What Are Whiskey Decanters?

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Decanters are glass or crystal bottles used to store wine and other spirits before serving them. For wine, a decanting can allow it to "breathe," or for some harsh elements to evaporate. Decanting whiskey, on the other hand, is usually done for aesthetic purposes.

To Not Decant

  • When Macallan decided to sell a scotch whiskey aged for 64 years, it did so in special decanters that were auctioned for between $6,000 and $9,000 per bottle. An employee of the company that owned Macallan said decanting whiskey would not tend to change its taste because of very high alcohol content -- about 40 percent.

To Decant

  • Decanters come in a wide variety of shapes, and collectors line up to own very beautiful ones. Aside from their beauty, there are a few good reasons to own one, and it has to do with the shape of the original bottle that whiskey is sold in. Most whiskey bottles are tall and thin. They spill easily. Some decanters come with a very wide base, making them difficult to spill. On seafaring ships, this came in handy, because the wobbling of the ship didn't cause these wide bottles to spill.

Selecting Decanters

  • Because whiskey decanters are generally used for decorative purposes, select decanters that appeal to you. Decanters can have modern styles, but in general, this type of glassware appeals to an old-world, cigars and dark wood paneling sensibility. Because of this, decanters tend to have classic designs.

Potential Risks

  • Many decanters are made of leaded crystal, and the lead can leach into the alcohol, leading to concerns over lead poisoning. A 1992 report by the California Department of Health Services noted that the absorption of lead was higher in alcoholic beverages with lower pH levels. The maximum amount of time that the alcohol was stored in decanters was 14 days. The researchers concluded :"The consumption of alcoholic beverages stored in lead crystal decanters is judged to pose a hazard."

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