Ask any expert, and they’ll tell you that there’s an art to shopping for the perfect spirits decanter. We asked freelance journalist and whiskey expert Clay Whittaker to break it down. “A decanter is meant to be displayed, so it should fit your home decor and represent your style,” he says. “But, it should also be functional––your decanter shouldn't be needlessly difficult to lift or pour from, and you should consider how difficult it will be to clean or dust.”
Where glass is concerned, safety is always an important factor. Aside from durability, Whittaker says, you’ll want to make sure that the decanter, if made from crystal, is lead-free. “Leaded crystal will leach lead into alcohol over time. That may not be an issue for glassware, which you're only using for a few hours, but a decanter holding whiskey for a few days, weeks, or months, will make whatever is inside fairly toxic. It could eventually kill you—or at least ruin your whiskey,” he notes. These are some of the best (and safest) decanters on the market.
Best Budget: Crate and Barrel Brixton Decanter
Glamour, texture, and clarity collide in Crate and Barrel’s Brixton decanter. This is a gleaming accent piece that’s sure to enhance any surface in any space with its classic yet sharp silhouette and modern diamond-studded texture on the lower half of the exterior, which happens to also be functional, providing a solid grip for easy pouring. This decanter proves that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on a display piece (or the liquid inside it). “A decanter is all about celebration—you can celebrate anything, and doing so with a decanter elevates the moment regardless of the liquid,” says Ludlow Dawes, Brand Manager for Stillhouse Spirits, an adventure-centric brand that offers its range of whiskeys and vodka for under $25. “You feel good before you even taste what’s inside it.” Moral of the story: you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to make the at-home drinking experience feel special.
Material: Glass | Dimensions (DxWxH): 3.75 x 3.75 x9.6 inches | Capacity: 32 ounces
Most Unique: Tom Dixon Tank Decanter with Copper Detailing
Add drama to any bar cart, shelf, or table with this striking decanter by Tom Dixon, an interior design legend and a go-to for “extraordinary objects for everyday use.” The Tank decanters come in a variety of shapes and colors, but the copper-accented option is particularly special, combining mid-century nods with modern design and architecture and a hint of minimalist glam. The gleaming metallic detailing on this decanter is hand-painted, and the vessel itself has a capacity of 35.2 ounces. This piece is made in Poland and is hand-wash only.
Material: Glass | Dimensions (DxH): 5.1 x 9.1 inches | Capacity: 35.2 ounces
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Best Set: Bormioli Rocco Selecta 7 Piece Whisky Decanter Set
If you’re looking for high quality with an affordable price tag, Bormioli Rocco is always an excellent place to start. As one of Italy’s top glassware brands since 1825, this is a trusted name with a wide variety of glasses and accessories for any occasion. This set is an excellent value with six matching 9.5-ounce diamond cut rocks glasses and a stunning glass decanter with a 33.5-ounce capacity, sealing stopper, and intricate starburst pattern cut into the glass. These pieces are crafted from fine sand and other raw materials; both the glasses and the decanter are dishwasher safe.
Material: Glass | Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.8 x 4.1 inches | Capacity: 33.5 ounces (decanter), 9.5 ounces (glasses)
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Best Splurge: DeCicio Glass Whiskey Decanter in Antique Grey with Gold Stopper
Decanters often double as statement pieces, and this antique grey DeCicio Glass whiskey decanter is no exception. Complete with a 24-carat gold leaf stopper, this striking piece brings a subtle glam vintage feel to any space and features an elegant diamond pattern imprinted into the glass. During the glassblowing process, this decanter’s stopper is carefully adorned with real gold leaf, then ground and beveled to optimize its fit inside the decanter’s mouth, ensuring a tight seal, which is important when storing spirits. If you purchase on Etsy, you can customize your decanter with up to 20 characters; matching glasses are also available.
Material: Glass | Dimensions: 8 x 7 inches | Capacity: 750 milliliters (25.4 ounces)
Best Personalized: Home Wet Bar Draper Decanter
Often, personalized glass items can end up looking like corporate swag thanks to generic lettering, but Home Wet Bar’s Italian-made Draper decanter is anything but. Choose your single letter, which will be laser engraved in an elegant olde English typeface on the center of the decanter’s front panel (though if you purchase from Home Wet Bar’s own site, there are several different font choices, including classic, university, and script in addition to the Shakespearean option available elsewhere). Holding up to 24 ounces of the liquid of your choice, this personalized decanter makes for a great gift and is made from lead-free crystal.
