Half of the enjoyment of drinking a fine spirit is the spirit itself, and the other half is the experience of preparing and consuming. The interesting bottles, the fine glassware… all of the accouterments that go along with the spirit. One of those accessories that seems to be common (especially in movies and TV shows) is the whiskey decanter. But is it a good idea to use a whiskey decanter to store your spirits?
The other common use for a decanter is for serving red wine. In that scenario, the decanter serves to aerate the liquid and bring out some of the more subtle flavors that may have been hidden while the wine was oxygen deprived inside the bottle. This process has been known to make even a cheap red wine start to taste and act like a more expensive and delicious variety.
For whiskey, there is no other preparation that needs to take place with the spirit. Once bottled, there’s no longer any changes that will happen naturally — the spirit stops aging, the flavors stop maturing, and the only thing that’s left to happen is for the liquid to either be consumed or evaporate.
So when you’re pouring your whiskey into a decanter, there’s really no changes to the spirit or the way it tastes. It’s going to be the exact same as if you just poured it out of the bottle at the store, the only difference is the container.
For some people, this is enough of a reason to decant your whiskey — it just looks better on the mantle than the bottle of bottom shelf bourbon. But there are other reasons…
Keeping Your Bottle Full
A full bottle is much more attractive than a half empty one. That’s the reason that supermarkets cram their shelves with product — no one wants the very last tomato even if it’s the best of the lot.
By decanting your whiskey, you have the ability to keep the bottle on display completely full at all times. Whether that means you top up from a 2 liter of Jack Daniels or just keep adding smaller bottles of spirit, all your guests (and you!) will see is the full and attractive decanter waiting for use.
Speaking of adding multiple bottles of whiskey to a single container, something else you can try is blending your own house whiskey.
Some of the most famous whiskey in the world is blended from various sources (Johnny Walker, for example). If you’ve got the itch to try your hand at the craft, then a decanter would be a good way to keep some of your house blend on hand for yourself and guests to try. No need to mix up a new batch every time, just pour and enjoy!
Maturing with Other Materials
The last reason I could think of as to why you would want to change the container for your whiskey is to try and age the spirit with some added materials.
Oak & Eden is a prime example of a company that does this at scale. They buy their whiskey from other sources, blend it into a bottle, and then insert a wooden spire to allow the spirit to continue maturing and absorbing some of the flavors. In the same way, you can do this at home with your spirit of choice.
There are a couple companies that sell sticks of toasted wood that you can place in your whiskey bottle to try and enhance the flavors. Gizmodo tried out one such product — but while their 24 hour experiment didn’t do so hot, you can give your spirits a little more time and see for yourself if it makes a difference.
There’s also the option of trying unique materials that aren’t commonly for sale, things like local wood varieties or different levels of char on your sticks. This home experimentation is probably as close as you can legally get to “making” your own whiskey, so go crazy!
In the end, how you enjoy your whiskey is completely up to you. Personally I like to keep my spirits in the original bottles on my shelf, with one exception: my Tahwahkaro whiskey gets decanted because the bottle is just too awkward to fit on the shelf. But however you store your spirits, it’s never the wrong choice if it brings you joy.