Personally I love whisky decanters and over the years have amassed quite a few. My collection includes one or two special ones that were wedding gifts, but for the most part my collection comprises simple, inexpensive, everyday decanters. I keep one permanently on the kitchen counter, so that it is always readily on hand.
What is decanting?
Decanting whisky is essentially the process of pouring (decanting) the contents from one vessel (typically a bottle) into another vessel (typically a decanter). Usually the whisky is then served from the decanter, but sometimes in a restaurant it is decanted back into the original bottle for service.
What is the purpose of a decanter for whiskey?
Not every whisky needs decanting. Many of us associate decanting with older vintage port whisky or aged – whisky that throw off a lot of sediment as they age. Decanting separates the whisky from the sediment, which not only would not look nice in your glass, but would also make the whisky taste more astringent. Slowly and carefully decanting the whisky ensures that the sediment stays in the bottle and you get a nice clear whisky in the decanter, and subsequently in your glass.
A second and more everyday reason to decant is to aerate the whisky. Many young whisky can be tight or closed on the nose or palate. As the whisky is slowly poured from the bottle to the decanter it takes in oxygen, which helps open up the aromas and flavors. Highly tannic and full-bodied whisky benefit most from this – whisky.
Opponents of decanting for aeration purposes argue that swirling the whisky in your glass has exactly the same effect and suggest that decanting can expose the whisky to too much oxygen, leading to oxidation and dissipation of aromas and flavor – which is what you don’t want to happen. Personally I disagree with this view, unless you are decanting a very old whisky, which is already very delicate and needs minimal oxygen exposure before drinking, or you decant the whisky hours and hours before you plan on drinking it.
Decanting white whisky – yes or no?
Most people probably don’t think about decanting white whisky. However, there are quite a few white whiskys that can really benefit from it, particularly higher-end whiskys that can age, as these can sometimes taste a bit awkward or gangly when first poured from the bottle. Decanting helps the whisky to open up. On the other hand most everyday young whites do not need decanting.
How long can you keep whiskey in a decanter?
If you’re using a decanter with an airtight seal, the spirits inside will last just as long as they would in the original glass alcohol container. For wine, that means only a few days, but vodka, brandy, and other spirits could last for years. Some types of decanters have a loose fitting glass stopper, which means the alcohol will slowly evaporate, but can still be stored worry-free for months.
Other carafes and decanters don’t have a stopper at all. For this type of container, pour only the amount you plan to drink that day.
What is a liquor decanter used for?
There are many different shapes and sizes when it comes to whiskey decanters. There is the square decanter style that is made of crystal or cut glass and comes with a stopper. Traditionally, liquors are served from this shape and style of decanters.
Another shape and style are rounded decanters which come in various shapes of round and various sizes with a spout. They are perfect for aerating and decanting wine from the bottle directly to the glass or a serving vessel.
Decanters are used for serving brandy, cognac or whiskey and are traditionally made from cut lead crystal. This style offers a way for fine liquor to be served with class and sophistication, even the less expensive brands! When served from a decanter that has a silver hanging label, it makes the contents look even more elegant. Unlike wine, there isn’t a need to decant and open up liquors. As such, when liquors are poured from a decanter, it is definitely nothing more than for sophistication.
If you are considering the use of decanters for storing your liquor or wine for a long time, it is recommended to avoid decanters made of crystal due to health concerns. Instead of lead, the decanters made today are made from crystal or glass and metal oxides. Still, no matter how beautiful a decanter may be, many people still prefer to pour their liquor from the bottle so they can see the label and compare one brand with another. But the beauty, glamor, and nostalgia are still in demand.
There are two reasons that people decant their wines. The first reason being that there is sometimes sediment in a bottle of wine and decanting wine allows sorts that sediment. The other reason that wine is decanted is to let it breathe and bring the flavor out.
Does Whisky go off in a decanter?
You know the scene: an important-seeming dude in a suit, or Jack Donaghy, pours himself a glass of whiskey from a crystal decanter, possibly staring out the window while contemplating a recent building-swap, or whatever business people do. Sure, he might not have made the right choices on the Nikkei that day. But what about that decanter? Is it actually a good choice for whiskey?
Yes and no. Or more like no, and yes. Like a tattoo nobody can see, it’s a choice you don’t haveto make, but it also can’t do a ton of harm. Especially if you plan on drinking that whiskey anytime soon.
Decanting wine serves a pretty specific, though still debated, function: removing sediment and encouraging oxidation. Decanting theoretically allows a wine to “open up” through exposure to oxygen. And while just how much exposure is really required is still debated, it’s universally accepted that decanting will change a wine, for better or ill. (Just imagine leaving your glass of Malbec unattended overnight and going back for a breakfast taste. For many reasons, it’ll be a confusing morning.)
Whiskey, on the other hand, really won’t change much with exposure to oxygen—at least, in terms of the exposure it’ll get from being poured into another container and/or the slightly less airtight seal of a whiskey decanter (vs. the bottle cap). Whiskey in a bottle that’s mostly air (since you’ve been enjoying it, you scoundrel) will oxidize, though much slower than wine.