Whether you have one or two bottles of spirits knocking around the home, or a large collection. The shelf life of those spirits is something to consider if you don’t want them to spoil. So how long do spirits last once opened?
Like most things there are variants and other factors to consider. However a general rule of thumb for spirits like Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Rum, Brandy and Tequila is between six months to 2 years if they are stored in the right conditions.
Liqueurs which normally have a higher sugar content should be consumed within one year. And cream liqueurs should be kept in the fridge once opened.
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How Long Do Spirits Last Once Opened?
While many people will only buy one or two bottles of their favourite spirit and consume them within a few weeks.
Some people have a large collection of spirits, some of which have been opened and left for long periods. This is especially true for those that have home bars and pub sheds.
Having a pub shed myself and a small collection of the obvious spirits like Whiskey, Rum, Vodka And Gin knowing how long they last once opened is important.
However there are a lot of opinions about how long spirits last once opened. Most seem to say that the likes of Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Rum, Brandy and Tequila once opened will last between 6 months and two years.
Which to me seems a big window, however some say they will last even longer with a few saying indefinitely.
So how long will they really last once opened?
How Long I Leave Spirits In The Bottle Once Opened
I guess you have to come to your own conclusion as to how long you leave spirits in a bottle once opened. Seeing as the 6 months to two years seems to be the most widely accepted period of time, I use this as my guide.
However I think two years is a long time, so I have slashed the time period for opened spirits. I aim to consume a bottle of the the six popular spirits I mentioned with 6 months as a rule.
To me the longer the time period the more the drink will deteriorate. So six months to me seems a fair period, if one gets past this time period by a month or two, at least I am still well within the two years timeline.
Like I said you have to come to your own conclusion, it’s a personal decision.
What Are The Manufacturers Guidelines?
I have read some articles that simple say refer to the use by date and storage advice on the bottle. That makes sense, so just checkout this information on your favourite bottle of spirit.
So I did, and that doesn’t seem to work.
At present in my pub shed I have around 19 bottles of spirits.
I have seven different Gins, two Gin liqueurs, two Vodkas, Four Rums, Two Whiskies, I Ginger Liqueur and one Amaretto.
Not one of them has a use by date nor any storage advice. I am not saying that all spirits are the same, some my include this information.
However none of my present spirits which are all made by different companies have this information. So for me its a non starter to rely on the manufacturer for a consumption timeline or storage advice on the bottle.
I also chose six popular spirits and searched their websites for this information. Again I found no information about how long their drinks would last once opened or how to store them.
What Happens To Spirits Once Opened?
As soon as we crack the seal on our bottles of spirit we expose them to air. This causes oxidation which can lead to the degradation of the drink.
This can change the flavour profile as well as lose some flavour too. Just as light and heat can cause problems, so can air exposure too.
This is why storing your spirits the right way is also important.
As the drink in the bottle goes down the more air space there is which can progress the oxidation. Just as the more the bottle is opened and the type of closure can have a bearing.
Alcohol can also diminish once the bottle is open, the longer the period the lower ABV.
So What About Other Spirits?
Other spirits like liqueurs and flavoured spirits can have a higher sugar content. This can accelerate the oxidation process.
Most say these will be good for six months to a year once opened. Again, personally I think six months will be the limit on these type of spirits.
Cream Liqueurs should be kept in a refrigerator once they are opened and suggestions say are good for six months to a year.
Personally I wouldn’t keep a cream liqueur for more than a month once opened, even stored in the fridge.
How Long Do Unopened Spirits Last?
The length of time an unopened bottle of spirit will last is less debated, with the general consensus being indefinitely.
So as long as they are stored in the right conditions and remain unopened, then they will last for years.
Keep upright, protect from light and keep cool, and you can keep a bottle of spirit as long as you like.
Basically once we open a bottle containing spirits then it is going to start to degrade. This is not a problem for a short space of time.
However leave it for years and it might not taste as it did when we first opened it. While it might not do you any harm, it is not the drink it once was.
A bottle that has only had one shot taken from it will last longer than a bottle that is nearly empty. This is because there is less air in the fuller bottle.
So while it seems to be that six months to two years is an acceptable timeline for an open bottle of spirit (apart from liqueurs and cream liqueurs).
It may depend on how they are stored and how much is left in the bottle.
However I think it has to become a personal decision using the six months to two years as a guide. My decision is to consume any spirit within six months and cream liqueurs within one month.
What is your decision?
Do share your thoughts below on how long you keep spirits once opened.
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- What Are The 10 Best Spirits In A Pub Shed?
- How To Store Spirits In A Pub Shed
Rob is a passionate home bar and pub shed enthusiast with a passion for craft beer. With hands-on experience in designing and building his own home bar, Rob shares his knowledge, tips, and inspiration to help fellow enthusiasts create their own perfect space. Alongside the world of home bars and pub sheds, Rob also explores the diverse and exciting realm of craft beer, providing honest reviews to help you discover your next favorite brew. Join Rob on a journey of flavor, design, and craftsmanship right here on Home Bar Kit.