Should You Worry About Spirits & Wine Expiring?
Amidst all the hue and cry about strict FSSAI rules and implementation in India, we thought we should take a look at how long those coveted bottles in your bar will survive. General tendency is too preserve and save spirits especially those which have an expensive price tag on them, for a rainy day which could range one year to 10! It is true; there is a hoarding habit amongst a lot of us. This may be because we do not have company to enjoy these fine spirits with or simply that many of tend to be stingy about savoring the precious liquid.
We’d suggest you start opening up those old bottles and enjoy these beauties; waiting for that rainy day is just too tedious. And how do you tell if that bottle past its prime? Just smell, it will smell distinctly unsavory.
Your bottle of single malt, vodka and rum will survive the longest. They will not turn sour or become foul the way wines tend to. This is because of the alcohol content in them which acts as preservative. But having said that alcohol is also known to evaporate so careful storage becomes an imperative. Especially in India where temperature oscillates in extremes make sure that you close the bottles properly and store them in cool and dark place.
If you are under the impression that preserving or ‘aging’ your bottle of Scotch in your liquor cabinet is helping it improve its taste and flavor you are mistaken. Aging process for whiskies or rum takes place only in wooden barrels where the interaction with air and the wood imparts flavor to the liquid. Once it is bottled in glass and packed this process stops altogether.
Liqueurs, similar to distilled spirits, can survive for a long time as long as they have the prescribed amount of alcohol – 17% ABV and more. Always check the amount alcohol in the liqueur to help you gauge how long it will survive. The alcohol helps preserve the botanical component in the liqueur. Apart from alcohol there is also sugar that acts as preservative in liqueurs, but over time you will find sugar crystallizing around the mouth of the bottle. Make it a point that you clean the bottle each time you open it up to avoid this.
Cream liqueurs and cordials however is a different story altogether. Use of dairy product in cream liqueurs makes it more susceptible to spoilage. They will not survive more than a year, the cream will curdle destroying the lustrous texture of the liqueur irrespective of being opened or not. Once open consume it within a year and keep it refrigerated.
Wines and Beers
Most wines and beers have less than 15% ABV in them, plus they have active agents which allow them to age and oxygenate. This is the reason wines tend to sour over a period of time in the cellar. (Check our post on how to preserve an open bottle of wine) Beers too have a short life, 6 months maximum, even if it isn’t mentioned on the label. An old bottle of beer may not expire to deem it undrinkable but it will taste oxidated, flavorless and stale. Beers in India are not allowed to have more than 5-6% ABV so you can guess what will happen to the pint if it stays in storage for too long.
Fortified wines do have a longer shelf life compared to table wines, thanks to the distilled spirit added to it as fortification, but there is only so long they will survive too. Temperatures in India make it all the more difficult for storing such wines. Once you open a bottle of Sherry, Marsala or Port, try to consume them within 6-8 months and ensure keep them in cool place if that means sharing some space in the refrigerator, so be it.