Are Whiskey Decanters Worth It?

There are few things as satisfying as opening your finest bottle of whiskey for the first time. However, once the seal has been broken, the burning question remains – to decant or not to decant?

Why decant? When you decant wine, it helps to aerate the alcohol. The oxygenation process causes the wine to develop further outside the bottle, removing sediment and increasing its flavours and aroma. Spirits like whiskey, however, do not react in the same way to oxygen. In fact, using a whiskey decanter will not enhance nor detract from the aroma or flavour of your favourite whiskey. Are whiskey decanters worth it? The answer is simple, whiskey decanters are essentially for aesthetic or presentation purposes. Here are a few tips on the why and the ‘how to’ when it comes to using whiskey decanters. 

The Purpose of Whiskey Decanters 

A decanter, typically crafted from glass or crystal, serves as a container for liquids such as spirits or wine. The history of whiskey decanters goes back to the origins of whiskey itself. Whiskey was not always sold in the sleek bottles we see in the shops today. Historically, whiskey was distributed in barrels only. To sell the whiskey, traders and retailers would transfer the whiskey into different shapes and sizes of vessels or whiskey decanters. The more affluent households would use elegant crystal decanters to store and display their whiskey to guests.  

Clear whiskey decanters served the purpose of showing the colour and condition of the whiskey. This aesthetically pleasing presentation of whiskey is a tradition that persisted over time and is mostly what whiskey decanters are used for today.  

The Benefits of Using a Whiskey Decanter 

It is clear (pun intended) that whiskey decanters are used as an aesthetically pleasing way to present whiskey. While it may not enhance the flavour of the whiskey, if stored correctly, it does no harm to its nuances either. So perhaps it is a question of, why not?  

Firstly, it looks good. There is nothing quite like the beautiful golden-brown colour tones of a good whiskey in a glass – and what better way to display it than in a glass or crystal whiskey decanter? Honouring tradition, it is a fantastic way to display your whiskey when hosting friends or a tasting – with the added advantage of a bit of mystery to the decanter’s contents. It also makes it easier to keep an eye on your stock levels while entertaining, with the bonus of creating a neat-looking, uniform bar with all your various spirits lined up in glass vessels with similar colour tones.

Good-looking does not have to be boring though, so we suggest finding a practical whiskey decanter, but also a fun one! Show off your personality with the whiskey decanter of your choosing. It may even brighten up your conversation, finding connections in unexpected places as you unpack the why behind your choice of decanter while pouring your friend a stiff one. A perfect pairing of friendly conversation and good whiskey leads to an elevated whiskey-drinking experience. 

Practical Considerations: Decanter Design and Whiskey Storage

Ok, you’re in…You have decided to give a whiskey decanter a go… Before you buy a decanter that speaks to you, there are a few things to take note of in terms of decanter options and whiskey storage.

The trick to a good whiskey decanter lies in how well it keeps out oxygen – the better the seal the longer the whiskey lasts. You therefore want your decanter to be an airtight vessel for your whiskey. In other words, when you choose your decanter, you can look for one that pours easily, matches your personal style, and highlights the visual tones of the whiskey. But most importantly you need to check how well it seals.

Now, about that gorgeous crystal decanter you have been eyeing—it might not be the best choice for storing whiskey. While lead crystal decanters are stunning to look at, they can pose a risk to your health as small amounts of lead may leech into your spirits over time. If you’re in the market for a new decanter, opt for a lead-free decanter to ensure the safety of your libations. But what about your antique, sparkle lead crystal decanter you’ve inherited? Don’t despair, you can still use it for short-term storage, but it would be best to finish the decanted whiskey in a few days (if not less) to avoid any potential health risks. 

Given the risks of lead crystal decanters, choosing glass vessels is the easier option. As mentioned, the shape and size of the decanter do not matter. It is merely a choice of style and preference – and that airtight seal – that brings it home.

How Long Can Whiskey Stay in a Decanter?

Unlike wine, whiskey won’t spoil if stored in a decanter for an extended period. In fact, if the stopper creates an airtight seal, your whiskey can last for many years. This is due to the much higher alcohol levels found in whiskey in comparison to wine for example. It is, of course, best to drink your whiskey within a reasonable time to maintain optimal flavour and appearance.  

Can you leave your whiskey in a decanter as long as you want? While there is no scientific expiration date, after two years you may notice some discolouration and loss of flavour intensity. Keep an eye out for any signs of contamination in your decanter, such as mould, mildew, or foreign particles. If you spot anything suspicious, it’s time to say goodbye to the remaining liquid and give your decanter a thorough cleaning. And if the seal on your decanter begins to falter, it’s time to invest in a new one to ensure the longevity of your spirits. 

Are Decanters Good for Whiskey? Analyzing the Cons

Decanting whiskey adds a touch of elegance to your home bar. It is a neat way to preserve and present your whiskey and other spirits. But before you invest in a decanter, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons. 

On the one hand, decanters offer an aesthetically pleasing way to display your whiskey collection. They allow you to honour tradition while adding a touch of mystery to your tasting sessions. Plus, decanters make it easier to monitor your stock levels and create a uniform look on your bar cart. 

However, there are some potential drawbacks to using a decanter. For starters, certain types of crystal decanters, particularly those containing lead, can pose health risks as the lead may leach into your spirits over time. While lead-free options are available, those with heirloom lead crystal decanters should exercise caution and consider using them for short-term storage only. 

Additionally, improper sealing of the decanter can lead to oxidation, potentially affecting the flavour and appearance of the whiskey. There is also a risk of contamination of the contents if proper cleaning and maintenance aren’t observed. 

So, are whiskey decanters worth it? It ultimately comes down to personal preference and how much weight you place on aesthetics versus practical considerations.  When weighing the aesthetic benefits against the potential drawbacks, consider how a decanter fits into your overall whiskey enjoyment and home bar aesthetics. If presentation and tradition are what makes you tick, a well-chosen decanter can elevate your drinking experience. However, if practicality and enjoying a glass of whiskey with your friends without the fuss are your primary concerns, then it may not be for you. 

At the end of the day, it all comes down to enjoying your whiskey. Go ahead, pour yourself a dram, be it from a bottle or a whiskey decanter and take a moment to savour every sip of your favourite Jameson whiskey. Cheers!