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Can Rum Go Bad?

There are quite a lot of people who are not quite sure whether or not rum can go bad.

They suspect it should be fine for years, as it’s one of the base spirits, which are very stable. And that’s true – rum can be stored for years and years and won’t go bad, unless you will store it in a bottle without its cap.

So in short, rum can go bad, but the chance of that actually happening is very slim. On the other hand, there are few things about storing rum you should be aware of, so if you’ll decide to store it for a couple of years, it will still be of the best possible quality after that time.

If you’re interested, read along!

Bottles of Bacardi gold rum
(credit: Anders Nord)

Storing rum

Rum should be stored like any other spirit – in a cool and dry place, possibly away from light. That’s all. Most people decide to store it in the pantry or in the cellar, as those are the best places. You can store it in the fridge, but it won’t help. Besides, our refrigerators are already overloaded, so there’s no point in trying to fit there yet another items.

Transferring the bottle of rum into the fridge a few hours before drinking is a good idea though, as most people prefer cold rum and quite a few add ice cubes to make the drink even colder.

To recap: we store rum in the pantry/cellar, doesn’t matter if the bottle is still unopened or not.

Plantation - Barbados rum
(credit: Malte Wingen)

After opening the bottle, the thing to remember is to always keep the bottle tightly sealed when not in use. Do not ever store it with a pourer on. Sealing the bottle helps with two things. First: any contaminants won’t be able to get into the bottle and possibly spoil (that’s extremely unlikely to happen, but possible) the rum. Besides, you won’t want to drink anything that has some strange impurities in it, would you?

The second thing is that it diminishes the evaporation effect. As alcohol evaporates quicker than water, so the rum (after opening the bottle) starts becoming milder with time. If you would keep the bottle with the pourer on, this process would proceed much faster.

One more tip – if the bottle is less than half full, it’s a good idea to pour the rum into another, smaller bottle. More empty space in the bottle equals quicker change of taste (and therefore loss of quality). Of course, if you plan to empty that bottle within a few weeks, there’s no need to pour the alcohol into a smaller bottle, as few weeks aren’t enough to significantly change the quality of the drink.

Shelf life of rum

As mentioned earlier, rum will be safe to drink for many, many years. Basically, its shelf life is indefinite if stored properly.

As you know by now, after opening the bottle, the rum starts to slowly lose its taste (depending on how it’s stored, how much liquid is in the bottle, etc.). Because of that, it’s recommended to drink the rum within a couple of years after opening. The faster the better, obviously.

If you’ve stored an already opened bottle of rum for several years, it won’t go bad (if it was sealed), but there’s a possibility you’d choose to discard it because of the quality. In other words, you won’t be happy about its taste.

How to tell if rum is bad

This one is quite easy – you will know. If you’ll notice some impurities in the bottle, change of color or radical change of smell, it’s better to discard the liquid. If it looks fine, taste it. In almost all cases it will be safe to drink, although in not every case you’ll be satisfied with its taste (especially, if you’re stored it for a couple of years already).

A bottle of rum
(credit: jenny downing)

Rum can go bad, although it’s almost impossible to happen (but it can). If you’ll store it properly (sealed with its cap after opening the bottle), it will be fine for many years and going bad isn’t an option really.