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What IS the best way to preserve your whiskey collection?

For those of you who collect whiskey, or who don't drink from a particular bottle very often, how do you maintain the quality of your whiskey? Unlike wine, whiskey stops aging once it's dumped from the barrel and it's bottled. So technically if you have a bottle of bourbon from the 80s, or from your graduation, or from a few years back it should be just as good today as it was when it was first put on the shelf.

What will affect the taste and overall quality of whiskey in the bottle is the effectiveness of the seal. You'll find natural cork stoppers, synthetic corks, and metal & plastic screwtops on your bottles. When outside air gets into the bottle, it will oxidize the spirit--to positive and negative effects. Allowing air to open up a whiskey is fine in a glass, but things can go foul when a whole bottle gets oxidized over the years. Typically, if you have less than half of the whiskey left in the bottle, you need to finish it off within 6 months. But if you don't want to do that, the best thing is to

  • gas it with a "wine saver", replacing the oxygen in the bottle with a stabilizer.

  • add marbles to the bottle (my preferred method) to raise the fluid level and push out the air, or

  • move it to a smaller bottle or decanter, (especially if you don't care about keeping the bottle itself)

This isn't wine that we're talking about, where natural corks are needed to allow the wine to continue to age. For whiskey, natural corks (the most porous of stoppers) are actually the worse for old whiskey. True, the cork normally has a wooden or metal topper glued on, but generally a synthetic cork will give you more time, if your whiskey's gonna sit for a while.

The best topper, however, is the screw top! If you want an air tight bottle, screwtop is the way to go. I'm glad more distillers are using them and not relegating them to the bottom shelf spirits. When I grab a bottle with a screw top, I have ultimate faith that that whiskey is gonna be closest to the quality the producer intended.


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