• Mar 16, 2016
  • 0 comments
  • by Nick Rose

When buying any alcohol, whether for enjoyment or investment, one of the most important factors in maintaining quality and value is how you store it. All types of alcohol can spoil though spirits such as tequila are far hardier than those alcohols with lower proofs. There are four major factors that can lead to spoilage in your tequila

  • Sunlight
  • Heat
  • Air
  • Contaminants

 

Storing Tequila: Sunlight

Sunlight affects all types of alcohol from fermented to distilled by directly altering or breaking down the hydrocarbon structure. Often when beer, wine or spirits spoil in a household it is due to direct sunlight accelerating the deterioration that naturally occurs from opening a bottle.

People have been attempting to limit the Sun's effects for centuries by storing their tequila in earthenware jars or coloured glass bottles. The colours green and brown inhibit the affect of certain frequencies of the sunlight radiation spectrum and as such are used for alcohols with live yeast and low alcohol proof such as beer or wine.

In the case of spirits the higher alcoholic content often protects the liquid from breaking down in direct sunlight but prolonged exposure, especially with opened bottles, can still cause or accelerate spoilage. For spirits like tequila the affect of sunlight on its own is almost negligible as an open bottle will be drunk well before sunlight can noticeably affect it.

For investment purposes however, sunlight damage to labels, boxes and seals will often be used to downgrade value at an auction or collection house. As such one should always keep rare spirits in their original box in a cool, dark place away from damp and other contaminant risks. The best place to store investment spirits of any kind will invariably be secure wine storage or bonds warehouses that have these issues built into their design.

 

Storing Tequila: Heat

 

Heat affects alcohol by forcing the chemical structure to change and some elements to evaporate or separate from the liquid as a whole. With high proof alcohols this can often result in ethyl esters breaking down and fusel alcohols developing or becoming more prominent. You may also notice a decrease in the alcoholic content due to evaporation, especially if seals are broken or have malfunctioned in some way.

A great way to see how alcohol is affected by heat is to pour five measures of alcohol into a saucepan and very slowly expose it to low heat on a stovetop. Pour off a measure at 10, 25, 40, 60 and 80 degrees celsius respectively and taste them in a tasting glass. Note the changes in flavour, often you will find certain spirits becoming extremely pleasant up to 40 celsius but soon flavours are lost and the overwhelming smell of evaporating alcohol ruins the experience.

Alcohol will evaporate at any temperature but it boils at a mere 79 degrees celsius. Any prolonged exposure to temperatures above 24 degrees celsius can noticeably affect the quality and alcoholic strength of any spirit as heat will accelerate any evaporation process. Even in a sealed bottle the separation that will occur in the alcoholic structure will result in a noticeably poorer product.

All alcohol, opened or otherwise, should be stored in a cool dark place away from damp. For investments, any recorded or traceable exposure to heat will instantly render the product worthless.

 

Storing Tequila: Air

 

The very air we breathe can 'kill' alcohol flavours and oxidise those with lower alcoholic strengths. For tequila and other spirits it is not such an issue as the distillation process creates a product that does not contain elements that can easily oxidise.

However once a bottle has been opened it cannot be stored without resealing it or you will lose both alcoholic strength and desirable aromatic compounds. This is mainly due to the already mentioned nature of alcoholic evaporation.

The solution is simple, reseal the bottle once you finish using it. If you have lost the lid or cap then pour the spirit into a traditional spirit decanter or jar and seal it with a stopper to prevent evaporation. It goes without saying that unsealed bottles hold no value for investment.

 

Storing Tequila: Contaminants 

 

Contaminants can rage from degraded corks and sealing wax to mould blooms and foreign substances. Depending on the alcohol we are talking about each contaminant has its own risks.

For high proof spirits like tequila the most important issues would be foreign substances and degraded seals. The nature of alcohol is that it can extract certain flavour and taste components of anything it comes into contact with, the higher the proof the stronger the extraction.

Cocktail bitters and flavoured spirits such as bacon whisky or skittles vodka are great examples of this issue in action. Whilst high sugar and high fat products can create amazing flavour transformations, there is nothing more repellant than rubber or cork steeping in your spirit until that is all you can taste and smell.

I myself have had entire batches of bitters and spirits spoiled by doing something as simple as using a rubber-sealed jar instead of a metal or plastic sealed jar. The slightest change to what is present in the alcohol can dramatically affect the flavour profile. Tequila also has the added benefit of being the fruit-fly's drink of choice and yes, you do taste the dead bug in your glass.

The solution is also a simple one; keep any spirit you care about away from insects and other potential contaminants. Proper sealing is always important with any alcohol. Contaminants in investment alcohols will also render them of little or no value.

 

So when it comes to looking after tequila: seal it properly, store it in a cool, dark place and don't let it anywhere near fruit-flies.

 

Tequila worth holding onto:

 

 

*Originally published in the Spirit Journal for tastings by The Booze Baron