For Whiskey? For Wine? For Beauty? For Practicality?
James Bond comes to mind when I think about decanters. Sean Connery or Daniel Craig, tuxedo-clad, awaiting a gracious pour from someone lovely. But what exactly are decanters and why would you use one? With New Year’s Eve fast approaching, let’s take a look at decanters and see what you think…
A decanter is simply a vessel, usually glass, that is meant for storing and serving liquid. It’s distinguished from a carafe in that it has to have a way to seal in the contents (like a stopper or a cork). Decanters come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some of them are, well, let’s just say unique. I’ve included examples below and unique is the only word that really does them justice. Today we focus on two primary reasons to use decanters: wine and whiskey. And we explore the pros and cons for decanting each of these libations. So here we go…
Decanters: Why Would You Use Them For Wine?
To Decant or Not To Decant? That is The Question. And the answer is fairly clear when it comes to wine. Decanting wine is a net positive to the experience and the flavor. It does three things for wine:
Decant Wine And Separate The Sediment:
Especially with older wines, the natural build-up of sediment should be separated from the pour. Place wine in a decanter, after the bottle has sat upright for about 12 hours. You pour out the wine and stop before the sediment portion is added. This is a much better experience this way.
When You Decant Wine You Add Oxygen, Thereby Enhancing the Wine’s Flavor:
Decanting wine allows air to be added to the wine and the oxygen mixes with the tannins and improves the overall flavor. The wider the base and the wider the decanter opening, the more oxygen you will add to the wine. You should decant wine for about 30 minutes before serving to ensure the best taste experience.
Decant Wine And Remove Label and Cost Bias:
Decanted wine is mystery wine. Your guests have no idea if you paid $100 or $10 for the bottle. Let those enjoying the wine can base that enjoyment on the appearance, the bouquet, the taste and the after taste instead of on the label or the price tag. Be gone with you, wine snobs.
There’s a serious debate on this issue: does decanting whiskey provide any discernible benefit to the drinker? The answer is sort of mixed. Unlike wine, whiskey doesn’t get better over time. In fact, whiskey, in an open bottle, will deteriorate because the extra air in the bottle accelerates oxidation. Decanting does a few things for whiskey, however, including…
Increase the Aesthetic Appeal of Whiskey by Decanting:
Whiskey has a wonderful, mellow, sable-brown color but is often bottled in opaque glass that does not allow for an appreciation of the amber loveliness. When you decant whiskey you allow for the visual appreciation of this lovely libation.
Remove Brand Name Bias with a Decanter:
As with the decanting of wine, when you decant whiskey you allow for a fuller appreciation of the whiskey on its merits instead of on the perception based on price and/or label.
Decanting Allow the Host to Limit Supply:
When you’ve decanted the whiskey, it is the amount available to your guests. There isn’t a bottle of “back stock.” You can control how much your guests drink for any reason.
Preserve Your Whiskey by Reducing Excess Air:
As I said previously, whiskey does not improve with age, and, in fact, get less good as it is exposed to air. When you decant into smaller, fuller containers as you use the whiskey, you reduce the oxidation and therefor preserve the whiskey. In other words, once you open the bottle, decant the whiskey into smaller, fuller containers and the whiskey will last longer.
Insider Tip: Decanters make your parties more fun and your libations more interesting. A great resource for decanters are thrift and consignments shops, like Consignments Ltd. But please remember, although whiskey and wine can truly be two of life’s small pleasures, always consume them responsibly.