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Storage Experiment

We set out to answer a question that does not seem to have a good answer: “What happens to bourbon when stored in different real world conditions and fill levels over time?”

We went into this tasting thinking there would be little if any difference in the samples at the 6 month mark. However, that was not the case. The results were surprising. What follows is a summation of our opinions, however we want to stress that although most flavor differences we noticed were nuanced, they were confirmed blindly by two different tasters.

Read Part 1 of our Bourbon Storage Experiment for the complete details of the setup of the experiment.

How We Tasted:

  • There were 2 tasters - Nick and Eric.

  • We tasted blind in sets of 2-3 samples at a time, as any more would have been too many to compare at once.

  • We purposely varied the blind sets between the 2 tasters so that different direct comparisons could be made. Once complete, we cross-referenced our notes in order to piece together the findings so they could be presented here.

For this tasting there were two of us blind tasting different sample flights. Despite this, we lined up fairly consistently on the results. We both agreed on the ⅓ fill closet sample being the best of the bunch and the full fill sunlight sample being the worst of the bunch. Combine this with the opinion we shared that the samples generally tasted better as more air was introduced and we were really surprised.

The introduction of oxidation for a 6 month period not only proved to help the taste of the bourbon stored in the dark closet and refrigerator, it also helped mitigate the negative effect of sunlight… maybe someone reading this who happens to be a chemist can weigh in on what might be happening with the oxygen and sunlight here. With that in mind, if you have a sealed bottled that’s been around for a little while and it tastes a little bitter or sour the first time you open it make note of how much time it might have spent in direct sunlight. Where were you storing it? Where was it stored before you acquired it? This is only the 6 month mark, but after this tasting we have a feeling the sunlight stored samples are going to get quite a bit worse over time. We don’t know what to expect from the other samples going forward, but we’d be quite surprised if the ⅓ fill samples continue to get better. It seems there would have to be a turning point, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Our most important word of advice after this 6 month tasting: Keep your bourbon out of direct sunlight!

What We Noticed:

  • We both thought the ⅓ fill dark closet sample was the absolute best overall.

  • We both thought the full fill clear sunlight sample was the absolute worst overall (note that for this 6 month tasting the full fill samples were equivalent to the drink down samples).

  • None of the samples were undrinkable. The full fill sunlight sample was the only one that jumped out as tasting worse without really having to dissect it with more scrutiny. Most other differences among the samples were subtle and nuanced.

  • The refrigerator stored samples tasted very similar to the dark closet samples… with the dark closet ⅓ fill sample tasting just slightly better than than refrigerator ⅓ fill sample.

  • In each condition less fill (more air) generally yielded a better taste - ⅓ fill > ⅔ fill > full fill.

  • The amber bottle stored in direct sunlight seemed to help mitigate the negative effects of sunlight as it tasted better than the full fill clear sample stored in direct sunlight, however it still tasted a little off.

Written By: Nick Beiter

February 12, 2015
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Bourbon Storage Experiment - 6 Month Tasting Results
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