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birdie

Bourbon and Air

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birdie

I read a lot about how Bourbon X tasted a lot better or "opened up" after exposure to air, so why would you not just leave the cork out for say a week, or even better maybe, when you open a bottle pour it into a clean jug, stir it to aerate then put it back into the bottle.

 

Off course this might be a totally dumb idea, so I am slipping on the flak jacket :-)

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Flyfish

I'm not saying it is "totally dumb," however there is a large contingent on this site who invest a lot of time, effort and $$ in keeping the air out of their bourbon. Decant into smaller bottles as the bourbon is consumed. Fill air space in the bottle with inert gas. Reseal their bottles with wax for long-term storage. That kind of thing. There is a big difference between pouring a glass and letting it sit for a few minutes to open up and trying to aerate a whole bottle--and expecting it to stay aerated more than 10 minutes. No, it's not a totally dumb idea. But one of us needs to revisit high school science. OK. OK. It's probably not you. I'm still struggling with quantum mechanics. So far, I think I can spell it but that's about all I know.  

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musekatcher

I've found exposure and oxygen do odd things to bourbon.  Take a good quality bourbon, particularly a high proof, and let a dram sit overnight, then check the sediment and change in aroma and taste the next day. 

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flahute

There is no consensus on this topic. Some think that some bourbons gets better as they "open up" and others think it's hogwash and that the individual changes. Some bourbons do seem to change over the life of the bottle and others seem to stay as they are on the first sip. Is it air or the individual? Do we have any scientists in the house?

Breaking Bourbon (I think) did a long term experiment on this with some interesting results.

Edited by flahute
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BottledInBond

I think there are plenty of people who do think that different bottles do change over time after they are open. Some people think those are improvements in certain cases, and in other cases people think too much air degrades a whiskey. 

 

I tend to think that many bottles are just fine after they have been open for years. Do I think they are better than they were when I first opened them? Not often.

 

I am all for experiments so certainly try some stuff. Like buy two bottles of the same product from the same batch and open one for a few months and then open the second one and try them side by side, preferably blind, to compare the two? 

 

The he only reason I might not leave a cork out of a bottle for a week would be that you would lose some to evaporation. Maybe that's not an issue if you're experimenting with some lower priced bottles.

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birdie

Like the idea of the experiment, I am guessing it  could work with a single bottle to, half left in the bottle with cork in and half in a decanter with the top off.

 

Also I think it can be the person and their palate at any point in time, I for sure have had a drink one night from a bottle and thought it was great then went back to it a couple of nights later and it did not taste good at all. I have also gone the other way.

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Whiskeythink.com

Depends on the whiskey I have found. Some have less heat after several weeks open. But to me there seems to be a point where it gets a little flat after around 5-6 months. Again, depends on the whiskey. I have a bottle of scotch, cask strength Clynelish 8 indy bottling, that is even better after 9 months open.

 

I wouldnt leave a bottle just open in a room, tho. You can get dust in the bottle, & theres a possibility it could absorb room odors.

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Richnimrod
5 hours ago, Flyfish said:

 I'm still struggling with quantum mechanics. So far, I think I can spell it but that's about all I know.  

Sorry.    I'm pretty sure it's spelled; "Kwontahm Mukanix".    I paid attention in class!   Cheers!

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Theiano

I do think air exposure can have an effect, but it is also highly variable, I have experienced it a little myself on occasion. There are a few things that can happen to an open/exposed bottle. Even without opening the bottle whiskey can age a little without exposure, it is quite minimal and very slow effect but it can happen, and it is exacerbated by more heat/light etc. An open bottle is far more vulnerable to change though.

 

On the one hand you can have a reaction with oxygen where the oxygen will combine with some of the compounds in the liquid and change their chemistry, and therefore taste (we can distinguish an immense amount of different compounds' tastes).

 

Another aspect that can occur however, which doesn't get mentioned quite so often is the diffusion  the compounds from the liquid into the atmosphere.It's not just the ethanol and water, there are a huge amount of other compounds in the whiskey and they will not all evaporate at the same rate, but as they evaporate the flavor and taste will change, that's a guarantee. How much it changes is more down to peoples interpretation. Some components, like oils will release slowly and some like acetone are very volatile and will release quicker. Certainly at the very beginning you can begin to lose the acetoney/perfumey flavors which can improve the taste for some, then some of the more light fruity flavors can diffuse out. Eventually you will be left with a higher prevalence of woody, oaky, oily and earthy flavors. By themselves these can make a whiskey taste dull or flat.

 

Of course different people will have different palates, some people just don't taste well, others can develop a more refined palate after a significant amount training/drinking and can pick up more nuanced flavors, good and bad. Some people are super-tasters by genetics. It's really one of the coolest things to me, and it's great to read other reviews and interpretations because others can pick up flavors in a particular brand that you never experienced, and then you can begin to recognize them yourself.

