Put a cork in it

Pax Arcana

Here the answer to a question I’ve never wondered about: The last dram from a bottle of Scotch is less potent than the first. The reason? Scientology.

Oops. I mean science.

giant-cork.jpgThe Scotch Blog begins with a simple question submitted by a reader:

Does the alcohol content of my whisky decrease as I near the bottom of the bottle?

I ask this because (1) there seems to be less alcohol burn as I wind through the bottle and (2) because alcohol being a light, fairly volatile liquid, could be in vapor form at the top of the bottle and released when I remove the cork.

Kevin, the eminent Scotch blogger himself, runs the question by a number of master distillers and discovers that yes, alcohol burns off of Scotch into the air above. If the bottle stays open a long time, that alcohol evaporates freely into the living room. Even if the bottle is closed, though, the emptier the bottle, the more headspace of air for alcohol to evaporate into. Unseal your bottle and the alcohol goes floating away.

Or as Dave Pickerell, master distiller at Maker’s Mark, says:

If the bottle is tightly sealed, only a relatively small amount of alcohol will evaporate … and then an equilibrium condition will set up where alcohol evaporates and condenses at the same rate and the concentration of alcohol in the vapor state is constant throughout the space…. it will not stratify… The proof in the liquid will remain essentially unchanged. Even if the bottle is opened and partially consumed, and then tightly re-sealed, this same equilibrium will be achieved, and there will be essentially no proof reduction … even as the liquid volume decreases. (Theoretically, there might be a minuscule proof reduction here, but I don’t think you could notice it).

Of course, if you are really worried about losing any of the good stuff evaporating into the air between the booze and the cap, there is a quick solution. Anyone know the answer?

Perry, put your hand down. Let’s give someone else in the class a chance to answer. Anyone? No?

OK, let’s let Chris Morris, master distiller at Brown Forman, answer:

If you desire to return the alcohol vapor to the spirit you would have to chill the bottle to condense it. That of course is not standard storage procedure. I wouldn’t worry about it.

WWW – the Weakening Whisky WoundTable [The Scotch Blog]


Filed under booze

7 responses to “Put a cork in it

  1. i remember chris morris from the days back when he was breaking backboards in brendan byrne arena for the nets wearing his reebok pumps. i think i still have a piece of the glass somewhere in my archives. glad to see his life after basketball is going well.

  2. Man, that’s just not fair. Hatin’ on me just ’cause I’m the most smartest and edumacated. Hope you drown in pompelmocello.

  3. Found a good use for the tangerinocello, by the way. I soaked some mire poix veggies in it and then jammed them (and some oranges) in and around a dead chicken I found in the grocery store. Then I roasted that shit. Then I roasted some more mire poix veggies and the leftover chicken carcass, including neck and heart, for 40 minutes, dunked that whole mess in a big pot of water, and emerged an hour and a half later with some great chicken stock. The roasted veggies give it a dark hue. The tangerinocello may or may not do anything.

  4. Perry Ellis

    You is the second most smartest and edumacated man I know. I can has recipe?

  5. That was pretty much it.

  6. I like your version better than mine :)

  7. Awesome. Thanks Kevin!

    Now if you could pass the good word onto Coolio we’d be in business:


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