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How many open bottles at once?

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canadianbacon started a discussion

Joining this community has opened my eyes to the issue of oxidation. My previous impression had been that spirits keep forever and so that it doesn't really matter how long it takes you to finish a bottle. Reading here and watching some video reviews, the information I am seeing states that as the bottle gets more empty, the effect of oxidation will increase, and that if a bottle is getting close to empty, you are best to kill it without prejudice (a task I undertake solemnly and with some regret, of course).

Now, currently I have 9 open bottles of spirits, and another 8 unopened. I have been hesitant to open anything new until I finish another bottle or two, because I simply don't partake that quickly.

So my questions to this wise community:

1) How many bottles do you tend to keep open at a time? If you have a cabinet of 50 bottles or more as some of you do, are most of them opened or the opposite? 2) Is the concern about oxidation overblown and should I be cracking some more of these bottles open?

Thanks!

10 years ago

15 replies

@Victor
Victor replied

I have about 160 open bottles right now. The number used to be higher. That turned into a large inadvertent oxidation/air exposure project for me over a period of 2-3 years. I used to not worry about the air exposure at all, but I found that I started losing the usual and desirable flavours in at least 20 of those bottles. What usually happens with a lot of air exposure is that a secondary fermentation occurs, which ferments the sugars present in the whisky, leaving sour fermentation by-products and destroying the sweet-dry balance which those whiskies used to have. I would note that "off" whiskies, from too much air time, often also taste more bitter, but I am inclined to think that they are not actually much more bitter chemically, but that the increasing sourness increases the psychological perception of what bitterness is already therek, so that they SEEM more bitter.

What to do? I've never seen a whisky go "off" from air exposure in less than about 7 months, so most people who drink them relatively quickly are not likely to have a problem.

Since I like to have many bottles open in order to have a whisky for every mood and every whim, ...and since I have 160 or so open now and want to preserve them, I regularly decant and gas the whiskies. I will gas with Private Preserve gas down to about just under half a bottle and then will decant the remainder of the whisky into smaller containers with small air spaces. I use the gas starting anywhere from first bottle opening to a month of the bottle opened, depending on the type of whisky involved.

I would some day like to reduce my number of open bottles to no more than 50 or so. Enthusiasm, great curiosity, and ignorance of the real risks of long term air exposure, made me open nearly all of my bottles when I first got them. We also have maybe four score or so extra unopened bottles of our favourites on hand.

Really, @canadianbacon, if I only had 17 different types of whisky on hand all of those bottles would be opened.

10 years ago 2Who liked this?

@Nock
Nock replied

@canadianbacon I have about 25 or so open bottles. And whereas @Victor uses gas to preserve his bottles I have been more of a "decanter." So I have about 20 200mL bottles filled (and then about 50 50mL). That is how I deal with open bottles. I then have about 20 unopened bottles.

I agree with @Victors' experience. I don't think anything "bad" really happens in the first 7 months (no matter how fast you drink it). For me the magic place is the "have full" spot. I really don't notice a huge difference in an open bottle until the half-way mark. That is when I reassess where a bottle is (could use more oxidation or time to decant).

I keep unopened bottles for only three reasons. 1.) Saving for a special event (anniversary, birthday, birth, or death) 2.) I already have an open bottle. 3.) It is an old bottle I am saving for "tasting-through-the-ages."

If a bottle doesn't fall into one of those categories I open it. My experience is that I don't want to "discover" a bottle I love 3 years after I could have bought more simply because I was afraid to open it! (that has happened way too much in my past).

Just my experience

10 years ago 2Who liked this?

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

I have about 21 bottles open, all but 4 single malts, 13 of them scotches. There were a couple more (I had 2 A'Bunadhs open at once for a while) but I've managed through patience and willpower to whittle it down. Some are still in the bottle and other have been decanted. I also have Private Preserve.

Problem is my whisky club. I tend to supply most of the whiskies (all but 2 I can recall) and after the meetings, the newly opened bottles would be left with me. And we "had" to open new ones to try at every meeting. So several bottles have been around for a while. I did mix a few into a blend, successfully, and that took care of 3 bottles at once.

I have easily 2-3 dozen I would really like to open and try, but I really feel the need to not have so many open. I asked Ralfy this about 2 years ago, and he recommended for a moderate drinker (I hope I'm lower than that at 1-2 drams a week) about 5 bottles open.

Of course, as I explore more, I accumulate 2 types of bottles:

  1. Those that I can do without or rarely feel like drinking. Those can be around a LONG time.

  2. Those I do like, which do get finished over a year or so. It's these I'd like to replace but I feel I shouldn't be opening more bottles. So they wait for "an opening" on the top shelf.

It's a losing battle. So many to try...so slow to get through them.

10 years ago 0

@ppelletier
ppelletier replied

Right now, I have 7 out of 8 bottles opened. When once is finished, I replace it. I usually drink the bottle within a few months. If I want to keep the whisky for longer, I fill a 100ml bottle with it when I open the bottle to avoid oxidation.

10 years ago 1Who liked this?

@Mammon
Mammon replied

I have 30 scotches and two japenese whiskies open. Furthermore there are more than 320 closed bottles. Both number are increasing. I think I don't drink fast enough...

10 years ago 0

@Onibubba
Onibubba replied

Traveling and in the process of moving, so not many now. Once I get settled in again, I will probably go back to about 12 open bottles. I like to have 1 or 2 bottles of each style I like open for variety, and maybe 1 really nice bottle for special occasions. When 1 gets finished, it gets replaced.

If I plan on having the bottle open for a long time, I gas. If not, and I feel it is worth revisiting in the future, I will decant a couple of 4 oz bottles. This system works well for me.

10 years ago 0

@teebone673
teebone673 replied

I have about 30-35 open bottles right now. About 5 or 6 unopened.

10 years ago 0

Simewiz replied

Judging by some of the other posts here, I'm a mere novice (as indeed I am!), having around 20 or so bottles opened at the moment and none unopened! Having recently returned from Speyside with 10 bottles, I've now opened them all (I just couldn't resist).

This is my first post of any kind on here, so hello all!

10 years ago 0

@Simewiz Welcome, I am pretty new as well but it seems like quite a welcoming community.

10 years ago 0

@Spitfire
Spitfire replied

Simewiz, no worries--I'm much more of a novice than you. Every bottle I own is open, but then I only have 4 bottles: one single malt, one Canadian, one cheap bourbon (for cooking), one basic Irish (for coffee). A bottle of sipping whisky will last me for many months...I do not partake that much (although, having discovered how good some of the better whiskys are, I may start going through them a bit faster...reading this forum is helping me develop my taste, too...still, I cannot see myself having much more than a few open bottles at any one time).

10 years ago 0

Simewiz replied

Thanks to all for the welcome! I'm already feeling quite at home!

10 years ago 0

@JoeVelo
JoeVelo replied

I have about 12 bottles open at that time. I try not to have less than the third of the bottle so when a bottle reach that mark, I focus on this one or transfer it to my flask and head to meet friends to share it as fast as possible! I also will not open a new one until I have finish another bottle. This is quite difficult to do, but the waiting is often so rewarding.

10 years ago 0