What Does a Whiskey Decanter Do? Quite a Lot Actually

What does a whiskey decanter do? Primarily, it adds class, style and perhaps even luxury to an already sophisticated drink. There are other, secondary things a whiskey decanter does. It allows you to separate the whiskey from the sediment, it can help preserve your whiskey, it’s a natural place for storing your own blends, and if necessary, it allows you to keep the precise whiskey being drunk, a mystery.

It also looks great on your … well wherever you’re going to store it.

Now some people ask this question because wine decanters have a flavor-enhancing function whereas whiskey decanters do not, and since enhancing flavor is a matter of supreme importance for whiskey drinkers, it may not be immediately clear why one would be interested in an item that has no effect on a whiskey’s flavor at all.

But with all the above mentioned uses you may find you want one or even two whiskey decanters after all.

So, what does a whiskey decanter do? Quite a lot actually.

A butler serving whiskey from a decanter

What Does a Whiskey Decanter Not Do?

Whiskey decanters do not help enhance the flavor of the whiskey.

This is in contrast with wine decanters that do. When wine is decanted (which is just a fancy word meaning to slowly pour from one vessel to another) it is aerated. Oxygen gets to the wine and it opens up the aromas and flavors.

This does not happen in whiskey because it has less tannins than wine and more alcohol content. It is the tannins whose flavors can dramatically change over time so whiskey, being low in tannins, will maintain its flavor. Also, a higher alcohol content makes something much more resistant to change – as I’ve tried to explain to my wife many times but apparently that’s not a good excuse for all my bad habits.

Any affect air will have on whiskey can be achieved when it’s poured into a good whiskey glass and given a swirl or two.

A cursory look at both wine and whiskey decanters will confirm all this.

Wine decanters are specifically designed and shaped to increase oxidization. They usually have no stopper which means more opportunity for air to get to the wine and a large bowl for as much surface area of wine as possible to touch the air. In contrast whiskey decanters, not constrained to being the best shape for enhancing the flavor of its contents, have a greater degree of design flexibility and are built for stability, class and beauty.

A Whiskey Decanter Adds Class and Style to an Already Sophisticated Drink

The most important thing a whiskey decanter does is to add class and style to your whiskey drinking, an activity which is already pretty sophisticated.

After all, your whiskey has been aging in a barrel for perhaps decades, you’re going to use a specially designed whiskey nosing glass to help you open up and detect all the aromas and flavors and you’re going to savour and appreciate all the complex nuances of your whiskey. That’s quite classy and stylish to begin with. Storing a drink of such caliber in a container that reflects its grandeur can only add to it.

Now all you need is someone to serve it to you.

And ironically, it may be that storing whiskey in a beautiful, probably expensive, crystal whiskey decanter adds style and class not only because it’s a beautiful, probably expensive, crystal whiskey decanter, but because it’s a beautiful, probably expensive, crystal whiskey decanter that you do not need for flavor-enhancing purposes. This makes it a super luxury and an extravagance. What else screams class and style more than that?

Well, a Lamborghini I suppose. And a private airplane. A private island. Perhaps a knighthood. Ok fine, but you get the point.

And if you need any proof of this just look at every movie you’ve ever seen, where lawyers, politicians, businessmen, action heroes, spies, evil villains trying to take over the world, and anyone trying to look like they have class and sophistication, pour whiskey from decanters.

What does a whiskey decanter do? While a wine decanter enhances the flavor of the wine, a whiskey decanter enhances the class and sophistication of drinking whiskey.

Whiskey Decanters Allow You to Separate the Whiskey From the Sediment

There are in fact, two reasons to decant any liquid. The first, aeration, we’ve already discussed. The second is to separate the liquid from any sediment that might be at the bottom of the bottle.

Sediment is a problem because its acidity and bitterness will affect the taste of your drink and because it’s simply not pleasant to see small flecks of material floating about in your drink.

Many whiskeys don’t need decanting, although some older ones or certain port whiskies do. Pouring such whiskeys into a decanter will keep the sediment in the bottle and not in your glass. That way the visual appeal and the taste of your whiskey will be maintained.

A Whiskey Decanter Can Help You Preserve Your Whiskey

While whiskey doesn’t need oxidization to bring out its flavors, if it’s continually exposed to oxygen, it will begin to evaporate. The lost whiskey is called the ‘angel’s share’.

Now there’s no need to panic and worry about all your whiskey disappearing because it’s a slow process and even though it’s not clear how long it takes because of the various factors involved, including but not limited to climate and humidity, we’re still looking at months not hours or minutes.

So it’s not a huge problem, but if you think the angels have had quite enough – remember they get plenty during the aging process – then you can keep your whiskey in a decanter with an airtight seal.

It’s important to know that some airtight seals are more airtight than others, with some not being airtight at all and just a loose-fitting lid.

This may be especially true if all or part of the stopper is of a different material to the decanter itself. Since glass expands and contracts as the temperature changes, you’ll want a seal that does the same, otherwise air will seep in. You also won’t want a seal made from organic material as it may dry out over time, deteriorate and ruin you whiskey, which is doubly annoying when that happens as a result of you trying to preserve it.

Whether or not you choose to keep your whiskey in a bottle, decanter, or decanter with an airtight stopper, just don’t forget about the possibility of evaporation. It’s a very useful tool when someone asks you why there is less whiskey in the bottle than they remember.

