Open Bottle Storage: Oxidation, Letting Whisky Breath

A double old fashioned glass filled with 6 oz of whisky.

There is an idea prevalent in the whisky world that letting a whisky “breath” or “open up” changes the flavor of a whisky similar to wine. We thought we would test this as it would also be interesting indicator of how fast oxidation reactions occur. We took a standard double old fashioned glass and poured out 6 oz from the control bottle right at the beginning of the blind tasting. We exposed the whisky in the glass to open air to let it “open up” for 90 minutes in a dark temperature controlled environment. Then we poured the whisky from the double old fashioned glass into tasting glasses and had the tasters taste the whisky blind against the control.

90 Minutes Later

NOTE: When we speak about the differences in taste or score, it is the difference between a specimen and the control, and another specimen and the control. Not the direct difference between the two specimens.

According to our study the idea that letting a whisky “breath” or “open up” does not actual happen. It was close to indistinguishable at a scant 0.67 points. There is a chance that the control pour was sitting too long by tasters thus also “opening up” the control as well, but we are doubtful of this because the results are so closely aligned and the time elapse was so large. We think what happens when you let a whisky “breath” is the whisky remains virtually unchanged, but the taster’s senses are what have changed. This also brings up questions as to how strong of a force oxidation has on whisky. While oxidation may play a part in changing the taste of a stored whisky over time, we are skeptical that oxidation is the actual reaction that accounts for the major changes in taste of a stored whisky. We plan to do another study on this to further explore this concept.

The average scores of each set of specimens. (Lower is better.)
Specimen Description Total Average Nose Average Palate Average Finish Average
Double old fashioned glass, 6 oz fill, left out for 90 min, cool dark place 0.67 0.75 0.5 0.75

Open Bottle Storage Experiment Chapters:

Updated: 2023.07.30