The Answer to Whether Whiskey Should be Stored in the Dark


Buying more whiskey than we can drink seems to be a common mistake a lot of people make. Has it happened to you? Well it has happened to me before, and it is crucial to store these bottles correctly. I wondered if whiskey needed to be stored in the dark and this is what I found.

Should whiskey be stored in the dark? Yes, whiskey should be stored in the dark to preserve the taste and color. Direct sunlight heavily affects the whiskey. A liquor cabinet works, but storing it in the box it came in is fine as well.

Storing your whiskey as good as possible is crucial to preserve the flavor of the whiskey. And the best part is: it’s not difficult at all! You just need to know what you are doing. I will teach you what you need to know right here.

Why you should store whiskey in the dark

One of the most devastating things that can happen to the flavor and color of the whiskey is being exposed to (direct) sunlight. The light of the sun amplifies a lot of reactions that can happen inside a whiskey bottle. An experiment described the effect of exposing whiskey to direct sunlight as “undrinkable and unrecognizable as whiskey” (source).

While that experiment stored a bottle of whiskey outside, exposing it to both sunlight and severe temperature fluctuations, the effect does happen to your whiskey on a smaller scale. Of course you do not store your whiskey outside in the open, but on the kitchen table might also be risky when the sunlight can hit it.

The sunlight reacts with the tannins in the whiskey. Tannins are chemicals that the whiskey got from the wood of the cask it was in. They add to the whiskey’s color and texture. The astringency, often described as the “dryness” of a whiskey is also a result of the added tannins. Due to the sunlight the color of the whiskey turns pale and transparent, basically removing the tannins from the whiskey.

What you should do is make sure your whiskey is shielded from bright lights by a box or a cabinet.

Selection of whiskey bottles on the bar shelf. Selective focus on the Johnnie Walker Black Label bottle.

How to store (unopened) whiskey

Next to a storing your whiskey in a dark spot, there are more things that you should keep in mind when storing whiskey.

Make sure you store your whiskey somewhere where the temperature is stable. A stable temperature is important to preserve the taste of the whisky. Somewhere in a cabinet in a temperature controlled room is perfect.

Also, make sure you store the whiskey bottle in an upright position. This is because the cork of the whiskey will not tolerate constant exposure to the high alcohol percentage. Unlike wine, which is often stored on its side, it is best to keep the bottle upright.

It is important to sometimes flip the bottle upside down to make the cork wet again. This is only relevant when you are not drinking the whiskey anytime soon, and is a tip I received from a tour guide at a distillery in Scotland.

If you have been enjoying your whiskey and the bottle is over 50% empty there is a lot of air in the bottle. The more you drink the more air there is in the bottle, and the quicker the whiskey oxidizes. Therefore, it might be a good thing to pour the remaining whiskey in another smaller glass container.

This slows the oxidation process and preserves the whiskey’s flavor for longer.

For this you could use another smaller whiskey bottle or an airtight decanter. Beware that most decanters do not have a perfectly airtight seal. It is also important to use a decanter that is not made of crystal glass as this contains lead. I wrote an article on whether you should or should not decant your whiskey. You can check it out here.

Can you store whiskey in the fridge

I would not store my whiskey in the fridge ever, but I will tell you why. And chances are for you it is a very viable option.

In my opinion whiskey does taste as good when it is cooled. The flavor gets muffled and dampened, not giving me the full experience. Of course, this differs per whiskey.

If you enjoy your whiskey with ice, than in the freezer could be a good idea. The temperature is stable, its colder than room temperature which is a good thing and there is no light. If I were to store my whiskey in the fridge I would need to wait for the whiskey to warm back up to room temp before I could drink my glass.

I have recently written an article about the whole debate around adding ice to your whiskey. If you are interested in settling the argument and reading up on all opinions, you can check it out here.

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