I live in Texas where most of the year can be considered "summer" and the variation of our four seasons is something like….first summer, second summer, tricked ya; still summer and fall…which still feels like summer. This past week saw days that all were at or above 100 degrees with heat indexes reaching up to 116 degrees one particular day. Given such, it may surprise you then to know that I store all my bourbon in my garage. That is at least all my open bourbon, some 150 bottles or so; I have a queue of bottles waiting to be opened that I store inside in my office which I simply just don't have room for on the shelves...first world problems, for sure. I've had a number of folks inquire over the years if my bourbon goes bad in the heat - and the answer is a bit complicated but in short, it's not a problem I've experienced.
Bourbon and Heat | A Texan Case Study
Despite being hotter than Satan's crotch outside, as you can see in the image below the garage doesn't get to the same level of miserable as it is outdoors (I use a Bluetooth enabled Govee Hydrometer Thermometer which also keeps tabs on my kegerator temperature). That said It's still quite warm to just be out there hanging out which is why I have an air conditioner/heater that I use when I'm wanting to spend any time in the garage and its simply too hot; luckily most my drinking is in the evenings. If you're interested, I have a short post on Climate Control for Garage Bars where I walk through the particulars you may want to consider if you're interested in making your garage more friendly to beveraging.
I digress...although it's possible that heat can make your bourbon go bad, it's very unlikely to do so. Once removed from the barrel your bourbon stops aging and rather importantly, given the alcohol content (40% ABV and up) the esters, congeners and volatile alcohols contained in the bourbon are essentially arrested in time. This is markedly different than my wife's wine which despite being sealed in a bottle continues to mature. Given it's significantly lower ABV, the alcohol in her wine doesn't have the same preservative qualities as my bourbon and at some point, will turn to vinegar.
Bourbon Storage Best Practices
Sunlight is not your friend
If you take nothing else away from this post, please remember that direct sunlight is a threat to the longevity of your bourbon. It is not only just a threat, but moreover probably the biggest threat as a matter of fact regarding things that can ruin your bourbon. Why? Ultraviolet light, the same thing that burns my bald head, can chemically react with your brownwater causing it to change color and flavor.
Keep your bottled corked
When you pop the top on your bourbon you expose your coveted brownwater to oxygen and, over time, oxidation can occur which can change the flavor of your bourbon, with the key phrase there being "over time."
What is Oxidation?
Simply put oxidation is a process whereby a chemical reaction occurs when ethanol in your bourbon comes in contact with oxygen and electrons are lost from the ethanol. Pretty deep...that process however starts long before you open your bottle and is a prolonged reaction, occurring over the course of years, not minutes.
Store your bottles upright
Surely folks know this, but while my wife's wine is stored on its side to moisten the cork, treating bourbon the same will result in a far different outcome...degrading the cork. That's because, again, the alcohol content is significantly higher so keep your bottles upright to avoid dealing with straining out pieces of cork from your bourbon.
Does Bourbon Change Flavor Over Time?
Yes! It absolutely does, and it's due to the process of evaporation or what some refer to as dissipation. Over time, alcohol evaporates and escapes solution as a gas. When this evaporation transpires the net effect is a subtle lowering of the overall proof of the spirit. This variation in proof is the culprit behind the variation in flavor profile as the numerous compounds that make up your bottle of bourbon may be accentuated or suppressed from your taste buds/sense of smell based on how soluble those flavor compounds are in various concentrations of alcohol. As you can imagine, this process is not one that happens with any speed and is most noticeable when measured in years and not hours. If you're worried about oxidation or evaporation - which - I'm not - my suggestion for you is to drink faster.
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