Once you acquire more than a handful of whisky bottles, you have to start thinking about the best way to keep them organized. Even more important, storing whisky in the right conditions helps keep open bottles tasting their best, while maintaining those you may be saving for a special occasion or as a collection. Being well organized allows you to easily locate specific bottles, avoid cluttering your living space, and protect your most valuable whiskies. Use this guide to avoid lackluster flavors, evaporating fill levels, sun-bleached labels, and calamitous leaks while also showing off your connoisseurship.
Compared with wine, storing whisky is easy and doesn’t require any specialized equipment. Whisky is much more durable than wine and should not mature or spoil within a sealed bottle.
Store bottles upright—never on their side—to protect the cork. Otherwise, contact with the high strength alcohol could cause the cork to degrade or impart unpleasant flavors onto the whisky.
Protect your bottles from strong sunlight, temperature extremes, and the risk of water damage. Choose a room that gives you easy access to your collection; an outbuilding, garage, attic, or cellar may increase the risk of environmental damage compared with your main residence. Note that exposing your whisky to extreme heat can lead to significant volume loss.
Creating a Whisky Display
One of the joys of owning a collection of fine whiskies is the pleasure in showing it off, selecting a special bottle that you have been saving, and sharing its story with like-minded connoisseurs and friends. Too many bottles are unceremoniously shoved into cupboards or abandoned on top of bookcases. Invest in deep shelving or glass display cabinets, or build a home bar to show off the best aspects of your collection. Choose museum-quality lightning that will bring out the gorgeous colors of the liquid without affecting the inks on the labels or warming up the contents.
Display bottles will accumulate dust, so rotate your presentation frequently. Perhaps you’ll want to put up every single bottle from a prized collectable series, an A to Z of scotch or bourbon, or a super-fan shrine to your all time favorite distillery. If you have space, arrange the whole collection by name, or stratify it by whisky style and country of origin.
Storing for the Long Term
All collectors, whether they’re accumulating comic books, Star Wars action figures, or whiskies, want to keep their hard-won prizes in mint condition. A vault is the place to keep your special-occasion bottles or those you are saving for future sale.
Store your whisky carefully to avoid rips, scuffs, and dents to the labels, closures, and boxes. You may want to keep bottles packed in cartons or cases from the liquor store.
Consider your home security: decide if your most precious bottles should be in a locked cabinet or lockable room with a good alarm system. If you have a secure whisky bunker or opt to use commercial storage, make sure your inventory and appraisal are up to date.
Storing Open Bottles
If you’re like many whisky lovers, you like to sample widely, and probably have multiple bottles open at a time. Take care, however. Having too many bottles open is like starting dozen of novels but never getting beyond the first chapter.
Restrict the Number of Open Bottles
Whisky will oxidize inside an open bottle, which will gradually dull its taste, so consuming it within a few months will ensure that you are enjoying it at its peak. Be disciplined and keep open only the number of bottles you can finish within a four month period to optimize your freshest pours: Calculate how many ounces of whisky you (and anyone else drinking from your stash) consume a week, then divide that number by 25, the approximate number of ounces in a 750-ml. bottle. Multiply that number by 52, then divide by 3. The equation is ((weekly ounces/25) x 52) / 3. So if you drink 12 ounces of whisky a week under your roof, you can rotate through eight open bottles at any given time.
Limit Oxygen’s Influence
Once a bottle is open, oxygen is already doing its work. If you’re planning to work through the bottle quickly, simply replace the cork. For bottles you aren’t going to finish within a few months, consider alternate strategies, like decanting the whisky into small sample bottles or pumping in inert gas, like Private Preserve True 1026, between tastings.
Kill Them Quickly
Nearly-empty bottles take up precious space: do not get overly sentimental about the last pour rattling around the bottom. You are never going to get that whisky back, so rediscover storage space for new bottles by de-cluttering. Have fun with it: host a dregs party, where everyone commits to helping you finish the last pours, or try your hand at home blending. Tip your last drams into a Mason or Kilner jar, let the liquid marry for a few weeks, then try the results. You may find you want to keep adding to the mix, creating your own “Infinity Bottle.”
Storing and organizing your whisky correctly involves an investment in your time, but once you get in the habit, maintaining your system will be a breeze—giving you much more time to enjoy your whisky.