Getting your hands on a bottle of fine Scotch whisky is half the battle won, now all you have to do is ensure your favourite tipple stays in pristine condition for as long as possible. And although Scotch whisky is not as temperamental compared to some drinks, proper storage is still essential for preserving its quality.
While a cellar is the most ideal place for safekeeping your whiskies, not everyone can afford the space and finances for it, and the next best alternative is a cabinet that houses your trophy malts. Yet even the fanciest of furniture will not preserve their excellent flavour if they’re not stored properly.
Here, a beginner’s guide to storing all your Scotch whiskies.
Always, always upright
A good bottle of Scotch has a place anywhere, but it should always be upright and not horizontal in your whisky cabinet. There’s a common misconception that whiskies should be stored like wines, with the liquid constantly in contact with the cork. However, wine has a much lower alcohol percentage, which will not affect the cork, whereas the higher percentage of alcohol in whisky will cause the cork to slowly disintegrate if the two are left in contact.
And away from light
Now that most bottles are made of clear glass to show off their stunning amber hue, whiskies can be vulnerable to the effects of sunlight. Direct exposure to sunlight breaks down the whisky’s alcohol and causes chemical reactions over time, which can affect its flavour. The colour of the whisky will also be compromised. A dark environment is always recommended for your best bottles, such as a cabinet or, if you can so afford the luxury, a cellar.
Keep temperatures constant
Some climates are naturally more pleasing than others, but like people, Scotch whiskies tend to favour cool, stable temperatures. For this reason, a cellar that can maintain ideal conditions between 15 to 18°C is recommended, but it’s more important to avoid temperature fluctuation of no more than 3 — 4°C. Heat can potentially cause the alcohol to expand and push up against the cork stopper, which can increase the rate of evaporation if the cork is not sealed properly.
Keep the corks moist
Keeping the bottle upright is highly encouraged, and the slight evaporation that inevitably occurs helps keep the cork in a good state. However, to minimise the unpleasant situation in which the cork chips and breaks when a bottle is opened, occasionally turning the bottle upside down or sideways once in a while can keep it in a healthy state. Avoid constant contact, but a little moisture is a good thing.
Another environmental factor to keep in mind is humidity. Over-exposure to moisture in the air can cause significant damages to the exterior of the bottle, often causing labels to peel off or grow mouldy. While these are merely cosmetic changes, the value of a bottle of coveted Scotch whisky can depend greatly on its pristine condition, especially if you’re looking to buy or sell an expensive one.
Having followed these guidelines, consider too what to do once the bottle has been opened. If you drink your precious dram within a reasonable period all will be well. But whiskies that are opened and not consumed will gradually lose alcohol and flavour over the coming months and a whisky left open for a year or two will not taste quite the same as it did when opened.