The Open Bottle Effect

We’ve all heard of or experienced the phenomenon of bottles changing their flavor complexion over time once opened. If you search the whiskey literature, industry experts will advise you that once a bottle is less than half full (some say a quarter full), you should drink it or possibly inject an innate gas like nitrogen to prevent the bourbon from oxidizing and ultimately affecting the flavor profile.

I’m a bourbon collector (but mostly drinker). I currently have ~80 bottles open in my home bar and tend to open more before I finish existing ones. Many distilleries have recently announced sherry-cask finished bourbons (Angel’s Envy, Town Branch, etc.). Thinking about those releases and hypothesizing the line up I’d like to have in a blind side-by-side tasting, I was looking through my open bottles of finished bourbons. I poured a solid 2 ounce pour of the Basil Hayden Dark Rye from a bottle that was less than half full and that I haven’t sampled in at least a couple months. From fresh bottles, I detect sweet notes of the port that is added (not finished) to the bourbon as well as a delectable nuttiness that makes me want to pair this bourbon with chocolate. To me, this is not a daily drinker but a ‘special’ occasion sipper for when I want something sweeter and less ‘bourbon-ish.’ However, tonight, I detect the same type of souring that one experiences with a bottle of red wine that has oxidized. The profile has noticeably changed and altered the taste for the worse. I’ve never experienced this phenomenon with a bourbon before and attribute it to the port that is directly blended with the Basil Hayden bourbon. As a scientist, I question the stability of a wine being added to a distilled spirit and recognize that oxidation has taken its effect on the port presumably before affecting the bourbon component of the blend. It’s not yet a ‘drain pour’ but it’s close. For now, I’ll finish this dram but won’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did the first pour from a fresh bottle.

Cheers!

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