How Long Does Bourbon Last Once Opened

how long does bourbon last once opened

Bourbon lovers rejoice! You’ve just opened your favorite bottle of bourbon and had a few sips, but now you’re wondering how long you can keep enjoying it. The shelf life of opened bourbon is a common concern for many spirit enthusiasts. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure that your bourbon stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

In this article, we will explore the factors that affect bourbon shelf life and provide you with some best practices for storing open bourbon. We will cover the concept of bourbon expiration dates and offer tips on how to extend the life of opened bourbon. Whether you’re a seasoned bourbon drinker or a newcomer, this article will help you gain a better understanding of how to preserve your favorite spirit and enjoy it to the fullest.

Key Takeaways:

  • Opened bourbon can generally last for 6-8 months before any noticeable changes in taste occur.
  • Factors such as temperature, humidity, and oxygen exposure can all impact the shelf life of opened bourbon.
  • Proper storage, including tightly sealing the bottle and keeping it away from contaminants, can help prolong the quality of opened bourbon.
  • Bourbon does not have a specific expiration date but can be past its prime if stored improperly or for too long.
  • Signs of spoiled bourbon include changes in aroma, taste, and appearance, and it’s important to discard any bourbon that has gone bad.

Factors Affecting Bourbon’s Shelf Life

bourbon shelf life

Preserving opened bourbon is a top priority for any bourbon enthusiast. To keep bourbon fresh and prolong its quality, it is essential to understand the various factors that impact its shelf life.

Oxygen Exposure: Once opened, bourbon is exposed to oxygen, which can cause a chemical reaction that alters its taste and aroma. To minimize oxidation, make sure to replace the bottle’s cap immediately after use and store it in an upright position.

Temperature: Extreme temperatures can affect the flavor of bourbon, causing it to taste flat or even metallic. It is recommended to store bourbon in a cool, dark place to prevent any significant changes to its flavor profile.

Humidity: Bourbon can be sensitive to high levels of humidity, which can cause the cork to expand and let outside aromas seep into the bottle. Store your bourbon in an environment that is not too humid to avoid this problem.

Light: Prolonged exposure to light, especially sunlight, can cause the bourbon’s color to fade and impact its flavor. Keep your bourbon away from direct sunlight to preserve its quality.

“Preserving opened bourbon requires attention to detail and proper storage methods. By minimizing oxygen exposure, controlling temperature and humidity, and avoiding light, you can maintain and even prolong the quality of your bourbon.”

Proper Storage Methods for Opened Bourbon

Storing opened bourbon properly is essential for maintaining its flavor and quality. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Seal the bottle tightly: Oxygen exposure is one of the primary factors that can cause bourbon to spoil. To minimize the amount of air that comes into contact with your bourbon, always make sure the cap or cork is tightly sealed after each use.
  2. Choose a suitable storage container: If you’ve removed the bourbon from its original bottle, it’s important to choose a suitable container for storage. Glass bottles or flasks with airtight seals are a good option, as are stainless steel or ceramic flasks. Avoid storing bourbon in plastic containers, which can alter the flavor of the spirit over time.
  3. Keep the spirits away from potential contaminants: Bourbon can absorb odors and flavors from its surroundings, so it’s important to keep it away from strong-smelling items like cleaning chemicals or perfumes. Additionally, avoid storing bourbon near sources of heat or in direct sunlight, as this can also affect the flavor and quality of the spirit.
  4. Store in a cool, dark place: The ideal temperature for storing opened bourbon is between 60-65°F (15-18°C). A cool, dark pantry or closet is a great option for long-term storage, but be sure to keep the bottle away from any light sources.

By following these best practices for storing opened bourbon, you can ensure that your favorite spirit stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

Understanding Bourbon Expiration Dates

Image of a bar full of different kinds of bourbon

Unlike perishable food items, bourbon does not have a specific expiration date. However, it is essential to understand how to determine if a bottle of bourbon is past its prime.

The first thing you should do is check the bottle for any signs of leakage. If the seal is broken or the cork has dried out, the bourbon may have been exposed to too much oxygen and its quality may have deteriorated.

Another thing to consider is the age of the bourbon. While some bourbons may improve with age, others may lose their flavor and complexity over time. As a general rule, bourbons that are unopened and stored properly can last indefinitely, while opened bottles can remain drinkable for up to five years.

