There is some debate on whether a whiskey decanter has any effect on the quality of whiskey or is it just for good looks in the whiskey cabinet. Let’s make it clear: I don’t care if someone buys a whiskey decanter just for the pure pleasure of owning one. Especially a beautifully designed whiskey decanter. There is something great in owning one. Giving you the feel of the 1950’s household or the world of Mad Men or Rat Pack – whatever is your favorite vintage scenery. But as a whisky enthusiast, it is fun to examine the real benefits of each part of the enthusiasm. This time I’m concentrating on whiskey decanters.
Whiskey decanter set looks great I know
Before I go on about the sensible reasons for getting a whiskey decanter (there really are none), let me show you couple of good looking whiskey decanter sets. That’s right, a set is what you have to get when buying a whiskey decanter. They usually come in sets, or at least it’s good to get a set of matching whiskey glasses for the decanter.
One great product from Amazon is the Wine Enthusiast Ambassador Whiskey Decanter, because in the whiskey decanter set are some nosing glasses included. Usually you’ll get tumbler glasses with whiskey decanter sets, so for a enthusiast this set might feel better. Of course I am pro tumbler as well, tumbler or a nosing glass, both are fine for whiskey drinking.
Another nice looking whiskey decanter set is Ravenscroft Crystal Taylor Double Old Fashioned Decanter Set. It comes with traditional whiskey tumblers and the design of the whiskey decanter is absolutely great. Very stylish and simple design, simple is just what I like.
These both decanters are very much alike. Ravenscroft just prefers tumblers over nosing glasses, both are a fine selection when thinking of design and usability.
If you want to buy a luxurious whiskey decanter set. Something unique with clever and stunning design: Diamond Whiskey Decanter is your choice! This set looks amazing, the price tag is luxurious too but if you have a bigger budget (like buying for your spouse), then this is the way to go. The decanter’s diamond shape is made by craftsmen in Kentucky and the design includes handcrafted wooden base and diamond shaped whiskey glasses.
Amazon offers lots of whiskey decanter sets. Feel free to select the most suitable one for you. You can also buy a single whiskey decanter without the glasses and look for suitable glasses for the decanter from here.
Basics of decanting alcoholic drinks
Decanting wine is also debatable but there is a function behind it. Decanting wine removes sediment and encourages oxidation. So theoretically decanting allows the wine to “open up” through exposure to oxygen. How much exposure a wine requires, is still under debate, but everybody accepts the fact that decanting wine will change it for better or ill.
With whiskey, the beliefs change a bit. Many people don’t think that whiskey can change after oxidation. It is true that exposure to oxygen won’t change whiskey as radically as it changes wine. The belief is backed up because whiskey, once bottled, is a finished product. A 10 year old whiskey will remain 10 years old, no matter how long you keep in the cabinet. After a hundred years it will still be 10 years old. Whiskey will will oxidize, but in a much slower time than wine because of two factors:
- Tannins: wine has more tannin content than whiskey, it occurs naturally in the grape and borrowed from the barrel (though whiskey gets tannin notes from the barrel as well). Tannins can cause change in the wine bottle over time. For example a harshly tannic wine now might get mellow over years, if you can wait patiently or drink other wines while letting it get some air. Whiskey has only few tannins so the evolutions of flavor is not big over time. But whiskey will change with oxidation, believe me. I speak out of experience. It won’t change so rapidly and radically, as wine.
- Alcohol content: more important than tannin, high alcohol per volume has a big effect. Wines may have an ABV of 11 or 15% or a bit higher, but whiskeys are bottled at 40% or higher. With so high alcohol content, there is no room for dramatic chemical reactions out of oxidation. But like I stated before, whiskey too can change over time, especially when exposed to sunlight. And through oxidation. Some people think that the change in whiskeys taste is because of the high alcohol content changes the drinkers own palate. Well, that is true too, but believe me. Oxidation has an effect on whiskey. Peated whiskey for example, will lose its smoke aromas over time in an open bottle or decanter.
So mostly a whiskey decanter is just for looks. But any whiskey enthusiast knows that whiskey changes when given air. That’s why you should put whiskey into a decanter if you want it to change. Or you know that it will change dramatically over time. Because in a whiskey decanter, even though the caps are usually more airtight than in wine decanters, the whiskey will probably change more than in a bottle.
The difference shows in the decanter designs very well. Wine decanters have a design which encourages interaction between liquid and air. Usually there is no cap, and the design is something which is easily breakable. Whiskey decanters tend to be built stronger. They have stability, usually with a wide bottom. Whiskey decanters often are impressive. Like stated before, air is not a major factor but it does have an effect through longer period of time. That’s why whiskey decanters always have a tight cap on. Because whiskey is supposed to be decanted for a longer period of time, so the decanter has to be properly sealed, like in a whiskey bottle.
So what’s the purpose of a whiskey decanter? Some say it’s only aesthetics, I say it’s aesthetics and keeping the whiskeys character good (not getting too much oxidation). Of course the whiskey bottle already does the job of keeping whiskey nicely tight and sealed. So getting a whiskey decanter, aesthetics is the main reason. Whiskey decanters apparently did have a practical function, though. With them, people got their whiskey straight from barrel. Nowadays you just pick a whiskey decanter because you want to hide a cheap whiskey into some sparkling crystal. Just remember to be sure it isn’t a lead crystal decanter. You don’t want lead to be in contact with your whiskey. Of course it will take a while for lead to effect but with whiskey decanting, the time frame for keeping one whiskey in a decanter is also long.
What you should look for in a whiskey decanter?
It’s nice for the single malt Scotch or American whiskey bourbon to breathe. Even though the reality is: putting whiskey into a decanter is mostly just for looks – there’s also nothing wrong with that. It’s great to have a beautiful display for a good whiskey. If you decide to buy a whiskey decanter, take these two things for consideration:
- Make sure that the cork/cap has an tight seal – it won’t let air escape or enter. That’s when a whiskey decanter wont differ much from the original bottle
- Get a decanter big enough – at least 750 ml, which is usually bit bigger than the typical bottle (a bit more than 25 ounces). That makes sure your whiskey decanter is big enough for a whole bottle of whiskey.
Ralfy has some good points about whiskey decanters, check them out:
In this article I’ve been showing products from Amazon US but Amazon UK offers lots of good whiskey decanters as well, check them out below: