VCL Vintners



How temperature and storage conditions affect whisky

How temperature and storage conditions affect whisky

Now that cooler weather is on its way, wed like to talk about how temperature and storage conditions can affect whisky and what we think is the best temperature to store and of course drink your lovely drams. 


Lets start off with saying that we think whisky isnt just a drink for one particular season, and although this is an easy way of saying that we drink whisky all year long, we truly believe there isnt a perfect moment for having a dram when it comes to the weather or what season youre in.

The temperature of the whisky itself is a whole different story, to keep it short and simple, you dont want your dram to be too hot nor too cold. To be clear, were talking about whisky here, but if youre a bourbon or whisky lover and take your sips with a chunk of ice were absolutely fine with that. But this article might not be your cup of tea in that case.

Cold vs Hot whisky

When your whisky is too cold, lets say a few or more degrees below room temperature (18- 20 degrees celsius), it wont open up and let you meet its true character. A cold whisky gives you aromas and flavours such as spiced oak, citrus, barley and a lot of spices. It might feel rather young and harsh and probably a bit too much for your tastebuds. Colder whisky tastes somewhat watery as well and might end up a little foggy when poured. We NEVER add ice to our drams, ever.

A whisky which is too hot, let’s say above 28 degrees celsius, can taste a lot more syrupy than it should be, making it hard to approach. It will probably have floral and honey notes and, depending on the whisky, a dark character with oak and spices. To be fair, the scents and flavours are a bit more present than when a whisky is far too cold, but it still isnt a good representative of the master distiller’s work.

Distillery storage temperatures

Distilleries believe that the climate and weather conditions have a beneficial effect on the whisky, some even say that the location of the warehouse is key to the character of the whisky. Bowmore for example, says that the fresh sea breeze, blowing through their warehouse, is a huge contributor to that typical Bowmore character. Generally, the changing weather and cold/hot summers and winters dont have a lot of influence on the core range because of the blending of thousands of casks. The end product will roughly always have the same taste. Single casks on the other hand are a lot more influenced by the climate, only one year after another and you can have a whole different whisky because of a wet summer or some other extraordinary weather conditions. Even hot temperatures or climates can cause a whisky to age a lot quicker than it does in other conditions. So when the whisky is in the cask, weather and temperate do have impact.

Storing bottles at home

Now let’s talk about bottles you store at home. Experts dont agree on whether storing opened or even closed bottles at fluctuating temperatures affect the whisky or not. Oxidation is a thing, but with whisky its a very slow process. And theres not much research to be found. We rely on our gut feeling, so our rule of thumb is to empty our bottles when theres about 20% left, its a good excuse to invite some friends over for a bottle killing party! 

Many people store their closed bottles with the necks wrapped in plastic or tape to prevent oxidation. But it isnt very plausible that your bottle has an Angels Share like pourous casks do. Maybe when you keep a bottle for over 20 years, then it might be a good idea. It wont hurt, thats for sure, so better safe than sorry. But were too impatient to have bottle standing around for so long, so we might not be the guys to ask.

If youve read between the lines, you can see we try to store our bottles around room temperature and keep the temperature as stable as possible. Only when the temperature outside drops or rises to an extraordinary level, we secure the drams we are planning to drink later that evening or week to keep it at an acceptable level. But there are a few more things to keep in mind while storing your whisky.

Unlike wine, we store all of our bottles standing up. Because of the high alcohol percentage, the liquid will devour the cork if its lying down which can affect the whisky and will cause a lot of debris in your dram. It will definitely give you something to chew on. Bottles with screw caps don’t have that problem, but who doesn’t like the aesthetics and sound of a cork? It’s the only reason why corks are dominant.

In conclusion

To keep a long story short, heres what you should do:

  • Store and pour your drams at room temperature (18-20 degrees celsius) 
  • Keep them straight and firm
  • Try to empty your bottles when theres approximately 20% left of it

As you can see, storing your whisky the right way isnt exactly rocket science, and if you keep the things stated above in mind, you will take care of your bottles as if theyre your babies.

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