Does Rum Go Bad?

Do you have a bottle of rum that’s sitting in the cabinet for years and you’re not quite sure what to do with it? Or maybe you’ve opened a bottle of rum a few months ago and wonder if it’s still safe to drink. Both situations lead us to the question: does rum go bad?

Rum is one of the distilled spirits. It’s a stable alcohol, and that means it can be stored for years and still stay fine. So no matter if it’s a bottle that’s sitting there for years waiting to be enjoyed, or one opened and waiting to be finished, the rum will likely be perfectly fine.

If you would like to learn more about storage, shelf life and if rum can actually go bad, read on.

Bottle of Old Monk Rum

How to Store Rum

You should store rum the same way your store other spirits, such as whiskey. That means it should be kept in a place that’s cool (pantry-like cool, not refrigerator-like cool) and dry. That’s it.

Once the bottle is opened, you need to remember to keep it tightly closed when not in use.

Don’t even consider storing a bottle of rum with a pourer on. Why not, you ask? When a bottle of liquor isn’t tightly sealed, the liquid slowly evaporates. And since alcohol evaporates faster than water, the rum gradually becomes milder.

Also, the process of oxidation takes place. Those two processes combined slowly change the taste of the liquor.

When the bottle is tightly sealed, those processes also occur, but it all happens at a snail’s pace. That means that unless you’re a rum connoisseur, you won’t be able to notice those effects for years to come.

Here’s one trick for storing an opened bottle of rum. If the bottle is half empty, consider pouring the alcohol into a smaller one and sealing it tightly.

The more liquid in the bottle, the less oxygen in there and the slower the deterioration processes. Of course, that only makes sense if you plan on keeping that rum for years to come. If you will finish the bottle next Saturday, or even within a few months, the benefits of that trick are close to none.

Bottle of Plantation rum
(credit:Malte Wingen)

How Long Does Rum Last

Basically, the shelf life of rum indefinite. That means your bottle of Bacardi or Captain Morgan is perfectly safe sitting in that cabinet. As long as it’s unopened and the seal isn’t compromised in any way, the rum should be as good twenty years from now as it is today.

After opening the bottle the shelf life of rum stays indefinite, but it slowly (depending on how well it is stored) deteriorates.

That’s why most people recommend drinking liquors within a couple of months after opening – the faster, the better. The longer it stays open, the worse its taste will be. Of course, as already mentioned, it will take probably at least a few years to even tell the difference in taste.

Several bottles of bacardi rum
(credit: Anders Nord)

An important thing to note is that all of the above applies to pure rum. There are some rum-based products on the market like Malibu rum, which is a coconut rum, that don’t last that long.

If your bottle isn’t about 80 proof (or 40% alcohol by volume), it’s most likely a liqueur based on rum, and in most cases, it will taste great only within a few months of opening. A good example of that is RumChata, which retains the best flavor for up to a year.

One quick reminder – base liquors (unlike some wines and beers) no longer age once they’re bottled. The same applies to rum. As I’ve mentioned earlier, rum in an unopened bottle should basically taste the same today and 20 years from now.


Don’t fall under the wrong impression that keeping a bottle of rum for years will make the rum’s taste better. It won’t.

Rum (Unopened and Opened)Stays fine indefinitely

How To Tell If Rum Bad

As I’ve mentioned at least a couple of times, rum doesn’t really go bad, although it can deteriorate if stored poorly.

That said, if you’ve stored rum for a few years without its cap or with the seal compromised, you should definitely examine it before drinking or offering it to your guests.

Pour a small amount of it, smell it and taste it. If you’ve noticed any visual signs of spoilage or a funny smell, discard it.

If it simply doesn’t taste as it should, it’s your choice. You can drink it (because it’s not spoiled), but in my opinion, there’s no point in drinking any alcohol that you don’t enjoy.

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