 

 

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cwalker022

Theiano,

 

thanks for your educated response. I really enjoyed reading that.

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smokinjoe

My position is that certainly there can be changes in a whiskey while sitting in a glass for an amount of time.  "Open up", if you will after pouring?  Sure.  However, the idea that there are wholesale changes in a whiskey in the bottle due to "airtime" a short time after opening seems a very, very, big stretch.  I've never bought into that theory.  

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JTaylor

I've experienced it once... I was jacked to get my first SAOS SiB because it wasn't available locally. I was so looking forward to it due to the overwhelming positive response to it on here so when it arrived I opened it and immediately poured a dram. I don't know how to describe it... it just tasted off somehow. It wasn't horrible, but not what I expected, I was not impressed and was actually a bit disappointed. It was one dimensional and had a bitter, sickly taste to it. I added water to no avail. Normally I would have chalked it up to a bad palate day, but my cousin who got me the juice had the same impression. A few weeks before he had opened one of my SAOS Tens to see if he wanted some for himself and said he felt the same way about it. But when we tried the Ten at this tasting he said it was a completely different animal than when he tasted it a few weeks before. With this in mind, I waited a couple weeks on the SiB and lo and behold the second taste was wonderful! Full of flavor and complexity and that sickly bitter taste was gone. I don't know that I can completely rule out a bad palate, but with both of us experiencing the same thing I tend to think the air did something. I can't explain it, but it went from disappointing to one of my favorite pours and I've not had the bad taste issue since that first pour...

 

Cheers,

JT

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smokinjoe

A friend of mine hosted a 4R bottle signing at his restaurant with Jim Rutledge.  A customer came up and asked about how he felt bottle airtime affected bourbons.  JR looked at him like he had 5 heads, and asked what he was talking about, and was this bottle airtime thing something he read on the Interwebs, because he was not aware of the supposed phenomenon.  

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JTaylor
1 hour ago, smokinjoe said:

A friend of mine hosted a 4R bottle signing at his restaurant with Jim Rutledge.  A customer came up and asked about how he felt bottle airtime affected bourbons.  JR looked at him like he had 5 heads, and asked what he was talking about, and was this bottle airtime thing something he read on the Interwebs, because he was not aware of the supposed phenomenon.  

I believe it... I've not experienced it with any other bourbon, at least not to the extend I did with the SAOS (not enough to notice anyway). So I don't know. I do know though that there was a distinct difference in how I perceived  the flavor a few weeks later. And it is funny because I was anticipating a delicious pour you would think I would have been pre-disposed to a positive tasting experience. 

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smokinjoe

Humans are incredibly complex and variable machines, particularly with our senses.  Mood, expectations, environment, time, temperature, previous meals, air quality, on-and-on-and-on-and-on....affects us and our tastes perceptions and causes these "changes", IMO.  Not, the whiskey changing.  

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T Comp
5 hours ago, smokinjoe said:

My position is that certainly there can be changes in a whiskey while sitting in a glass for an amount of time.  "Open up", if you will after pouring?  Sure.  However, the idea that there are wholesale changes in a whiskey in the bottle due to "airtime" a short time after opening seems a very, very, big stretch.  I've never bought into that theory.  

 

I've posted before on being a proud global air time denier. That doesn't mean I disagree with the science that Theiano references but...I'd like to know how the changes in the volume of air in a bottle that is capped and keeps decreasing effects it. My own experience is little to none.  

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flahute

Here's the experiment I mentioned up thread.

 

http://www.breakingbourbon.com/12-month-bourbon-storage-experiment.html

 

For these guys, less fill in the bottle (i.e. introduction of air) results in slightly favorable results only for a while. At some point after 6 months, it reversed and ended up being slightly less than favorable. Not a big swing though.

Interesting that the refrigerator stored samples didn't show much variation. Seems that colder storage temperatures are an asset. (If you don't read the report on the link, don't go putting all your bottles in a refrigerator unless they have a screw cap.)

The clear result was that direct sunlight is bad.

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Limegoldconvertible68

Maybe it's me as a newbie but sometimes I think a bottle tastes different from my first drink of the night to the second. As such I'm not too worried about a little air in the bottle. 

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Richnimrod
8 minutes ago, Limegoldconvertible68 said:

Maybe it's me as a newbie but sometimes I think a bottle tastes different from my first drink of the night to the second. As such I'm not too worried about a little air in the bottle. 

Many have noted this.   In fact many 'tasters' will have small warm-up dram of a "known" a little while before tasting anything they really want to analyze.   This I believe, is partly to 'prove' to themselves that their senses are within normal parameters (nobody's is spot on all the time), as well as to prime the sensory organs a little.   I think the rest after warm-up is to rest that palate so as not to taint what will follow. 

All this is mainly from listening to others speak about it.   If anybody who regularly does this is listening; perhaps you can say more (or correct any inaccuracies).

