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  1. #1
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    Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    Hi All,

    I've been talking to a few retailers and reading a few things on this site concerning letting a bottle get some air into it, and wouldn't you know it, there tends to be some disagreement. I've heard many people on SB talk about opening up a bottle and letting air into it, however others have said they have lost bottles due to too much air.

    I've read about bottles lasting years, and others lasting only several months before it "went bad." So I guess I am looking to the science guys on this one for some understanding. Could someone explain the effects air has on a bourbon. Also, is there a level within a standard bottle size that one needs to be concerned about, say, the last 15% or so?

    Each fall, when I can make it down, I like to bring a bottle of bourbon to a buddy's farm during hunting season. Last year it was a bottle of Lot B, which was a huge hit, and this year I plan on bringing a bottle of Pappy 15 (plan on getting through each of them sequentially). Should I be opening these a few months in advance, and give myself a small pour, or would there not be a huge difference between doing that and simply opening it down there. Keep in mind the beer gets put down in short order, so while we are enjoying these immensely, it isn't the same as being at home with a Glen Cairn and a clean palate (but it's fun so who cares).

    Anyway, thanks in advance and if there is another post out there that explains this please add it in.

    Cheers,
    Pete

  2. #2
    Advanced Taster
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    I'll start with something generic and simple and let the more knowledgeable among us add more.

    It depends on the mashbill. Wheaters, in my limited experience, always do well with open air time or air in the bottle. The effects of air time on rye bourbons is a little more of a mixed bag.
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut

  3. #3
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by passthebourbon View Post
    Hi All,

    I've been talking to a few retailers and reading a few things on this site concerning letting a bottle get some air into it, and wouldn't you know it, there tends to be some disagreement. I've heard many people on SB talk about opening up a bottle and letting air into it, however others have said they have lost bottles due to too much air.

    I've read about bottles lasting years, and others lasting only several months before it "went bad." So I guess I am looking to the science guys on this one for some understanding. Could someone explain the effects air has on a bourbon. Also, is there a level within a standard bottle size that one needs to be concerned about, say, the last 15% or so?

    Each fall, when I can make it down, I like to bring a bottle of bourbon to a buddy's farm during hunting season. Last year it was a bottle of Lot B, which was a huge hit, and this year I plan on bringing a bottle of Pappy 15 (plan on getting through each of them sequentially). Should I be opening these a few months in advance, and give myself a small pour, or would there not be a huge difference between doing that and simply opening it down there. Keep in mind the beer gets put down in short order, so while we are enjoying these immensely, it isn't the same as being at home with a Glen Cairn and a clean palate (but it's fun so who cares).

    Anyway, thanks in advance and if there is another post out there that explains this please add it in.

    Cheers,
    Pete
    I personally would not open a bottle in advance to just give it some air but that's me, who with my lead tongue , hardly (well maybe never) notices much variation from reasonable length air time. Not that I doubt those who do and of course there is minute oxidation occurring but I would like to see more true blind tasting on this whole phenomena. Kind of reminds me a little of the whole high end stereo electronics debates about when differences are discernible to the human ear with believers and skeptics. I've only had a few bottles of hundreds open that ever tasted truly oxidized and those had hardly anything left in them and had been open more than a year. I have recently started using Bloxygen Preserver on some of my more valuable and longer opened bottles...when I remember to, which is not always .
    Thad

    BTOTY-2011

  4. #4
    Virtuoso
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    For the PVW15, I do fine that they "open up" much better after a little while. It doesn't taste quite right or as good right at the moment I opened a fresh bottle. Perhaps, it's the harsh congeners (esters, acids, aldehydes and higher alcohols) that are escaping leaving the bottle more balance reducing the harsher burn.

    Some people may not find a difference.

