Collectors of bottled spirits almost always encounter a very similar problem after years of collecting – storage. Yes, people. You’re probably wrong if you’re thinking of liver. May it be wine, whiskey, or vodka, all alcoholic drinks need proper storage in order to last longer.
For many, the problem lies in their ability to collect more spirit drink but to consume less of it. When buying exceeds drinking, people tend to ask: where can we store these extra bottles?
But the issue is not only limited to storage space. The proper way of storing is also overlooked by collectors most of the time. As a common practice, most people would simply place their bottles in the cupboard or some wooden cabinet. Others would just lay it down on their table or counter. Improper storage leads to the decline of alcohol’s quality – mostly on its taste, color, aroma, and character.
This is quite wasteful given the expense and the time invested in collecting these drinks. Fortunately, these issues can easily be addressed with proper knowledge on the matter.
Different types of alcohol require different storage techniques. And some spirit drinks are more demanding than the others. This article will introduce you to the do’s and don’ts of storing Scotch.
What is a Scotch?
As stated by Scotch Whiskey Regulation of 2009, for a whisky to call itself Scotch whisky, it must be manufactured at a distillery in Scotland using water and malted barley (to which whole grains of other cereals may be added). The grains should be mashed, the drink should be aged in a Scotland warehouse where they are placed in oak barrels for at least three years, and it should have no added substance (with the exception of water and certain caramel coloring).
A more detailed discussion about the types, history, regulations, and geographical embedded-ness of Scotch production can be found in one of our articles titled What is Scotch made of.
Aging a Scotch
Unlike wine, a whisky does not mature in a bottle. They can only be aged in an oak cask. As such, a 15-year-old whisky will remain 15-year-old even if you store it in your cupboard for a decade. However, its quality will certainly change when not stored properly.
Challenges in Storing Scotch
When it comes to alcohol storage, we always need to be mindful on the environment where the bottles are stored. In case of Scotch, there are three conditions that affect its overall quality, namely: light, air, and heat. Scotch is sensitive but not nearly as delicate as wine. As such, it is less demanding in terms of the storage environment.
Ever marveled why Scotch is mostly stored in clear or light colored bottles? Well, this is generally done to impress the buyer of its deep color. Other sensitive spirit drinks are usually bottled in dark-colored glass to protect them from light. Wine is a perfect example of this.
Since Scotch is less affected by light (though it still changes its taste), it can be stored in clearer glass. But when you purchase a bottle, try to keep it away from direct light as much as possible. Excessive sunlight causes chemical reactions to alcohol volatile composition. You really don’t want your Scotch to lose its punch.
Once you open a spirit drink, you will notice slight changes after few days of consumption. This is due to the oxidation that happens after opening. Though inevitable, there are ways to slow down the oxidation process. This will be discussed later.
Heat and Humidity
The ideal temperature for Scotch ranges between 15 – 20 degrees Celsius. The combination of high heat and humidity will eventually lead Scotch to evaporate – especially if the cork is not tightly sealed. As it evaporates, it will lose a small amount of alcohol. Though small, it is enough to mess up with the complexity of its taste.
Good Place to Store Scotch
Ideally, a cellar is perfect for storing Scotch (and most alcohol for that matter). A cellar should always maintain room temperature and should be relatively dark. Its environment simply suits the need of spirit drinks. However, it is also true that not all of us can afford to have cellar in their houses.
Just remember that an enclosed, cool, dark, and dry place is a good space for your Scotch bottles. This will keep the bottles away from light, air, and heat. In addition, it is also favorable to keep the bottles in upright position. As the Scottish belief goes, “whisky prefers standing”. This is to avoid the degradation of cork due to Scotch’s high alcohol content (minimum of 40% alcohol by volume). You really don’t want impurities in your Scotch due to disintegrated cork (not to mention the bad taste). A damaged cork also allows air to enter and oxidize its content.
There are instances when your Scotch turns cloudy. This usually happens when you store them in spaces with very low temperature. If that is the case, you just need to return the bottle to room temperature and the cloudiness will eventually disappear.
If you have some extra money, you can buy a decent-looking shelf as it will improve the overall aesthetics of your collection. Just make sure that your shelf is not placed opposite to a window (to avoid sunlight).
Lastly, always make sure that every bottle is tightly sealed to prevent further exposure to air. Oxidation starts the moment you open your bottle. But the shelf-life of opened Scotch is pretty long. It is advisable to consume your opened bottles within a year. Storing a bottle with below one-third of its original volume is also not advisable as its oxidation will be a lot faster. Just drink it the soonest if you really want to enjoy good quality spirit.
In Summary: How to Store Scotch?
Different types of alcohol require different storage techniques. In storing Scotch, you simply need to avoid three factors that can cause overall degradation. These are light, air, and heat. Storing your bottles in a cool, dark, and dry place is highly recommended.
If you don’t have a cellar, a spacious shelf will also work as long as it is not positioned in front of a window. It is also advisable to keep your bottles standing to avoid the disintegration of corks. By doing these steps, you can ensure that your Scotch will much longer (without a significant decline in its quality).
On the other hand, for other interesting related articles, check out our guide on how to make a whiskey sour, how to drink absinthe and how to serve bourbon. Also, for beer lovers, check out our take on the right beer glass and the best beer cooler.