Why does wine mature in the bottle but whisky does not?

In this article I will try and explain the differences in how wine and whisky react to being in a bottle.

What is the story with wine?


Wine is produced from the fermentation of grapes and is bottled after a relatively short period in barrels. The liquid which is bottled is high in sugar so in the closed environment of a bottle the fermentation process will continue.

This process will change the flavour of the wine over time in the bottle. It is a myth to say though that all wine will mature and get better with age. Just as with whisky there is such a thing as over aging or poor aging which is detrimental to the quality of the alcohol.

What is the story with whisky?


Whisky as described in my article How is Scotch Malt Whisky Made? is a distilled product which therefore has a low sugar content and a high alcohol content. This makes it inherently stable without any energy to continue fermenting in the bottle.

This is not to say though that whisky does not change in the bottle. This is especially true after the bottle has been opened or if the seal from the lid has not been sufficiently tight. Whisky will change through oxidisation as more of the whisky comes into contact with the atmosphere. Just like with wine this process can benefit the whisky through “opening up” the flavours but eventually it will lead to a deterioration of flavour complexity which is sometimes called making the whisky taste “flat”.

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