For Whiskey? For Wine? For Beauty? For Practicality?
“Age is just a number. It’s irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.”Joan Collins
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 is a decanter and what are decanters used for? I thought we’d take a look at this today 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 and some of them are… well… let’s just say… unique. It’s the only word that really does them justice. Today we will focus on two primary reasons to use decanters… wine and whiskey and the pros and cons for decanting each of these libations. So here we go…
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. Decanting does three things for wine:
- It Separates The Sediment – especially with older wines, the natural build-up of sediment should be separated from the pour. Decanting wine, after it has sat upright for about 12 hours, allows you to pour out the wine and stop before the sediment portion is added. It’s a much better experience this way.
- It Adds 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 is added to the wine. Wine should be decanted for about 30 minutes before serving to ensure the best taste experience.
- It Removes Label and Cost Bias – Decanted wine is mystery wine. Your guests have no idea if you paid $100 or $10 for the bottle. 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 discernable benefit to the drinker? The answer is sort of mixed. Unlike wine, whiskey doesn’t get better over time. In fact, whisky, in an open bottle, deteriorates because the extra air in the bottle accelerates oxidation. Decanting does a few things for whiskey, however, including…
- Increasing the Aesthetic Appeal – 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. Decanting allows for the visual appreciation of this lovely libation.
- Removing Brand Name Bias – as with the decanting of wine, decanting whiskey allows for a fuller appreciation of the whiskey on its merits instead of on the perception based on price and/or label.
- Allowing 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.” If you want to control how much your guests drink – for any reason – decanting is a good option.
- Preserving 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. If 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.
Just a Few of Many Unique Decanters…
As I mentioned, decanters can be unique. Here are just a few examples to spark your interest or tickle your funny bone.
A Final Thought…
Whiskey and wine can truly be two of life’s small pleasures… but please consume them responsibly. As always… be safe out there, my friends…and have fun!
And Now For A Little Music Before We Go…
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”Mark Twain