Does liquor go bad in the bottle? We are asked this question periodically and here is a compilation of the best answers we've run across. We are talking now about hard liquor - distilled spirits such as vodka, rum, or whiskey. Wine, beer, and even liqueurs are all so variable…
But as for hard liquors, the short answer is, No, distilled spirits do not go bad in their original unopened bottles. Certainly not in your lifetime nor, in fact, in the lifetimes of your kids or grandkids.
Spirits are aged by the maker deliberately - in oak casks, for example. Always carefully and according to a predetermined formula to bring out the best in the alcohol. But once it's bottled, all aging stops; hard liquor does not "age" in the bottle, it's sealed up, contained, left without oxygen so there is no oxidation, no aging, nothing going on any more. So your 15-year old rum or 25-year old scotch will still be what it was when it was bottled, 15 or 25 years aged. And it will still be 15 years or 25 years aged when you open the bottle in 2025. It is what it is and will always be that.
All that I have just said pertains, of course, to un-opened bottles. Once the bottle is opened, there is a chance for that oxidation. There are interesting things in the very air outside the bottle, so interesting things can happen to the contents.
How bad can it get? Well, probably not so bad and it will probably take awhile. It's the percentage of alcohol that is keeping bacteria from growing, so the contents are not going to "spoil". If you are talking about the base liquors, such as vodka, rum, whiskey - and that is what we're talking about, not something pre-mixed with juices or flavorings - then you can count on them being fine for several months, possibly for several years, even after being opened. Seal the bottles tightly and keep them in a cool, dry place out of the sun. This will extend the life of the bottle indefinitely. You might have a little loss of flavor over an extended period of time - more than a year or two, maybe much longer - but it will not go 'bad' for a long long time.
Speaking of wine going bad, once I was visiting an elderly lady who offered me a glass of white wine, which I accepted. She rummaged in the back of her refrigerator and brought out a bottle that had the cork stuck back in crookedly. The wine in the bottle was brown. White wine. I brought up the courage to taste it, and it's a good thing she was standing across the room so she didn't actually get sprayed. I asked her how long she had had it in her refrigerator, she told me, "Oh, let's see, it was a year ago March because I remember having it when Abigail got married..." Lucille! Throw that bottle out!
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