What Do You Put in a Decanter?
Decanters are glass vessels made with the intention of storing your drinks for easy access. They are often crafted so beautifully that they can even become a statement piece on your kitchen counter. But once you find a decanter, what should you put in it?
You can put any type of liquor or wine in a decanter. Usually, people will put liquors such as scotch, brandy, bourbon, or red wine. You can put any liquid inside a decanter, but they’re typically intended for alcoholic beverages.
Colorful liquors are usually the go-to decanter filling, as transparent beverages such as vodka, gin, or tequila simply don’t have the same aesthetic effect. This isn’t a must, though, and nobody will stop you from putting orange juice inside your decanter.
What Normally Goes in a Decanter?
You might have often seen decanters on movies or TV shows, bringing a certain luxurious flair to any scene they’re in.
For those who aren’t familiar, decanters are glass vessels, usually beautifully crafted, where alcohol is put in for easy access and to aerate the liquor.
Normally, dark liquors or red wines go in a decanter. Red wine, bourbon, whiskey, or scotch are the most common decanter beverages. However, decanters are suitable for all liquids, so you can put whatever you want in them.
Though they can be a stunning sight, decanters are more than just a decoration piece. They can also help to aerate your liquor or wine, as mentioned above. Aeration “softens” your wine and can affect the overall taste.
Those who enjoy the taste of an aged spirit (like an antique whiskey or bourbon) might also consider aerating it first to give the hard liquor room to “reveal itself.”
Below, I’ll delve into the common liquors you might find in a decanter and what aeration would do for them.
Wine is a common decanter filler, and for a good reason. Wine tasting is gaining popularity again, and with growing access to online courses, some are even becoming sommeliers from the comfort of their homes.
Putting wine in a decanter can open up the flavors by giving it room to spread out and exposing it to oxygen. Wine is trapped in a tight bottle, and the flavors become softer when allowed to oxidize. This process may affect different types of wine in unique ways.
Wine decanters come in all shapes and sizes. Some connect straight to your bottle of wine to help aerate it, while others come as a separate vessel with gorgeous shapes.
Red & Rose
Decanters for red wine, in particular, have a long history. Even in the 17th century, people put their red wine in decanters instead of serving them straight from the bottle, mostly to help rid the wine of sediment.
Aerating your red wine might seem like an unnecessarily complicated process, but if you’re serious about wine tasting, you might want to rethink your stance.
To experience the full flavor profile of red wine, aeration and oxidation are essential. You can achieve this by letting your wine sit out in your glass for a bit, but the best way to get long-term aeration benefits is using a decanter.
White wine isn’t as commonly put into a decanter as red wines, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Within the category of white wine you can find a wide range of subcategories. Your white wines are your:
- Pinot Grigio
- White Moscato
- Savion Blank
And pretty much anything that looks white, yellow, or pale in color. When you are using a decanter for your white wines, try to only do it for the bolder tasting varieties, similar to their red cousins.
Related Article: Do You Aerate Rose or White Wines?
Port wine originated in Portugal, and it’s the wines that are red in body but also sweet, often used as dessert wines.
Not only will a decanter help aerate these wines, but it may help sediment settle better in vintage or antique bottles. You can always experiment with decanting your dessert wines and see how a little bit of oxygen can change their flavor profile.
Liquors & Spirits
Liquors and spirits can also benefit from sitting in a decanter. The vessel will help oxidize your liquor but it also can highlight how clear (and therefore expensive) your liquors are.
You can put the following liquors in your decanter:
Again, this isn’t an all-inclusive list because literally any liquid or liquor can be put into a decanter. Still, you will definitely want to consider how air might affect the taste of your more expensive alcohols.
While wine decanters are more vase-like, liquor and spirit decanters are intricate in design. This is because, as previously mentioned, liquor decanting is done more for aesthetics than oxidation or aeration. The Jillmo Whiskey Decanter Set not only sports a tiny boat but can unscrew a little spout to have your liquor deposited straight into your glass. This Godinger Pistol Gun Whiskey Decanter is shaped like, you guessed it, a gun. And the Godinger Animal Whiskey Decanter is shaped like a bull.
There are also less intricate but equally beautiful liquor decanters. They look like glass bottles with little stoppers on the top and are usually made from crystal. The Paksh Capitol Glass Decanter is smooth with straight lines, which might make it pretty for a lighter liquid.
Another option, the Bormioli Rocco Selecta Collection Whiskey Decanter, has a design similar to palm leaves, making it an excellent choice for tequila. You can find all of these decanters on Amazon.
Though you may initially be drawn to one or another, it’s crucial to preemptively research which kind of decanter is right for the liquor you want to store.
Even though it may seem like it won’t make much of a difference, the type of decanter you buy does matter. There are decanters specifically crafted for vodka, gin, and all other liquors because the shape may affect how the alcohol aerates.
Below, I’ll discuss how aeration, oxidation, and decanting might affect your favorite spirits.
