There is an intersting aspect of whisky that is seldom addressed because of the raging hard on some people get for it--Oxidation, cork erosion and storage.
I would like to hear anyone's thoughts on the subject. Here is my take. Jimmy Russell advised me that light will affect the color of whiskey and therefore degrade its flavor, so whiskey should be stored in a relatively light-deficient place. Secondly, he advised that overexposure to oxygen will change the flavor in whiskey. So sealed is the way to go.
So here is where the debate begins. If I open a bottle of whisky and it interacts with oxygen, assuming I don't use and inert gas to refill the empty space in the bottle, will the interaction with oxygen, over time (say 15 years) affect the taste of the whiskey? I argue that it will, and depending on fullness of the bottle, it may do so rapidly. However, there has been no research into the degradation of a solution of EtOH (Ethanol) by Oxygen. EtOH is relatively inert with respect to reactivitiy with oxygen. So what is the Oxygen reacting with, if it is at all? Is it the lighter aldehydes and esters or the heavier fusel oils? Is it the dissolved vanillins and tannins? Is it some remnant of the degradation of lignin from the cellulose in oak?
Secondly, storage and erosion. Everyone knows to keep whiskey cool and dark, but what about vertical or horizontal? I almost cried when the cork broke out of my vintage Sempe Armagnac that I had been saving for so long. Everyone has those bottles they haven't opened for some time that have "stuck" corks. As whiskey contains a great deal of sugar, when a bottle is stored upright, the cork begins to dry out, as does the liquid which may have previously been around the cork. The residue left is sticky and becomes very adhesive when left alone for several months. In addition to stuck corks, upright storage may allow the cork to lose moisture, which will cause shrinkage and allow oxygen to circulate. Jimmy Russell claims that this certainly affects the whiskey's flavor. So Jimmy believes in Oxidation and that upright storage can lead to loose corks, which can allow for oxidation. So he would seem to advocate horizontal storage.
However, there are many opponents which state that horizontal storage leads to cork erosion. Certainly, I could agree that if a cork is allowed to mold, it will erode. Or that if the cork is already a tad faulty, this could increase problems. But let's assume a perfect cork. Does EtOH degrade cellulose, chemically or physically? I personally don't know, but many other whiskey people I have spoken with believe that horizontal storage leads to cork erosion.
So here is my current storage situation: cool, dark place. Vertical storage, but rewet the corks twice a month.
I would love to hear personal experiences or any scientific thought on the matter. Thanks!