A Whiskey Decanter Is a Natural Place for Storing Your Own Blends

Whiskey blending is an art whose skills take years of experience to acquire. Distilleries blend anything from 15 to 50 single whiskeys in precise formulaic proportions that are highly kept secrets, to produce a whiskey of definite and recognizable character.

Now you may not have those skills yet, but how are you going to learn if you don’t get started. Whiskey drinking is about experimentation and finding the best flavors. This is just another option for you to try, where a whiskey decanter will come in handy for storing your creations.

Whiskey Decanters Allow You to Keep the Precise Whiskey Being Drunk, a Mystery

Maybe, for some inexplicable reason, you’re in possession of a lower quality whiskey. It’s not impossible. We all went through phases of not knowing any better. It could even be the result of a purchasing mistake or perhaps it came from a well-meaning friend who did not know any better.

It would certainly not be appropriate to waste it, but then again, you wouldn’t want your friends to know that you’re serving them with an inferior choice from your whiskey selection. The solution: a whiskey decanter.

And when you’re discovered doing this, you can put your best whiskeys in a decanter and be assured that your friends will refuse any when offered.

The non-devious reason for keeping your whiskey a mystery is so that the taste is not affected by knowing the brand name. Preconceived notions can be left to the side and less well-known whiskeys can be given the chance to be appreciated.

What Does a Whiskey Decanter Do? Primary and Secondary Functions

Now we’ve seen all the things a whiskey decanter can do, it’s important to point out that they can be divided into primary and secondary functions, with the adding of class and style being the most important function of a whiskey decanter while all the others more minor ones.

This is for two reasons. The first is because whiskey decanters will always add class and style, but they will only be useful in one of the other ways under certain circumstances.

Secondly, it’s because all the minor functions can be achieved with virtually any container, whereas adding class and style can only be done with a whiskey decanter. It’s just once you have one, it does all these other things too.

What to Look for When Buying a Whiskey Decanter

Having said all the above it’s obvious that when buying a whiskey decanter, you should look for two things. That is has class and style and an airtight seal. But there are three other things to look for too.

  1. Affordable Price

Whiskey decanters can be pretty expensive but there are some more affordable options too. I know this is meant to be a luxury and extravagance, but you don’t have to break the bank.

Besides, unless money isn’t an issue, you’ll need to decide whether the extra money for a super expensive whiskey decanter wouldn’t be better spent.

Say on a bottle of whiskey.

  1. The Right Size

If you want to be able to decant an entire bottle of whiskey, you’ll need a decanter that can store 750ml – the standard whiskey bottle size – if not more (I’ve just checked my collection and can see a few 1l bottles).

On the other hand, decanting your bottle into a smaller container may force you to finish off the rest, so swings and roundabouts.

  1. Lead-Free Crystal

Being lead free crystal is much more of an issue in decanters than glasses, because whiskey remains in decanters for a lot longer. The amount of lead that leeches into whiskey contained in a lead crystal glass may not worry some, but the amount of lead that leeches into whiskey contained in a lead crystal decanter should worry everyone and over time it will reach dangerous levels. Lead poisoning is something to be avoided.

Some Great Whiskey Decanters

Whiskey decanters come in all sorts of designs and shapes. You have the more classical square shape with the even more classical diamond and wedge cut, or decanters with an extra twist, concertina effect, or diamond shape. You even have those that are plain and simple but beautifully elegant.

Of course, some come with matching glasses because if there’s one thing that’s not classy and stylish it’s pouring from a classy and stylish decanter with one design and shape into a classy and stylish whiskey glass with another.

Paksh Decanter & Whisky Glasses Set

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MILBURGA Whiskey Decanter & Glasses Set

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Maketh The Man Whiskey Decanter & Glasses Set

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The Wine Savant Diamond Whiskey Decanter & Glasses Set

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Paksh Capitol Glass Decanter

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There are also more unique decanters that are not classy and stylish in the way you would expect. Their sophistication comes from their uniqueness. For example, a decanter with an etched globe design and antique ship in the bottle or one mounted on a wooden airplane. There are novelty decanters in the shape of a rife and even decanters with a tap dispenser, so you don’t have to lift it to pour yourself a glass of whiskey.

Now that’s what I call luxury.

Godinger Whiskey Decanter & Glasses Globe Set

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Godinger Whiskey Decanter & Glasses Airplane Set

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Godinger Gun Whiskey Decanter & Glasses Set

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Jillmo Whiskey Decanter & Glasses Set

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So, at the end of the day, when all is said and done what does a whiskey decanter do? Well it adds class and style to the whole whiskey drinking experience. Without a flavor-enhancing function there’s more flexibility in their design and shape, so they look beautiful and are exactly what your higher quality whiskeys deserve.

Whiskey decanters have several secondary functions too. They  let you separate the whiskey from the sediment, if it has an air-tight seal it will prevent your whiskey evaporating, it will give you somewhere to store your own whiskey blends, and it lets you keep the precise whiskey being drunk, a mystery.

What do you do if you like more than one whiskey decanter design?

The same thing you do if you like more than one type of whiskey.

That’s called solving two problems in one go.

You’re welcome.

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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