Is It Okay To Store Bourbon And Whiskey In A Plastic Bottle?

Storing your whiskey the wrong way can turn a great bottle of bourbon into an unpalatable slog that you'll be quicker to pour down the drain than your gullet. There are lots of factors to consider, sunlight, temperature, and exposure to air being a few. But something to keep in mind is the bottle itself. Most whiskey comes in a glass bottle, but not all. Plastic is a common choice for bottom-shelf whiskey as a way to cut costs. So does that mean storing whiskey in plastic is okay?

The answer is somewhat complicated but the general consensus is to avoid plastic bottles if you can help it, especially if you're planning on storing the bottle for more than a year. Alcohol is a solvent, meaning it can be used to dissolve other substances. But don't worry, whiskey isn't a strong enough solvent to eat away at your Dixie cup before the night is through.

The primary question we should be asking is if the alcohol in your whiskey is going to dissolve the plastic in the bottle. The question is complicated by the fact that plastic is a general term covering many different materials. Without getting too technical, some plastics are better at handling alcohol than others. The plastic in bottles of whiskey is better than the flimsy plastic in disposable water bottles, for example. So if you need a container and all you have is plastic, opt for a sturdier type of plastic if you can.

The plastic dilemma

The science behind how bourbon and whiskey interact with plastic isn't fleshed out all that well. There's plenty of science about how a specific type of plastic holds up to various chemicals but most of the chemicals being studied aren't being researched for taste. Nobody is worried about storing whiskey in plastic because they think the bottle is going to disappear. What they're primarily worried about is the flavor of the whiskey being altered. Common wisdom among whiskey collectors is that plastic does alter the flavor of the whiskey in a big way. For low-quality whiskey, this doesn't matter that much since you're probably mixing it with something to mask the flavor anyway, but high-quality whiskey is a different matter.

There is also a fear that if alcohol dissolves the plastic and you drink it, you're essentially digesting bits of plastic or other harmful chemicals. That fear is not unfounded. That said, the degree to which drinking whiskey from plastic is harmful isn't that different from regularly drinking anything else from plastic such as water or milk. The trend of using BPA-free plastic for food products is in response to this issue.

Just a reminder, though, that alcohol itself isn't exactly healthy and that if you are choosing to imbibe, you are accepting the health consequences that come with it. The health risks of plastic should be kept in mind, but they aren't drastically more consequential for your health than the whiskey itself.