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.
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.
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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