whiskey and heat

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whiskey and heat

Postby ekennedy » Fri Jan 27, 2006 7:22 pm

I want to know if anyone has any experience with what negative effects heat has on whisky during storage. I've collected a variety of bottles over the years usually while travelling in Scotland. Wide variety and value. Some common inexpensive bottles as well as some pretty rare things. I kept them in my wine cellar. I moved to New Orleans LA USA this past August and movede my wine and whisky with me. In New Orleans the wine cellar was a refrigerated affair in the attic (no cellars in a city below sea level). Well, a little hurricaine moved in a few weeks later and we were without power for about 6 weeks. Best guess is that the storage area went to between 100F and 120F for the entire time. Have opened a few bottles of wine since and some survived, some lost a little something, and some are just really not drinkable. Younger stuff did better in general but we'll see how it plays out over time.Kind of what you would expect. My question is, anyone have any thoughts on the whisky. Opened one or two bottles (who wouldn't in response to a disaster) of standard distillery offerings and they were OK. Anyone have any experience with a similar situation? I'm hoping it should fare better than the wine but don't know. Planning on moving the hell out of here and really don't want to ship a bunch of worthless whisky across the US. Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

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Postby bernstein » Fri Jan 27, 2006 8:36 pm

Hi ekennedy and welcome to the forum!
I just hope that it's (just) material damage (bad as it is) that you'd had to experience in New Orleans last year. Good luck for your removal!
Temperatures around 40-50°C - now this isn't exactly what we will get to know in our peaceful Eifel-region.
But there are a few members onboard living in hot places such as India, Australia, southern China and Japan etc. I hope, these chaps can be of any help.
Although my guess is that the whisky isn't as sensitive to heat over a limited period of time as wine is.
But again - I'm not an expert.

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Postby zhi » Sat Jan 28, 2006 7:24 am

I recently had to take my glenmorangie 10yo to the beach on a stinking hot day because I had taken the bottle to a friend's house the night before. On the same afternoon, I had another taste of the whisky. It had lost a bit of the complexity that it had the night before I have to admit. Two days ago, I had the chance to nose a bottle of glenmorangie 10yo which has been well kept. I have to say that severe heat does play havoc on your whisky from my experience. Mind you, my glenmorangie had already been opened before that hot day. Then again, I don't really trust a lot of the seals on the whisky I get. I actually seal them up with some clingwrap or wax seal them if I am not satisfied.

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Postby kallaskander » Sat Jan 28, 2006 9:32 am

Hi there,

alcohol boils at 78°C and that is where you can seperate it from water with heat. In a closed bottle like in any closed vessel the pressure rises when heat is aplied. If too much presure is build up the bottle bursts.
I think the weakest point in this system "overheated whisky bottle" is the cork.
What you would lose at first is alcohol via evaporation through the bottle-neck depending on how tight the cork is. A good glass bottle can hold more pressure then one would think possible.
When you have lost alcohol by evaporation the whole equilibrium of the fluid we call whisky changes. The alcohol content is critical for the amount of volatiles and therefore flavours the whisky can hold.
The next thing you lose when the heat goes up is water. Again the whisky in the bottle would have to change to find a new stability concerning all the soluable ingredients.
What you do most probably not lose are longer chained alcohols beyond C2H5OH which carry flavour and also are found mostly in the feints after a destillation run.
So one could well believe that overheating can spoil a whisky in its bottle. I think it all depends on how well the bottles were sealed.
I am sorry to hear that you were in the middle of the hurricane. All the best to you and your family even if these whishes come late.


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Postby MGillespie » Sat Jan 28, 2006 3:40 pm

Good luck with your recovery, and welcome to the forum...

At the 78C boiling point, that translates (working from memory here) to about 150 degrees or so Fahrenheit...I think you're probably OK, considering that the temperatures at the top of some Kentucky bourbon warehouses regularly reach that point each summer. The bourbon doesn't suffer any ill effects, especially since it's stored in oak barrels that are somewhat porous. Your whiskies were in sealed glass bottles, so they should have survived well.

By the way, pick up a bottle or two of the new Sazerac Rye before you leave town. Sazerac's primarily keeping it in the New Orleans area, but is making some available around the country. I have an interview on this on the new episode of WhiskyCast...


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