Scotland, Japan, the U.S. and Canada. Unlike wine, whiskey does not continue to age once bottled, so there is no need to cellar a bottle of whiskey to improve its flavor. Because of its high alcohol content, whiskey rarely expires. However, extremes in temperature, improper storage and other factors can cause the whiskey to deteriorate over time and, in rare cases, become undrinkable.

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Whiskey rarely goes bad, but its flavor can be compromised in certain circumstances.

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Step 1

Look for changes in color. Over time, whiskey can oxidize, causing both color changes and changes in flavor. While not usually a sign that the whiskey has gone "bad," oxidized whiskey can lose some of its complexity and become less enjoyable to drink.

Step 2

Save the date that the bottle was opened on your calendar. The expert opinions differ slightly, but it is generally agreed that a bottle of whiskey should be completely consumed within 1-3 years, with some experts saying that noticeable loss of flavor can occur as early as one month after opening. This flavor loss is due to a higher ratio of air to whiskey in the bottle as the bottle gets closer to empty, so the act of saving the last few fingers of a very good whiskey can actually cause the good whiskey to taste bad more quickly.

Step 3

Compare the whiskey you have at home with a fresh bottle of the same variety to determine if the whiskey has gone bad or experienced a loss of flavor.