    Recently, I brought a PVW15 (2009) to a lunch party with a group of friends. I didn't opened it up until I got there. But it didn't really matter, because most of them literally mixed it with coke!! Can't blamed them, they don't know how to enjoy fine bourbon but it was completely finished. I had thought they may appreciate this since the last time, they brought over 12 bottles of alcohol for a big table of 10 to a Chinese restaurant(!) and someone also brought a Blue label and they drank it neat or with ice.

    cheers
    --Hugh

  5. #5
    Bourbonian Of The Year 2013 and Guru
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    I've had a few laughs recently with a few members on this latest explosion of the concept of the "opening up" of bourbon. Particularly, when compared that for quite a long time prior to this, the opposite was the rage. It used to be, "Whiskey immediately and quickly" goes bad upon opening. The overly anal would determine their bottle "bad" if they didn't replace the cork within 2.4 seconds of pouring their drink! Heck, people were being instructed to throw out their bottles if they had been open over a month!! Now, it's "open the bottle, but don't dare drink for at least 3 months to allow the proper gobbledigook..."

    Yes, I agree some off notes can be blown off with a little time exposed to air. Nothing a little pour, swirl, and quick prayer (no need to go through the entire Rosary here ) before drinking won't clean up.

    I get the greatest enjoyment from my whiskey when I don't over-think it. Actually, I get the most enjoyment from Life when I don't think at all...
    JOE

    Wag more.
    Bark less.

    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

  6. #6
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    I never even put the cork (or screw cap) back in the bottle. I just loosely tent them with aluminum foil.

  7. #7
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    Quote Originally Posted by smokinjoe View Post
    I've had a few laughs recently with a few members on this latest explosion of the concept of the "opening up" of bourbon. Particularly, when compared that for quite a long time prior to this, the opposite was the rage. It used to be, "Whiskey immediately and quickly" goes bad upon opening. The overly anal would determine their bottle "bad" if they didn't replace the cork within 2.4 seconds of pouring their drink! Heck, people were being instructed to throw out their bottles if they had been open over a month!! Now, it's "open the bottle, but don't dare drink for at least 3 months to allow the proper gobbledigook..."

    Yes, I agree some off notes can be blown off with a little time exposed to air. Nothing a little pour, swirl, and quick prayer (no need to go through the entire Rosary here ) before drinking won't clean up.

    I get the greatest enjoyment from my whiskey when I don't over-think it. Actually, I get the most enjoyment from Life when I don't think at all...
    When I saw this thread, I was thinking of that lovely dusty Old Fitz you shared with us a few weeks ago. I never thought "Uck, we should have let this air out more". And that hadn't breathed in a very long time!!

    I've never done any experimentation on airtime, but find that if as you're pouring your whiskey you try to mix it up a bit you can avoid having all of the heavier particles at the bottom (which might disproportionately make the last few ounces taste as they've "gone bad"). I just finished the last two ounces of some Elmer T Lee which I've had for probably 18 months, and it's been less than half full for at least a year - yet I thought ever drop was lovely. But I wouldn't argue with someone who has had a different experience.
    Gary
    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
    "Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough." - Mark Twain
    "Because Whiskey Matters!" - David Perkins

  8. #8
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    I agree with the line of thinking that wheaters tend to "open up" over time a little more than others. That said I don't think there is a dramatic difference, just some subtle tones and flavors (it's not like comparing Beam to Pappy's). I was pleasantly surprised by a recent bottle of Hancock's Reserve that I opened and had a drink or two with a friend. I revisited it a month later and found it much more to my liking. Not very scientific I know, but that was my perception.
    Bourbon is sunshine held together by water....

  9. #9
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    I find that most wheaters round out with a few weeks of air time

  10. #10
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    Re: Letting a bottle "open up" - Looking for thoughts

    My guess would be it has to do with the unique chemistry in each bottle, its reduction/oxidation (redox) potential in science-speak, if you like.

    Take something like a bottle of wine where this effect occurs much more rapidly - some are very "closed down" on opening, and need aeration through decanting and then maybe a couple of hours in the decanter before approaching. They then open up and are beautiful to drink for a period of time. Leave it that way for a few days and you start to sense acetaldehyde (rotten apples) or acetic acid (vinegar) - this is oxidation going too far.

    Too much of a good thing ultimately can become a bad thing.
    Mark

 

 

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