Does Brandy Go Bad?

Liquor cabinets tend to collect various bottles of spirits over the years. You use each bottle for one drink recipe, and then promptly forget about it, as a new bottle enters the mix.

And that bottle of brandy you bought a few years ago, how do you know if it’s still good? Does brandy go bad?

Pouring a Glass of Brandy
Image used under Creative Commons from Richard Gailey

How To Store Brandy

Since brandy is produced by distilling wine, you store it the same way you store similar alcohols, such as whiskey or rum. That means you should keep it in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and sources of heat. The pantry is a perfect choice, but a liquor cabinet in the living room will do too.

After you open the bottle, the rules of storage stay the same. That means you don’t need to refrigerate brandy after opening. Of course, you can put it into the fridge to keep it chilled, but that’s not a requirement.

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What’s most important about alcohol storage is that you should always keep it sealed tightly when not in use.

The high alcohol content of brandy means that it will remain safe to consume for an incredibly long time. But it doesn’t mean it retains peak quality forever. Enter oxidation and evaporation.

Oxidation is a process that occurs when the alcohol comes into contact with oxygen in the air. Evaporation typically occurs when you store brandy in slightly warmer places. Both of these processes can alter the flavor and quality of the drink.

By storing brandy in a tightly sealed bottle in a cold and dark place, you reduce evaporation. To counteract oxidation, you need to make sure there’s as little air in the bottle as possible. The more air in the bottle, the faster the oxidation.

Tip

To reduce oxidation, pour the leftover brandy into a smaller bottle or jar once the party is over. This way, you will better preserve the taste.

Liquor bottles in a bar
(credit: Moss)

How Long Does Brandy Last

Brandy, like other spirits, stays fine pretty much indefinitely. With the alcohol by volume that’s usually around 35% for this spirit (or even 40% for cognac), brandy is not an environment that allows bacteria or fungi to grow. Because of that, it doesn’t spoil.

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What’s important to know is that spirits do not age once they’re bottled. That means your bottle of brandy doesn’t get better with age once you’ve bought it.

As mentioned earlier, the quality and flavor of brandy start to change over time once you open the bottle. If you follow the storage guidelines listed above, your brandy will last in good shape for months or even years after opening.

However, the flavor compounds disappear over time, and at some point, you might notice that your brandy tastes somewhat flat. There are no means of telling you precisely how long you can keep an open bottle of brandy. That depends on both the storage conditions, and the quality of the alcohol you’ve bought.

Most sources recommend finishing an opened bottle within six months to a year for best quality. If you store it for longer, it will still be safe to use, but it might not taste that great.

 Pantry
Brandy (Unopened or Opened)Stays fine indefinitely

Please note that once you open the bottle of brandy its quality will slowly drop over time.

How To Tell If Brandy Is Bad?

The most important thing when assessing if the alcohol is safe to drink is to trust your senses. If there’s something wrong with the liquor in terms of smell, taste, or the liquid itself, throw it away.

If it’s an opened bottle that was stored for quite some time, examine its contents. Pour some into a glass, smell it, and taste a bit to make sure it’s okay. If everything seems fine, feel free to drink it.

Bottle of cognac
Image used under Creative Commons from Paul Padshewscky

As already mentioned, once you open the bottle, the quality of brandy gradually deteriorates. At some point, you might find it flat and not enjoyable. When that happens, feel free to discard it for quality purposes.

Tip

If your old brandy tastes somewhat flat, test out some cocktail recipes. Additional ingredients will help mask some of the brandy’s deficiencies and who knows, you might end up with a new favorite way of drinking this liquor.

Infusions are another option. Fruit or herbal infusions are an easy way to give new life to a bottle of brandy that may have lost some of its flavors.

Place the fruit, whole herbs, or whole spices of your choosing (quantities are up to you, and depend on how strong you want the infusion to be) in a glass jar. Pour in enough brandy to cover, secure the lid, and shake a few times. Let the jar sit for at least three weeks in a cool, dark place. You can leave the infusion as long as you’d like until the flavor is perfect.