Can Bourbon Whiskey Go Bad?
Can Bourbon Whiskey Go Bad?

If you ask us, there’s nothing worse than the idea of letting delicious bourbon go to waste. If you’re wondering if bourbon can go bad, the answer might surprise you. Although bourbon boasts an impressive shelf life, there are still a few general rules even the most rebellious drinkers need to remember when it comes to making bourbon last. 

Opened Vs. Unopened Bottles 

Unlike wine, whiskey and bourbon stops maturing once it leaves the barrel. This means ideally, the flavor should be exactly the same when you drink it as it was when it was initially bottled. The good news is, if you store your bourbon correctly, unopened bottles can last decades. 


However, once you crack a bottle open, things get a little more time-sensitive. Luckily, while opened bottles of bourbon certainly can go bad, it’s not as much of a race against the clock as you might imagine — it all comes down to storage. 


Things like exposure to direct sunlight and how much air is inside the bottle can impact the longevity of the spirit, so let’s look at how to store your bottles properly. 

Storage Rules to Follow 

While we’re all for breaking the rules and raising hell, there are a few things you need to know to help preserve the flavor of your favorite bourbon. Hear us out: 

Stay Away from Sunlight 

You’ve probably heard that wine needs to be stored in a cool, dark place — and bourbon is no different. Sunlight and heat can negatively impact the spirit since not only can the sun lead to temperature fluctuations that can harm the flavor, but exposure to UV rays can also cause chemical changes that aren’t good for your bottle.  

Oxygen Is Your Enemy 

One of the main things that causes bourbon to go bad is oxidation, which occurs when bourbon is exposed to oxygen. You can’t prevent some exposure once a bottle is opened, but you can mitigate the damage by ensuring that you don’t leave your bottle uncorked.     

Empty Space Matters 

The more room you have in your bottle of bourbon, the more air it’s going to be exposed to (and the faster it’s going to go bad). This means that an almost full bottle will last longer than a bottle with only a few remaining drams. If you want to make your almost empty bottle last longer, consider transferring the contents into a smaller container to minimize the amount of oxidation. 

Do Not Waste It, Drink It 

Since, yes, bourbon can go bad, one foolproof way to prevent wasting bourbon is to drink up! So, invite your fellow Rebels over and start pouring rounds from those opened bottles. After, you can easily stock back up. You probably don’t need an excuse to get another one of your favorite bottles, but now you have one. You’re welcome.