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kitzg
10-17-2006, 15:55
One of the many things I appreciate about Chuck Cowdery is his admonition to us all that bourbon was produced to be consumed, not kept forever. Chuck now uses "Whiskey don't keep" as his tag line.

In a small gathering with Chuck and some other bourbon lovers a few years ago, some of us were talking about our collections. Chuck then reminded us, or informed us, that if you leave a little in the bottom of a bottle it won't taste right. In the past six years I had sometimes attempted to keep "just a good swallow" left of some bottlings for some "future occaision." I, too, learned how dumb that is - it will change character, apparently through oxidation.

So... I added this (maybe it is not a good "thread") posting because it occured to me that many not only newer forum members but even long-time forum members might not realize that smaller quantities in a bottle likely will go bad. A full bottle will be fine for awhile -- but does not get better with age. A nearly empty bottle will go bad.

All this caused me to drink it when I want it. Though I still probably have 10 - 15 bottles sitting on a shelf. But once I open one I go through it pretty well -- just like Chuck taught me.

so, drink up ladies and gents

barturtle
10-17-2006, 16:39
I agree. A long time ago I let a bottle of WT12:smiley_acbt: go bad doing just this and promised myself "never again". I tortured myself by not allowing myself to open another bottle until I got my open bottle count down to a reasonable number. It took a long time, as I had over 40 open bottles. I now know my consumption is around 1.5 bottles a month, so I try for a 6 bottle count as my ideal, though coming back from the KBF it was around 12 and now sits at 9...though some of those bottles are quite low and had been open for a while before.

I'm beginning to wish more of the BOTM selections were available in 375s, as if I were to keep up with opening 705s ofeach one every month would either limit my drinking selection, just trying to keep up, or greatly expand my open bottle count, so I could enjoy my other bottles as I do now.

It's all so tough trying to drink enough to keep up:lol:

Nebraska
10-17-2006, 17:10
I generally do not nurse a bottle unless I think I don't like it (going back to it VERY periodically). However in the name of variety and wanting to experience things for the first time, I do have a large number of bottles open. Not saving, but experiencing.

That said, are you saying when the bottle gets down to the last half, third or quarter you are sacrificing the flavor of the pour. And are we talking a month, quarter, year?

I'm sure wanting or needing to have many things open will taper off as time goes by. But right now I want to taste, so that I can discuss, comment and understand while listening or reading.

My locale also probably plays into this as well. I do have a group of friends that I play cards with once a month that are bourbon drinkers (you will note I didn't say buyers), but aside from that, I'm on my own. So if I don't have it and have it open I'm not going to be running down to the local pub or to a friend's to be tasting it.

barturtle
10-17-2006, 17:49
That said, are you saying when the bottle gets down to the last half, third or quarter you are sacrificing the flavor of the pour. And are we talking a month, quarter, year?

In my experience, I find that a half empty bottle can show a change in six months time, with serious damage done in a year.

Since I try to keep so few bottles open it's not normally an issue, but when there is a bottle opened that I try to stretch out over a period of time, I stretch it for the first half of the bottle, then consider it a pour-freely at a half. When any of my bottles hit the quarter-full mark, I consider it a gotta-go.

Nebraska
10-17-2006, 18:43
Thanks Timothy, helpful as usual.

shaggy
10-17-2006, 18:59
Thanks for this bit of info. I rarely let a bottle sit around for very long unless it is a rarity or very expensive bottle. I see that this is probably the wrong thing to do. It would be better to drink the good stuff while it is good and take your time with the mediocre stuff. I have had a 1/2 full bottle of 18 YO Elijah Craig sitting on the shelf for well over a year. I think it is about time to finish the 18 YO off before she gets too nasty! :grin:

dougdog
10-18-2006, 10:13
This thread has inspired me to throw in my two cents worth. I submit the following from personal experience. It is for you review and consideration, I’m sure not all of us will have had the same experience or conclusion, but I’d be interested in your thoughts…

Further, I’m Not suggesting that any one is right or wrong here, tasting and appreciation are very personal/individual things. I think that the effects of oxidization might also fall into this category.

When we start talking about open bottles and the effects of oxygen I find more and more that oxidization is regarded differently from person to person. My oldest open bottles are now getting up into the 6-7 year range.

