Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Scotch: Do You Decant?

Whenever I see a character pouring himself a glass of whisky in a movie, it's almost always from a decanter instead of a bottle for some reason.  Part of the reason, I assumed, could be due to need to avoide the appearance of product placement.  But it got me wondering: are there any benefits (beyond looking awesome!) to decanting scotch?

The decanter was originally created to store wine, in particular, red wine.  When you decant wine, you are attempting two things: 1) separating the sediment from the wine, and 2) you are allowing the wine to breathe. 

Over time, as wine stores in its original bottle, the sediment in the wine will separate and settle at the base of the bottle.  When you transfer the wine to the decanter, you are leaving most of that sediment behind in the bottle. 

When you are transferring the wine to the decanter, you are actually allowing the wine to "breathe".  What this simply means is that when the wine's surface area comes in contact with air, it releases some of the wine's armoas that were trapped in the bottle.  The more surface area of the wine that comes in contact with air, the better.  The ideal "breathing" time ranges from 1 - 8 hours. 

Now that we know the original purposes of decanters with wine, does the same thing apply to scotch?  The verdict is out on this one, but personally I don't believe so.   There's hardly any sediments in scotch that require to be separated.  And even though letting the scotch "breathe" can help with the appreciation of it, the reality is that you will not likely finish a decanter of scotch within eight hours.  Any longer than that risk excessive evaporation of the alcohol in the scotch, which we obviously do not want. 
My personal opinion is that storing of scotch inside a decanter is mostly for looks.  Not that there's anything wrong with it, but let's not confuse the benefits of decanting wine versus scotch. 

Here's an interesting nugget of information: in November 2010, the world's most expensive scotch was sold.  The Macallan 64 Year Old In Lallique was sold for $460,000 at an auction at Sotheby's.  The scotch was held in a special decanter designed and created by famed French designer (Lallique), and is crafted with a unique "cire perdue", or "lost wax" method. 

Macallan 64 Year Old in Lallique
If the idea of decanting your alcohol interests you, do check out this classy decanter by Bormioli Rocco:


Stay classy, my friends.


  1. I suppose the safe bet is "Results Vary"

    But I can say from personal experience and experimentation that aerating and decanting whiskey can really make it shine.

    Four Roses being the best example. Many will note how it opens up a week after you've opened the bottle. I decanted the Yellow Label for an affordable experiment, into a plexiglass casserole dish, and let it sit for a couple of hours before placing into a decanter. It made a noticeable improvement in it, with notes of delicated apple, and has since become my favorite summer bourbon.

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