When Bill and I bottle our Bourbon, I want to use a screw cap bottle. I want this because I plan to keep several bottles for a long time for drinking in the future. I would also like to keep a couple of bottles around for after I am gone and Matt and friends can have a drink to remember me on my birthday. However, I hope to be around another twenty years or more, so the bottles need a good seal and corks don’t always deliver on that account. Here are the main reasons why I prefer screw cap bottles over corks:
- They are a better seal. When I get old bottles, those with screw caps have better fill levels of whiskey. A tighter seal means less of a chance for the whiskey to oxidize and go off-flavor. Natural corks break down and allow air in the bottle and the whiskey can start to oxidize.
- Screw caps don’t break when they open. Corks in old bottles often break and bits of cork drop into the whiskey when not removed properly. This means you often have to filter the whiskey through cheesecloth to remove the cork and then you have to find another cork to re-seal the bottle. The new cork then has a chance of breaking as it dries out and you may have to do it all over again.
- Screw caps don’t have a chance of cork taint. Cork taint happens when bacteria in the cork that creates a musty, nasty flavor in the whiskey. It is more common in wine, but I have had whiskey that suffered from cork taint many years ago. I had one bottle of Buffalo Trace that was so bad with cork taint when I opened it for the first time, I poured it in the sink without even finishing the first drink. Elmer T. Lee was horrified when I told him about it and gave me a new bottle to replace the one I poured out. It is rare that this happens, but it does happen.
- Screw caps are easier to open and to re-seal. I hate struggling with tight corks. I always fear the cork is going to break. I would much rather unscrew a cap than hassle with a cork.
- Finally, screw caps are cheaper than corks and I would rather have less expense in the bottling process. I want to keep the expense down so we can charge a reasonable price for the Bourbon.
There are rubber or plastic “corks” available, but for me the jury is still out on how well they work to replace corks as seals for bottles. They are fine for the short run, but I fear that the long time use may have drawbacks. My questions about them are many. Will they last as long as a screw cap, preventing evaporation? Will the rubber eventually start to impart a flavor to the whiskey after twenty years or more? Will the chemicals used to make these “corks” have other bad effects on the whiskey? I don’t know the answer to these questions and only time will tell. I think it is better to play it safe and use a screw cap on these bottles.
I know people associate the pop of a cork with good quality whiskey, but I can do without that vanity. A screw cap bottle does an excellent job of sealing a whiskey bottle and I prefer practicality over style with my whiskey. I will judge a whiskey by the quality of the product in the bottle. If people are going to judge a whiskey poorly because it has a screw cap, I think that just shows they are ignorant of the facts. I prefer a screw cap over corks.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl and Rosemary Miller