One of the reasons these bottles have been open so long, and still have contents, is that the whiskey is not something I care to drink when I reach into the cabinet for a pour. They mostly serve as another bottle in verticals to demonstrate a flavor profile or a “snapshot of time” for some other reason. Oxidization has definitely been observed in these bottles over this time frame. Sometimes it has benefited the whiskey, sometimes the whiskey has fallen apart. Observing this phenomenon has been interesting on many fronts, but for now, it is just noted for the ones that do better and the ones that have not done so well. (Comparison of those two points alone could lead into a whole bunch of questions, discussion and theory, but I digress…)

The second reason is that the whiskey is treasured and the ability to defer gratification has some merit.

In the case of the latter, a few points have already mentioned in this thread.

My fascination with oxidization and the number of open bottles I have, some 70-80 Bourbon and Rye along with some 120-130 SMSW and 50-60 various other whiskies of the world, has allowed me the opportunity to observe first hand.

My conclusions to this point in time are as follows:

SMSW seems to do quite well over the longest period time. Bottles of SMSW that were not particularly suitable to my palate upon opening, gain great strides in drinkability after 3-10 days, other SMSW that was so bad as to be spit out, has done wonders over longer periods of 6 months to two years…while others sit there 6-7 years after opening and have never gotten better, (or worse for that matter) which indicate they might just be bad whisky. But there I find it interesting that oxidization has not made it worse.

Ryes are the next category of whiskies that seem to “hold” well after opening, oxidization seems to work on these somewhat faster than SMSW yet far slower than Bourbon. Most ryes are quite drinkable immediately upon opening or with only a 2-5 day period to catch their breath. Ryes also seem to display a wonderful transition in my glass when poured and sampled over a 2-6 hour time frame, sipping every 10-40 minutes. Some SMSW does this, but most of the rye, by far, does this…another tribute to good o’le rye!

Then there is Bourbon, and I’m going to be with the rest of you on this page…Bourbon does not seem to do as well with oxygen over long periods of time. I have learned to pay closer attention to the progress of oxidization in my preferred bottles. I am more and more, moving into finishing these in 6 month to two year time frames with more emphasis on placing the contents into smaller bottles, regardless of the “open time”, when the bottle drops to the 1/2 pint to pint range fill level. (200ml to 375ml) The other test that is currently going on, in the better bottles, is that I’m gassing with nitrogen, just like one would do with a bottle of wine in an attempt to preserve it just a bit longer.

In all cases there are exceptions to these experiences and aside from the differences in palate that we all have, the curious thing to me is the particular whiskey that has done better out of the group, only noting for record the one that has fallen apart, The one that has done better is of interest, because my curiosity of the “why” when looking behind the scenes.

In the art of distilling, were these whiskies crafted to stand up to this “test of time and oxygen, or is it just a matter of circumstance. I’m going to have to pay closer attention to which ones of these whiskies, in particular, exhibit this characteristic. One aspect would be whether vintage whiskies would outnumber the “today’s market” ones or vice versa. Another may be whether or not the mash bill was heavy rye or wheat…Also, would region, in the case of SMSW, be a factor?

What other things should/could be considered here?

I’d be curious to see what you would post here from your experience or knowledge.

cowdery
10-18-2006, 13:26
In the bottle oxidation seems to have its effect on the vanilla that is such as important flavor component of bourbon. It overemphasizes it. Like you read the cookie recipe without your glasses and added a tablespoon of vanilla rather than a teaspoon. Too much of a good thing.

I must confess, Greg, that I am imperfect about following my own advice. I will open the cabinet and there will be three or four bottles with one good drink left in them, usually because they either can't be replaced or won't be easy to replace. But when I spot them I do follow through and finish them off.

For one thing, my storage space is too limited to be taken up by nearly-empty bottles.

NYtaster
10-18-2006, 17:07
I can't really talk to the "too much time open" issue as I don't tend to keep a large quantity of different pours on hand at any one time and seem to go through an open bottle fairly quickly.

One thing that I do sometimes notice is the mellowing of a fresh bottle in a few days. Many time I will open a new bottle, even a highly regarded bourbon and not really care for the first pour. After a couple of days, another visit to that bottle reveals character I didn't see the first time and in general a mellowing of some of the harsh notes. Some bourbons seem to take longer to get to this point than others. Of note is a recent bottle of 16YO Hirsh that I really couldn't stand, it took a couple of months but my persistance paid off and now this is my favorite bottle.

Not sure what causes this, I would think that oxidation would not explain the bottles that turn around in a couple of days, but it has saved several bottles for me.

Tim

plaidford
10-18-2006, 17:31
Interesting topic. I was actually wondering about the effect of exposure to air the other night. I opened an old decanter and had bits of cork drop into the bourbon so I poured it through a funnel lined with a coffee filter to strain out the cork.