Expert Tip: If you have a prized bottle of bourbon that you want to keep for a special occasion, consider transferring it to a smaller bottle to minimize the amount of oxygen it’s exposed to.

It’s also important to note that bourbon can change in taste and aroma over time, even if it hasn’t gone bad. This can be due to a range of factors, such as exposure to light, temperature changes, or even changes in humidity.

The Effect of Oxygen Exposure on Bourbon

bottle of old bourbon

Oxygen exposure is one of the most critical factors that can impact the quality of opened bourbon. When bourbon is exposed to air, it can begin to oxidize, which can cause it to taste stale or even develop off-flavors.

One way to minimize the impact of oxygen exposure is to limit the amount of air that comes into contact with the bourbon. This can be done by replacing the cork or cap tightly after each use and storing the bottle upright. It’s also a good idea to avoid pouring too much bourbon out of the bottle at once, as this can increase the amount of air inside the bottle.

How to Determine if Bourbon Has Expired

Although bourbon does not have an official expiration date, there are some signs that can suggest that it has gone bad. If you notice that your bourbon has a moldy or musty smell, or if it tastes sour or rancid, it may be time to discard the bottle.

Another thing to look out for is any changes in the color or clarity of the bourbon. If the liquid appears cloudy or has sediment at the bottom of the bottle, this could indicate that the bourbon has spoiled.

Expert Tip: If you’re unsure whether or not your bourbon has gone bad, try taking a small sip. If it tastes off or unpleasant in any way, it’s best to err on the side of caution and dispose of the bottle.

By understanding the factors that can impact the shelf life of bourbon and knowing how to identify signs of spoilage, bourbon enthusiasts can ensure that their bottles stay fresh and enjoyable for as long as possible.

Signs of Spoiled Bourbon

glass of bourbon

Even with proper storage, bourbon may still go bad over time. Here are some indications that your bottle of bourbon may have expired:

  • Aroma changes: If your bourbon smells sour, musty, or like vinegar, it may have spoiled.
  • Color changes: If your bourbon appears cloudy, discolored, or has sediment, it may be past its prime.
  • Taste changes: If your bourbon tastes bitter, sour, or dull, it may be spoiled.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s best to discard the bottle. Drinking spoiled bourbon can be unsafe and may lead to illness.

“It’s important to pay attention to changes in aroma, color, and taste when assessing the quality of an opened bottle of bourbon. Learn to trust your senses, and don’t take any chances with spoiled spirits.”

Extending the Life of Opened Bourbon

As discussed in earlier sections, several factors can impact the shelf life of opened bourbon, including oxygen exposure, temperature, humidity, and light. However, there are several effective ways to help prolong bourbon’s quality and freshness.


Transferring opened bourbon to a smaller bottle can help minimize oxygen exposure, which can affect the taste and aroma of the spirit. We recommend using a clean, airtight bottle that is the appropriate size for the amount of bourbon you have left. This can help prevent oxidation and protect the bourbon’s flavors.

Preservation Devices

There are several preservation devices on the market that are specifically designed to help prolong the life of opened spirits such as bourbon. These devices work by removing oxygen from the bottle and can help extend the freshness of the spirit. Simply insert the device into the bottle and pump to remove excess air.

Minimizing Oxygen Exposure

While it may not be possible to eliminate oxygen exposure entirely, there are several ways to minimize it. One option is to make sure the bottle is always full or as close to full as possible to reduce the amount of air in the bottle. You can also store the bourbon in the freezer, as colder temperatures can slow down the rate of oxidation. Lastly, avoid shaking the bottle vigorously, as this can also introduce more oxygen into the spirit.

Keep it coolStore opened bourbon in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to minimize temperature and light exposure.
Use a vacuum sealerA vacuum sealer can help remove excess air from the bottle, which can slow down oxidation and prolong the bourbon’s life.
Keep the bottle uprightStoring the bottle upright can help minimize the surface area of the bourbon that is exposed to oxygen.

By following these tips and techniques, bourbon enthusiasts can help extend the life of their opened bottles and enjoy fresh, high-quality bourbon for as long as possible. Cheers to that!

Frequently Asked Questions about Bourbon Shelf Life

For bourbon enthusiasts, knowing how to store and maintain their favorite spirit is crucial for preserving its quality and taste. Here are some frequently asked questions about bourbon shelf life and storage:

How long can you store open bourbon?