When you search for a liquor decanter on Amazon, you’ll notice that most of the products that come up have “whiskey” in their name. This is because it is one of the most common decanter liquors.
Aerating whiskey in a decanter won’t have the same impact as when you aerate wine, but it’ll at least make pouring a stiff drink more attractive. You’d serve whiskey out of a decanter for the same reason you’d serve pasta out of a bowl rather than putting the whole pot on the table.
Scotch is another commonly decanted liquor. Its place in the whiskey family makes any whiskey decanter also suitable for your malted or finely aged scotch. Putting scotch in a decanter helps to aerate the liquor, which may give it a slightly different flavor and body, and highlights its aesthetic appeal.
Some experts suggest using a twisted cap decanter for these types of alcohol, as they help the liquor breathe but also keep them safe from dust or other particles getting into the vessel.
Brandy & Cognac
Brandy and cognac are both dark, transparent liquids. Brandy is an alcohol created by distilling wine. Cognac is a type of brandy originating in Cognac, France. Using cognac from a decanter won’t do much for the flavor but will make it look more elegant when serving.
Brandy, however, might be worth decanting because of its wine origin. Aeration will affect brandy’s flavor, not as drastically as undistilled wine, but more so than it would cognac.
Tequila & Vodka
If you enjoy liquors and spirits, you know that tequila and liquor are the furthest things from each other. Tequila is made with agave, and vodka is made from fermented grains.
They’re listed here together because both are typically clear, and a decanter will help you showcase their elegant transparency. The process may not have a big impact on flavor, but it will make serving them feel more classy.
What Is a Decanter?
Though you might have originally thought them stuffy or old-school, a decanter is a pretty purposeful utensil. Whether you’ve seen it in a movie or an older relative’s reading room, decanters are usually beautiful vessels, even when left on a shelf. So what can they do for you and your liquor?
A decanter is a glass vessel that holds liquids like wine or liquor. Some decanters are shaped like vases and have no top to help the liquor aerate. In contrast, others have intricate designs and are used mostly for their aesthetic appeal.
In general, using a decanter can help aerate your liquors and change the flavor through oxidation.
Decanters are a beautiful addition to your home bar. They aren’t wildly expensive or hard to come by, and you can purchase one on Amazon or find vintage ones at antique stores.
Again, like a carafe or pitcher, they’re made for any and all liquids. Nobody will stop you from putting soda or dish soap inside them. However, they actually have a long and noble history in alcohol serving.
The History of the Decanter
The first decanters are thought to date as far back as as the 1700’s and were originally used to help aerate the wine and filter out sediment that may have been present. They were made of flint glass and were an accessory used in more wealthy homes or even taverns.
Just as you might have special serving dishes for holidays or guests, the decanter was made as a serving dish to highlight the expensive nature of an event.
President Andrew Jackson had a rare decanter he used in his office. Even the Pope uses decanters for holy wine. Not only did their usage showcase people’s wealth and their liquor’s value, but decanters were also highly regarded for helping wine aerate.
The ancient Romans coined a design with a smaller neck and wider body, which allows more area for the wine to soften and come into a different flavor profile (which it would be unable to do inside tightly packed bottles).
How Oxidation Effects Alcohol
Oxidation isn’t essential for the consumption of alcohol, but it can make a difference. Suppose you are an avid wine taster or drink expensive liquors looking to experience richer flavor profiles.
In that case, you may want to consider making decanting a part of your drinking process. You may even be oxidizing your wine by accident if you pour a glass and walk away for a little while, or don’t put the cork back in after opening a bottle.
The process of oxidizing wine is easy enough, as you just need the wine to be exposed to air.
The longer you do this, the more oxidized it will become. When you oxidize your wine, not only will it start to taste different, but you’ll notice that even the color changes. If you think back to high school chemistry classes, you’ll remember that any change in color means that a chemical reaction has occurred.
This twenty-minute video from Wine With Jimmy gives a helpful explanation of how oxidation is going to affect your wine:
This chemical reaction created by the wine being exposed to air changes your wine’s overall taste, mouthfeel, and flavor profile. Putting wine in a decanter can drastically change the wine tasting experience.
And while you can just open the bottle and let it breathe a little or let your glass sit for a little while, a wine decanter is an even better way to let your wine get a little air.
Some decanters are vase-shaped, allowing you to pour straight from them after the wine aerates. Some will open your bottle and aerate it through a mechanical process rather than through aging so you can pour straight from the bottle.
Decanters will do the same thing to your whiskey, scotch, and other spirits, but the difference won’t be as noticeable. Using a decanter for your dark and clear liquors, historically, has been more for aesthetic purposes.
Even still, some might say that a more aesthetically appealing glass of whiskey will taste better. Especially if you are pouring an expensive bottle, using a beautiful wine decanter may affect the overall experience.
Decanters can help aerate your alcohols and make them look more elegant when you serve them. Wine and liquor decanters are a little different in their construction.
Wine decanters look more like vases, while liquor decanters are more intricate. Either one will help you store your favorite alcohols and make a gorgeous display for your counter or home bar.
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