How Long Does Gin Last? (And How To Tell If It’s Gone Bad)

As a general rule, a bottle of gin can last forever. The flavors will be best preserved if you keep the bottle sealed in a cool place and out of direct sunlight. Once opened, the flavors will change more rapidly due to oxidization, but the gin will still be safe to drink.

If possible, keep your gin in the fridge or even in the freezer to preserve the flavor longer. Just like most spirits that are higher than ~20% ABV, gin won’t actually freeze. If you don’t have room, then leave it in the pantry as you don’t want it to get too warm or exposed to UV light.

Does Gin Go Off?

The high alcohol percentage prevents the spirit from going off, though the flavors will change slightly over time.

If you store your gin in a cool dark place unopened, the high alcohol content allows it to last for years.

Recently a fifty-year-old bottle was opened by a local publican and found to still be in perfect condition.

Where is the best-before date?

Gin, like whiskey, rum, and other spirits, doesn’t get provided with a best before date.

There is no legal requirement for a ‘best-before’, or a ‘use-by’ date on spirits – unlike with other food products.

How Long does Gin Last Unopened?

Although there is no shelf life sprits still change. A lot of research has been conducted into these changes, and fluctuations in temperature are damaging to Gin – breaking down molecules like pinene and limonene and leading to taste change.

Pinene (pine flavor) and limonene (lemon flavor) are the two most potent flavor compounds in juniper berries, which typically make up about 80% of the flavoring ingredients in a bottle of gin. Both have a bright floral taste which is responsible for the gin’s refreshing taste. As these compounds break down you’ll notice a decrease in freshness in your gin.

In short, the cooler temperature needs to be maintained at a consistent level. If you live in a warm climate it is certainly best kept in the fridge between drinks. If you live in a cool climate it can be kept in a cupboard, away from sunlight.

How Long Does Gin Last Once Opened?

Once your gin is opened it is best consumed within 12 months, and it should be stored in a cool place. It doesn’t really go off, but the taste can alter and not quite taste the same.

The biggest threat to an opened bottle of gin is oxidation. If you’re really concerned, or you don’t think the bottle will be touched again for a while, you could decant the remaining gin into a smaller bottle. This will minimize the amount of oxygen in the bottle.

Does aged gin get better with age?

Unfortunately, not. This is a popular myth, particularly with whiskeys, but more with gin now barrel-aged variants start to come to market.

It’s true that the older the whiskey, (generally) the better the taste, and this applies to aged gins too.

The catch here is this only applies to the time the spirit spends in the barrel. Once bottled, any positive effects of aging effectively stop, so your vintage gin won’t become an award-winner years down the track.

How to Tell if Gin has Gone Bad?

Though not likely, you should be able to tell pretty quickly if the gin is off

If there are any strange particles floating around in it, or it smells strange, throw it out and open a new bottle.

The three main factors to affect your gin over time are:

  • Light. Light or UV light, in particular, will contribute to breaking down flavor molecules like pinene, limonene, and terpene.
  • Temperature / Heat. Heat speeds up reactions. Reactions like the breakdown of flavor compounds. Heat also has the added effect of causing evaporation. This isn’t a concern if the lid is on, but if the lid is loose, the alcohol will evaporate off long before the water does.
  • Oxygen. Oxidization can’t happen without oxygen. The more oxygen in the bottle, the more this can happen and the quicker flavors will change.

What Causes Gin to go Bad

If exposed to the sun for a while, the color will begin to change. Temperature can degrade a molecule called terpene, altering the flavor.

Evaporation can also take place, once you open the bottle and start to drink it, that is usually when the taste degrades. Especially if it is left in the bright light or the cap is left off. If the taste changes markedly, don’t drink it tip it out. Gin will usually only deteriorate if not consumed within one year of opening and this is because oxidization takes place.

How to Best Store an Unopened Bottle of Gin

If you can, store your unopened Gin at a temperature between 55-60 degrees as keeping it in a relatively cool, low light place preserves the gin for longer You might have a liquor cabinet in an old sideboard, and this is the ideal place, as bright light can affect the quality of the gin.

Some people are lucky enough to have a cellar, and if you have one store your gin down there.

According to some New Zealand experts, you should keep your Gin well chilled in the fridge, the reason is that it should never be drunk at room temperature. To many of us, just adding some ice cools it enough. The expert went on to explain that cooling the gin softens the perception of alcohol on the taste, making it easier to drink!

Is it Safe to Drink an Old Bottle of Gin?

Gin is mostly in clear bottles, this makes it even more important to store them away from UV light that can penetrate the glass and change the flavor.

As your Gin is not going to improve with age drink it within a year to get the best taste. When unopened and away from light can last comfortably for 5 years or more.

Though the flavor compounds may change, it will not become dangerous. There’s also no chance of bacterial infection as the high alcohol content will kill any bugs.

Although this is not actually dangerous, it would not taste as fresh and clean, but you could still drink it without ill effects as the alcohol levels can’t change like that of whisky.

Making Gin at Home

If you are creating your own Gin at home stick to a tried and true recipe. Gin is made from Juniper berries, coriander seed, and other botanicals for flavor like angelica root, cinnamon, cardamom and many more.  

Juniper berries are commonly grown in the Northern Hemisphere as they prefer a cool climate, and they are the berry that gives the Gin its amazing flavor, although recipes do vary the Juniper berry is always in gin.

Does Gin Improve with Age

Unlike wine, your Gin will not improve with age, but we have established that it can be kept unopened for years, under the right conditions.

Last year there was a large increase in Gin sales. The value of Gin in the UK rose 24%, maybe due to the COVID19 lockdowns. There are still 441 distilleries in the UK, so there is plenty of Gin to go around.

Interestingly the country ranked highest in Gin drinking is Spain, with Belgium ranked second and the UK fourth.

Conclusion

For many of us, Gin is our favorite drink, and now Summer is here we wouldn’t be without it. We can certainly be more creative about how we serve it than our parents were. As most people now know that Gin goes with so many different mixers and fruit juices, as long as we have the ice we are ready to party.

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