As I was pouring, I wondered about the oxidation that was taking place much more rapidly through the turbulence from pouring than it would normally occur in a bottle, with such a limited surface area exposed to air.

Some of you that have noticed occasional improvement with open bottles -- wonder if you think pouring the bourbon from one vessel to another (and then back again?) would speed up this process?

On a separate note, I also wondered if the filtering through a coffee filter would have any (negative?) impact.

Of course I didn't even think of these things until I was already filtering it -- so I didn't taste the 'before' version and won't be able to do a comparison.

dougdog
10-18-2006, 18:02
I can't really talk to the "too much time open" issue as I don't tend to keep a large quantity of different pours on hand at any one time and seem to go through an open bottle fairly quickly.

One thing that I do sometimes notice is the mellowing of a fresh bottle in a few days. Many time I will open a new bottle, even a highly regarded bourbon and not really care for the first pour. After a couple of days, another visit to that bottle reveals character I didn't see the first time and in general a mellowing of some of the harsh notes. Some bourbons seem to take longer to get to this point than others. Of note is a recent bottle of 16YO Hirsh that I really couldn't stand, it took a couple of months but my persistance paid off and now this is my favorite bottle.

Not sure what causes this, I would think that oxidation would not explain the bottles that turn around in a couple of days, but it has saved several bottles for me.

Tim

I believe from your description, oxygen is exactly what is at work here.

If you pour your whiskey neat, try this the next time a new bottle tastes a little "off" or "tight"...

After tasting and noticing off notes or whatever seems unsatisfactory, cover your glass/snifter with a watch crystal or plastic lid or plastic wrap and wait about 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour...then sip it again...see what happens.

if you pour over ice, you are on your own....

dougdog
10-18-2006, 18:15
Interesting topic. I was actually wondering about the effect of exposure to air the other night. I opened an old decanter and had bits of cork drop into the bourbon so I poured it through a funnel lined with a coffee filter to strain out the cork.

As I was pouring, I wondered about the oxidation that was taking place much more rapidly through the turbulence from pouring than it would normally occur in a bottle, with such a limited surface area exposed to air.

Some of you that have noticed occasional improvement with open bottles -- wonder if you think pouring the bourbon from one vessel to another (and then back again?) would speed up this process?

On a separate note, I also wondered if the filtering through a coffee filter would have any (negative?) impact.

Of course I didn't even think of these things until I was already filtering it -- so I didn't taste the 'before' version and won't be able to do a comparison.

Having had to do the same exercise on more than one occasion, I'd be inclined to think that you probably didn't do too much harm. You did oxygenate the whiskey, but frankly most bottles need a breath of air anyway IHMO.

Another factor kicks in here and I don't understand too much about it yet, but Roger, from our study group, has made mention of this phenomenon at previous tasting events and in a post or two here on the forum. His experience was focused on the agitation during transportation while on his way to the Saturday night events. His complaint was that the whiskey seemed to show more off notes after transportation that they did when enjoying the same whiskey in previous times at home.

Filtering to remove cork is pretty important, few folks like "chunky whiskey", but after doing an exercise like that, it might be better to choose a different pour. You might want to let that bottle have a couple days to re-gain its' equilibrium.

cowdery
10-18-2006, 21:25
Also don't forget that the subtle tastes we look for and appreciate in whiskey, especially when comparing drinks of the same whiskey on different occasions, are very sensitive to a wide range of "set and setting" issues and it is impossible to control for all of them. I'm talking about what else has recently been in your mouth, what's in the air, what's on your hands, what kind of mood you're in, etc. I'm not saying whiskey doesn't change, but these other conditions can be factors too in what you experience.

A coffee filter probably does exactly what a coffee filter is supposed to do, stop particles without imparting or removing any flavors from the liquid passing through it. Decanting a very old bottle or, especially, a decanter is probably a good thing. You figure a current production whiskey might be only as little as a month or two in the bottle when you buy it. A whiskey that has been in its bottle for years probably benefits from aeration.

As for oxidation, that takes both time and exposure so aeration, which increases exposure only, probably doesn't have an effect on oxidation in the short term, although it might cause oxidation damage to set in sooner, say in two years rather than five.

I'm not discounting anyone who says they can detect a difference in weeks or months, but from my experience, real oxidation damage takes at least a year, possibly longer.

What you would need to do is take a bottle of whiskey and divide it among several empty bottles, putting essentially one drink into each bottle. Then once a month, once every six months, whatever the interval is, you drink one of the samples and take notes. That's how you could track the effects of oxidation in an almost-empty bottle.