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Theiano
5 hours ago, T Comp said:

 

I've posted before on being a proud global air time denier. That doesn't mean I disagree with the science that Theiano references but...I'd like to know how the changes in the volume of air in a bottle that is capped and keeps decreasing effects it. My own experience is little to none.  

 

 

I probably should have mentioned that I have not experienced it much myself, I could only think of one or two examples but it was quite stark in one instance I can remember. It was with a Stagg Jr. Like JTaylor mentioned about the SAOS, I came home from the store and immediately opened the bottle had a pour and sipped, it also tasted very one dimensional, not bitter, not hot, but strange, a bit like turpentine. I was very disappointed. After around a month though I went back to it and it was much better, I still can't guarantee it wasn't my interpretation but I don't think so. I have also tasted whiskey that had sat in a bottle about 1/4 full for probably at least 10 years in a (dark) cupboard in Florida heat and it was awful (Jameson) but I'm not sure that counts as it was particularly bad storage.

 

I think losing some of the volatile compounds initially may be more possible in barrel proof whiskeys as they probably are not exposed as much at the distilleries and in bottling etc. It is probably more likely in bourbon too than other spirits as it is always kept virgin oak, and therefore more compound rich. I would expect though any initial change would be brief and well stored bottles (sealed in a cool dark environment) would last almost indefinitely with very little change, not noticeable outside a lab test. An example of this is the whiskey left by Shackleton in the ice in Antarctica, they pulled it out after a hundred years and it supposedly tasted great.

 

Going back to the science, my comments are really an attempt to try and explain peoples experiences from a chemistry perspective, not necessarily a hard truth, I'm just trying to contribute to the discussion. To answer T Comps question, I also don't believe the space would have a noticeable affect unless you had a low amount of whiskey left in the bottle. Generally the gas in a bottle would be richer in the volatile compounds versus the liquid, but when a liquid turns to a gas it takes up hundreds of times more space (think steam vs water). Therefore to have a noticeable effect I would think gas to liquid ratio would have to pretty large i.e. very little liquid left.

 

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T Comp
14 hours ago, Theiano said:

 

 

... Going back to the science, my comments are really an attempt to try and explain peoples experiences from a chemistry perspective, not necessarily a hard truth, I'm just trying to contribute to the discussion. ...

 

 

And a nice contribution at that Theiano. Which got me thinking of Chuck Cowdery's GBS Project from 2012 and whether something similar could be done on bottle air time changes. Smokinjoe, after a Bardstown Gazebo gathering, donated to Chuck, a dusty and distilled in 1971-bottled in 1976 Fairfax County Bourbon made at the original A. Smith Bowman distillery. Chuck had samples sent to active or retired master distillers. Seven provided their sensory impressions. Buffalo Trace and Beam did chemical analysis. Many differences between today's bourbon on both sensory and chemical analysis were found by the experts. On a chemical basis this included higher fusel components and congeners. The results of the testing are contained in Chuck's paid subscription Bourbon Country Reader for January 2013, Vol 16 No 1.

 

It would make for an  interesting chemistry project on air time. And then we can still argue further if any of the detected chemical changes are really perceptible to the human palate ;).  

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flahute
34 minutes ago, T Comp said:

 

And a nice contribution at that Theiano. Which got me thinking of Chuck Cowdery's GBS Project from 2012 and whether something similar could be done on bottle air time changes. Smokinjoe, after a Bardstown Gazebo gathering, donated to Chuck, a dusty and distilled in 1971-bottled in 1976 Fairfax County Bourbon made at the original A. Smith Bowman distillery. Chuck had samples sent to active or retired master distillers. Seven provided their sensory impressions. Buffalo Trace and Beam did chemical analysis. Many differences between today's bourbon on both sensory and chemical analysis were found by the experts. On a chemical basis this included higher fusel components and congeners. The results of the testing are contained in Chuck's paid subscription Bourbon Country Reader for January 2013, Vol 16 No 1.

 

It would make for an  interesting chemistry project on air time. And then we can still argue further if any of the detected chemical changes are really perceptible to the human palate ;).  

The link I posted above already ran this experiment from the sensory analysis perspective. Would be cool to get a chemical analysis to go with it.

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garbanzobean

I accidentally left the top off a Parker's Heritage Promise of Hope for about a week.  It went from tasting hot and raw to tasting like liquid Apple Pie.  I keep meaning to do the same thing to a bottle of Henry McKenna 10BIB to see if it does the same thing.  Not that I don't like Henry McKenna already, but this is science for gosh sakes.  Otherwise I don't really bother anymore, since I am largely done experimenting with bourbons and ryes I don't already know I'll like from start to finish. 

 

Incidentally, Ralfy has a video on aerating whisky that needs it.  I tend to avoid it with malts since they can go south fast, and will usually do just fine with 20 minutes to an hour of air time in the glass anyway.

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