Like wine, brandy is also made from grapes. It just goes through a different distillation process. And while we know that wine goes bad if left open for too long, can we also assume that this circumstance proves similar to brandy?
So, does brandy go bad? Let’s find out!
Does It Really Expire?
No, brandy (burnt wine) does not expire in terms of food safety. Brandy, made from fermented fruit mash, is distilled into strong, concentrated alcohol before bottling at a whopping 35 to 60 percent ABV, versus the 11.6 percent of the wine.
The spirit’s high alcohol content allows the opened bottle to be stored indefinitely without you having to worry about it growing bacteria or other pathogens. It will also remain safe for consumption.
On the other hand, while brandy can be stored indefinitely without it expiring, you can’t expect its taste and quality to remain the same as the first day it was opened. Like whiskey, it’s highly important to store the brandy in a tightly sealed container in a dark place to preserve its original flavor for as long as possible.
So, brandy’s quality does expire over time, especially when the liquor bottle is left in unfavorable conditions.
How Long Does Brandy Last?
The flavor and quality of an opened brandy bottle will go bad over time. You will notice that older brandy tastes “flat” because many of its flavors will start vanishing as soon as it’s opened, even if stored properly.
Industry experts recommend that you finish an opened bottle of brandy within six to eight months after opening to experience its full, rich quality.
Like other spirits, brandy can last indefinitely if left unopened. However, it’s still important to store the unopened bottle in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight or heat, to preserve its original quality. Evaporation and oxidation, caused by sunlight and high temperatures, are the worst culprits that could affect the quality of even unopened brandy.
It’s also important to remember that bottled spirits no longer age. That means that the rules regarding aging no longer apply and that the quality of the brandy bottle won’t get better the longer you’ve had it, even though you follow proper storage guidelines.
How To Tell If Brandy Has Gone Bad
Taste Is Flat
There’s no way to predict how the bottle of brandy will turn out. One of the surefire ways to tell if brandy has gone bad is if you notice a “flat” taste. This is because the flavor compounds within the spirit have mostly disappeared.
A simple way to combat an older brandy’s “flat” taste is to infuse it with herbs and spices. Vanilla beans, cinnamon, dried apricots, and other dried fruit wonderfully work as they are low in moisture. But what should brandy taste like?
Pour the brandy and flavorings into a sealable jar, give it a good shake, and store in a cool, dark location anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. What you’ll have is a dried fruit-infused brandy!
Another tell-tale sign that brandy has gone bad is if you notice an off smell emanating from it. Pour some into a glass and take a whiff for quality purposes before you decide to take a sip. If the brandy smells rancid or sour, it’s a great indicator that the taste will be equally unpleasant, and it’s best to throw it out.
Brandy’s high alcohol content means that the spirit will evaporate over time. You will notice that the older the brandy is, the less strength and flavor there is when you drink it because much of the alcohol from the open bottle has already evaporated.
When the compounds within brandy are exposed to oxygen, oxidation occurs. This process gives the spirit a much darker color and greatly affects its quality.
What Degrades Its Quality?
When brandy gets into contact with oxygen, a process called oxidation occurs. This process can alter the original quality of the spirit tremendously. The more oxygen there is in the bottle of brandy, the faster the rate of the oxidation process.
Evaporation occurs when the brandy is stored in a warm place. It’s best to ensure that the bottle of brandy is stored correctly in the coolest place in your home, so it doesn’t come into contact with heat and light .
Tips For Storing Brandy To Avoid Spoilage
One of the best ways to store brandy to avoid spoilage and maximize its shelf life is to store it in a cool, dry place, preferably in the basement or pantry. Keep it away from heat — this will strongly affect the flavor and quality of brandy. Here’s a solid tip: pantry brandy stays fine indefinitely if properly stored because this area doesn’t experience constant temperature changes.
It’s also a great idea to transfer unfinished brandy into a tightly-sealed bottle. And if you have a vacuum sealer for food storage, even better! It will seal out air and create a vacuum around the spirit.
Storing brandy inside the refrigerator is also a great way to avoid spoilage, although it isn’t necessary (not everyone likes cold brandy) to freeze brandy. Stronger brandy can also withstand even colder temperatures.
However, if you plan to store the bottle of brandy in the fridge, take note not to leave it at the door, as the temperature in this area fluctuates. Storing brandy inside liquor cabinets is also a great option, as these fixtures often have a moderate temperature.
Can old brandy make you sick?
No, old brandy cannot make you sick. Generally, you’ll notice that there is an off odor and a dull taste upon drinking an old liquor. However, spoiled brandy won’t be enough to warrant a visit to the hospital.
Can you drink 100-year-old brandy?
Yes, it is safe to drink brandy that’s 100 years old. However, there is no guarantee that anything will be left inside the brandy bottle after 100 years. Most of the spirit might’ve already disappeared due to evaporation and oxidation!
With its high alcohol content, brandy does not go bad or grow mold and bacteria. This alcohol is safe to consume indefinitely. However, that does not mean that the flavor and quality of the brandy will remain the same as the first day it’s opened.
The two natural processes, oxidation and evaporation, will ultimately affect the caliber of the spirit, which will not make for a pleasant drink, somehow making the brandy go bad.
Therefore, it’s best to consume brandy within six to eight months after opening to experience its best quality. It’ll be such a waste to see bottles of brandy go bad, right?
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!