The shelf life of open bourbon varies based on several factors, such as the storage conditions and how often the bottle is opened. Typically, an opened bottle of bourbon can last anywhere from six months to two years.

What is the best way to store open bourbon?

The best way to store open bourbon is in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. It’s essential to seal the bottle tightly and avoid transferring the bourbon to a new container to prevent excess oxygen exposure.

Does bourbon have an expiration date?

Unlike perishable food items, bourbon does not have a specific expiration date. However, the quality of bourbon can deteriorate over time due to factors like oxidation, evaporation, and contamination.

How can you tell if bourbon has gone bad?

There are several signs that bourbon has gone bad, including changes in color, aroma, and taste. If the bourbon has a sour or musty smell, has lost its flavor profile, or has developed sediment, it’s time to discard the bottle.

What are the best practices for storing open bourbon?

bourbon in a decanter

The best practices for storing open bourbon include:

  • Sealing the bottle tightly with its original cork or a vacuum seal
  • Storing the bottle upright to prevent excess oxidation
  • Avoiding temperature and humidity fluctuations
  • Keeping the bourbon away from light and heat sources

How can you prolong the life of open bourbon?

To prolong the life of open bourbon, there are several techniques that you can use, such as:

  • Rebottling the bourbon into smaller containers to minimize oxygen exposure
  • Using a preservation device, such as a wine preserver
  • Storing the bourbon in the fridge to reduce evaporation
  • Adding a splash of decanted wine to preserve the flavor

What are some expert tips for enjoying open bourbon?

Some expert tips for enjoying open bourbon include:

  • Serving bourbon at room temperature for maximum flavor
  • Experimenting with different types of glasses to enhance the aroma and taste
  • Using bourbon in cocktails for a unique twist on classic drinks
  • Mixing bourbon with water to open up the flavors and aromas

Expert Tips for Enjoying Opened Bourbon

If you’re a bourbon lover, then you know that enjoying this spirit is an experience to savor. To help you make the most of your opened bourbon, here are some expert tips to ensure that you taste all the subtle flavors and aromas:

  • Store your opened bourbon correctly: As we’ve mentioned in previous sections, proper storage is key to prolonging the life and quality of your bourbon. To recap, store your opened bourbon away from light, heat, and humidity, and make sure to seal the bottle tightly.
  • Don’t overpour: Pouring too much bourbon can lead to oxidation, which can affect the flavor of your spirit. Instead, aim for a moderate pour to keep your bourbon fresh.
  • Experiment with different glassware: The shape and size of your glass can impact your bourbon experience. Try using a Glencairn glass to enhance the aroma and taste of your bourbon.
  • Drink it neat: To appreciate the complexity of your bourbon, try sipping it neat instead of mixing it with other ingredients. This will allow you to fully savor the unique flavor profile of your bourbon.
  • Try bourbon with food: Pairing your bourbon with certain foods can enhance the flavor of both. For example, try a bourbon with smoked meats or dark chocolate for a delicious pairing.

By following these expert tips, you can ensure that your opened bourbon stays fresh and delicious, providing you with a memorable experience every time you enjoy a glass.


As bourbon enthusiasts, it’s essential to understand how long bourbon lasts once it’s opened. By taking proper storage methods into account, paying attention to expiration dates, and being mindful of signs of spoilage, you can ensure your bourbon stays fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

Preserve the Flavor

An opened bottle of bourbon doesn’t have to go bad quickly. With the right preservation techniques, you can extend the life of your whiskey. Consider rebottling your bourbon or using a preservation device to minimize oxygen exposure. Keep your bourbon away from light, heat, and humidity, and it will last longer and taste better.

Expert Tips for Enjoyment

There are plenty of ways to enjoy your bourbon after it’s opened. Try different serving methods, such as on the rocks or in a cocktail. You can also experiment with different mixes or flavors. The key is to savor every sip and enjoy the distinct character of your whiskey.

Happy Sipping!

Now that you know how long bourbon lasts once it’s opened, you can enjoy your spirits with confidence. Remember to store your bourbon properly, pay attention to expiration dates, and be mindful of signs of spoilage. With these tips, you can maximize the enjoyment of your favorite whiskey for as long as possible. Cheers!

cat at a bar with a glass of bourbon
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