When’s the Best Time to Drink Whiskey? Apart From Now

Of course, one should never push off doing anything especially if it’s drinking whiskey, but since almost anything can affect it, time included, it’s important to know when the best time for drinking whiskey is.

The best time to drink whiskey varies depending on why you’re drinking it. If you’re drinking whiskey to taste it, then the best time to do so is late morning. If you’re drinking whiskey to relax, then the best time to do so is early evening. If you’re drinking whiskey to celebrate a special occasion, then the best time to do so is when your friends are available.

There are of course, very good reasons for this as we shall see. We’ll also explain why after dinner is one of the best times to drink whiskey, and why before dinner is too. We’ll discuss when the best time to drink whiskey before it oxidizes is and the worst times to drink whiskey.

The sun behind a bottle of whiskey

The Best Time to Drink Whiskey Depends on Why You’re Drinking

There’s no single best time to drink whiskey that applies to everyone under all circumstances. It will always depend on why you’re drinking whiskey in the first place. Here are the reasons for drinking whiskey, the best times for doing so and why:

Drinking Whiskey for Tasting

Now most people drink whiskey to taste the flavors. It’s one of the reasons why whiskey is so popular. But by tasting I mean really tasting. You know, the swirling, smelling, sipping, tasting, breathing, taking your time and copious notes type of tasting to really pick up every aroma and flavor. Not the sitting in front of the TV relaxing and enjoying some of the flavors of your favorite whiskey type of tasting.

If you’re trying to really taste your whiskey, then the best time to drink whiskey is late morning. Formal taste evaluations occur between 10am – 11am. This is because your palate is clean and at its most sensitive. It’s also not tired and neither are you. In fact, you’re quite alert. Both your taste buds and your mind are relaxed at this time. Your palate is able to taste all the flavors and your mind is able to concentrate on detecting them.

Tasting later in the day isn’t recommended because you’re likely to have palate fatigue making you less sensitive to the whiskey’s flavors, and you’re often not as engaged and less able to concentrate. Earlier in the day is also not the best time for drinking whiskey as you’re still just waking up and not yet fully alert and able to concentrate on what you’re tasting.

Another reason late morning is a good time to drink whiskey for tasting, is because it’s between meals. If you’re full it can make whiskey aromas less attractive and being too hungry will make you unable to concentrate. Being a little hungry is best as it makes your palate more receptive to flavors. That way it’s easier to taste them in the whiskey.

However, some argue that we’re more attuned to aromas and flavors later in the day, so it could be a personal thing. Try both and see which suits you better. The key is to drink whiskey when your palate is not tired and can pick up all the whiskey’s flavors, and when you’re alert and able to concentrate.

Drinking Whiskey for Relaxation

Two glasses of whiskey left out

If you’re not in the mood for a full-on tasting session and just want a flavorful drink with which you can unwind, then whenever you’re ready to relax will be the best time to drink whiskey. This is often early evening when people come home from work and are ready to put the stresses of the day behind them.

It may also be late evening, just before going to bed. In fact, some claim drinking whiskey before bed helps you fall asleep sooner, increases the quality of your sleep and reduces stress so that when you wake in the morning, you’ll be fresh and stress free.

This is definitely a personal thing and you should do what works best for you.

Drinking Whiskey to Celebrate an Occasion

If there’s a special occasion we often break out the whiskey. The reverse can also be true. If we want to break out the whiskey, we often create a special occasion. Either way, the best time to drink whiskey to celebrate a special occasion, is when your friends are available to celebrate with you.

Is After Dinner the Best Time to Drink Whiskey?

After dinner is one of the best times to drink whiskey. The truth is that before dinner is also one of the best times to drink whiskey.

Drinking whiskey after dinner is good because having food in your stomach causes the alcohol to be absorbed more slowly. You’ll be less likely to get drunk and more able to enjoy the flavors. It can also be more relaxing than drinking before dinner.

However, some people feel nauseous when drinking whiskey on a full stomach and so prefer to drink their whiskey before dinner. This has another advantage in that you won’t have just eaten causing the flavors of the food to get in the way of you tasting the flavors of the whiskey.

To me it seems that a happy compromise is in order. One drink of whiskey before dinner and one after. And one more a little later.

The Best Time to Drink Whiskey Is Before It Oxidizes

Fortunately, whiskey is very unlikely to go bad. That’s because it contains anywhere between 40%ABV – 68%ABV and the high alcohol level helps preserve it.

However, whiskey can oxidize. Oxidation is when oxygen binds to one chemical compound turning it into another. When oxygen gets into your whiskey it will change the compounds and therefore the flavor. Precisely how the flavor of your whiskey will change can’t be predicted. It may be for the better, it may be for the worse, but if you’ve got a good quality (and not a cheap) bottle of whiskey, it’s not worth taking the risk.

As soon as you open a bottle of whiskey it starts to oxidize. It’s true that keeping the cork or lid tightly sealed will slow this process but after anywhere from six months to two years, the taste of your whiskey will start to change.

You might think this is plenty of time, but that’s without taking into account the headspace. The more whiskey you drink the more air there will be inside the bottle. This is called the headspace. With a greater air to whiskey ratio, the rate of oxidation will be quicker, and the taste of your whiskey will change sooner. Tightly sealing your bottle does nothing about the air inside it.

A half finished bottle of Kentucky bourbon

You can transfer your whiskey to smaller bottles or decanters to slow the rate of oxidation – many people do exactly that, but if you don’t you should bear in mind the following: An inch or two of headspace won’t have much effect on a whiskey’s taste for at least a year but since most bottles of whiskey have (for obvious reasons) a continuously increasing amount of headspace this amount of time is continuously decreasing. When three quarters of the bottle is air, the quality will degrade in about a month.

Therefore, the best time to drink a quarter full bottle of whiskey is within a month. That’s plenty of time, but if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask your friends.

As for a full bottle of whiskey whose contents are decreasing steadily, if you want to enjoy it at its peak, where it hasn’t had time to oxidize at all, the best time to drink it is within a few months of opening it.

The Worst Times to Drink Whiskey

Now we know the best times to drink whiskey it’s also important to know the worst times to drink whiskey. There are a few of them.

When You’re in a Rush

One of the worst times to drink whiskey is when you’re in a rush. It can take 20 – 30 minutes to drink a glass of whiskey in a way that allows you to appreciate all its flavors, even more if it’s of very high quality and particularly flavorful. Also, you may want to let your glass of whiskey sit out for an additional 10 or 20 minutes before even starting to drink it, as that opens up the flavors. So being in a rush means it’s not a good time to drink whiskey.

When You’re Tired

As mentioned earlier, one of the worst times to drink whiskey is when you’re tired. Being tired makes your palate less sensitive to flavors and your mind less focused on picking them up. This includes times you’ve just spent an hour and a half to two hours tasting whiskey. You will get some flavors so it’s not the end of the world, but if you’re drinking your highest quality most expensive whiskey you may want to wait until you and your palate are more alert.

When You’ve Consumed Something With a Strong Taste

If you’ve just consumed food or drink with a strong taste it will also be a bad time to drink whiskey. If you’ve just had a coffee or mint or if you’ve just been smoking, your ability to taste the flavors of the whiskey will be diminished. This is also true if you’re in a particularly smelly environment as the aromas will affect you and the whiskey. You need a neutral environment and neutral palate to be able to taste whiskey properly.

Josh Mitchell

I'm Josh Mitchell. I love whiskey and am working on increasing my whiskey tasting abilities and my collection.

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