Joeluka
10-19-2006, 06:08
Can I pour the low level remains of a bottle into a smaller bottle with much less air in it??? Fill a 200ml or 50ml botttle with my remains and halt the process????

barturtle
10-19-2006, 09:22
Can I pour the low level remains of a bottle into a smaller bottle with much less air in it??? Fill a 200ml or 50ml botttle with my remains and halt the process????

This would seem to help. The only thing that could be an issue is the splashing and such that occurs with the pouring will allow oxygen to be incorporated into the mix, but the lower level of oxygen in the bottle should offset that to some degree. the use of a racking cane (available at your local homebrew supply shop) would allow for a much smoother transfer process, minimizing the splashing and such. These may be a bit large for the use, but some sort of lab-quality siphoning device might be available in a suitable size.

The other option is to use the nitrogen blanket technique Doug mentioned. This is pretty widely available at good wine shops under the brand name Private Preserve.

cowdery
10-19-2006, 11:41
Don't panic, people. The main practice to avoid is having one drink remain in the bottom of a bottle indefinitely, when "indefinitely" can be measured in years. That's all.

jburlowski
10-19-2006, 12:43
The best way to avoid all this agnst, is to follow the old saying:

Eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow we die.

In my experience, empty bottles don't seem to have an oxidation problem.

kitzg
10-19-2006, 15:28
That said, are you saying when the bottle gets down to the last half, third or quarter you are sacrificing the flavor of the pour. And are we talking a month, quarter, year? No good data to answer your question -- though Tim certainly seems to have already given a (as usual) fine answer.

My most serious "damage" has been bottles that cost a lot and I've put off consuming, where I literally get down to what I would estimate are 1, 2 or 3 shots left. I've seen formerly amber colored bourbon turn milky and cloudy.

I was just smiling about this. And thinking, when I'm drinking bourbon I'm often not good at doing scientific observation.

Pappy's Friend
10-19-2006, 19:37
Don't panic, people. The main practice to avoid is having one drink remain in the bottom of a bottle indefinitely, when "indefinitely" can be measured in years. That's all.

Thanks, Chuck. That settles a lot for me. I can rest easy now, as most of my bottles don't remain with one drink in the bottom for more than a couple of weeks!

tgriff
10-20-2006, 17:41
I certainly can appreciate that oxidation ruins the taste of good whiskey, especially if there is a small amount of whiskey is coming in contact with a large volume of air (i.e. that last remaining pour).

But I can't help but wonder about the effects of evaporation. Ethanol is volatile and must evaporate to some degree over time from the liquor, particularly after a bottle has sat mostly empty for a long time. I would assume this could affect the flavor profile as well, but does anyone know for sure? This would seem to be a different process than simply diluting the proof with ice cubes or water.

Perhaps there are volatile congeners (I learned that word reading several posts by Gary) that also evaporate and affect the flavor profile of whiskey??

CrispyCritter
10-21-2006, 00:12
It seems to me that oxidation can either make or break a whisk(e)y. For instance, I've nursed a bottle of Fall '05 Stagg for about a year now. I had what will be my second-to-last pour from the bottle, and it's every bit as much of a GTS as it was when I poured the first dram from the bottle.

A bottle of Bernheim Wheat didn't stand up to oxygen as well as the GTS, though - the last pours seemed a bit harsh.

On the other hand, I once had a bottle of Isle of Jura 10yo that was barely drinkable when newly opened. After a few pours, I set it on the shelf; when I revisited it a couple of months later, it was much better.

jinenjo
11-10-2006, 21:09
Thanks to everyone for informing me of the dangers of a large stash of opened bottles. After fervently amassing a modest collection of 30 or so bottles (all opened) of whisky (mostly bourbon), I have now realized it needs to be consumed!

However, I live alone so it will take a while...

I believe I shall invest in the inert preserving gas. It seems to work from what I gather.

My question does not regard the effects of oxygen though. In my apartment the only place for my whisky cabinet is directly in front of the electric wall heater. Could anyone tell me if exposure to heat over a long period (months, perhaps years) causes adverse effects?

Thanks, and Cheers!
-Lear

FlashPuppy
11-10-2006, 21:26
My question does not regard the effects of oxygen though. In my apartment the only place for my whisky cabinet is directly in front of the electric wall heater. Could anyone tell me if exposure to heat over a long period (months, perhaps years) causes adverse effects?Lear

Well, of course it will cause effects. To what degree? Dpends on amount of heat, proximity and probably a lot of other factors. Generally, you want to store your bourbon in a cool dark place. Heat will just help it along the way to spoiling. They would be better off in a cardboard carton box in the opposite corner of the room.