Material: Glass | Dimensions (LxWxH): 3 x 4 x 9 inches | Capacity: 24 ounces
Best Minimalist: Nambé Vie Decanter
The classic scientific beaker gets a modern upgrade with the Nambé Vie Decanter, designed to hold either your favorite spirit or wine. Featuring an acacia wood topper, this glass decanter has a nicely weighted base, giving it a luxe, high-quality feel to match the appearance. Made in Poland and designed by Chris Granneberg, a revered product designer, this whiskey decanter holds 24 ounces and is dishwasher safe (just be sure to hand wash and immediately dry the wood stopper to avoid damage or compromising the seal).
Material: Glass and acacia wood | Dimensions (LxWxH): 5 x 5 x 10 inches | Capacity: 24 ounces
Best Modern: Nude Glass Malt Whiskey Bottle with Wooden Tray
The soft, clean lines and thinner but durable lead-free crystal glass take this decanter in a welcomed direction away from those thick, beveled-edge square decanters of yore. Thanks to the purity and clarity of the handmade Turkish glass, you'll be better able to enjoy the way the light dances through your whiskey. This timeless design created by award-winning Finnish furniture designer Mikko Laakkonen will complement most any bar cart style, from midcentury modern to industrial. Its 37.2-ounce capacity can accommodate a bottle and a half of the good stuff. And the accompanying wooden tray has enough room for both the bottle and your favorite tumbler.
Good to Know:
“The best ways to use a decanter are for home blends and infinity bottles; basically, it's the ideal vessel for displaying a whiskey you've blended yourself. A decanter is really a statement piece—a way to create a little mystery. What's inside should be worth the conversation it will start. Aaron Goldfarb has a great book on the subject called Hacking Whiskey, but trial and error is just as entertaining.” -Clay Whittaker
Material: Lead-free crystal and wood | Dimensions (WxH): 4 x 9.75 inches | Capacity: 37.2 ounces
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There's really no beating the Bormioli Rocco Whiskey Decanter Set (view at Amazon) for its price and quality. Most sets only come with two or four glasses (see the Ravenscroft set in this list on Amazon), but this one comes with six stunning 9.5-ounce rocks glasses with a diamond-cut design. The fact that the Italian glass set is dishwasher safe makes it easy to elevate your whiskey experience without being too precious about it. And although this glassware doesn't have the heft of crystal, it exhibits sturdiness and solidity for such a great price.
How do you clean a whiskey decanter?
Finally emptied your decanter and want to clean it? With that skinny neck, forget about using dishwashing soap and a scrub brush. Instead, fill it up with warm water and vinegar or baking soda and let it soak for at least half an hour. Afterward, cover the opening with your hand and shake up the cleaning solution in the vessel. Empty the decanter and then rinse it thoroughly.
How long does whiskey last in a decanter?
If the glass stopper has a loose fit, the spirit will evaporate over time. Opened whiskey will oxidize like wine, albeit slower (between six months to two years), and affect the taste.
Why use a whiskey decanter?
Since whiskey is already aged, there is no need to decant it. But a whiskey decanter can dress up your bar cart, make cheap whiskey look really good or help control how much your guests drink. Instead of offering them a full bottle, throw some into the decanter. Not only will it help prevent them from overdrinking, but you'll still have some left over in the original bottle after they've gone.
What to Look for in a Whiskey Decanter
Since a whiskey decanter should be used as a serving vessel as opposed to long-term storage, it's OK to prioritize looks. This bottle will dress up your home bar or bar cart, as well as take your hosting skills to the next level. Next, consider if you want a decanter that can fit a whole 750 mL bottle of whiskey or just a bit at a time. Make sure it's lead-free if you plan to keep whiskey in there for a while, and that it's equipped with an airtight seal.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Longtime wine and spirits writer Céline Bossart is a big fan of form meeting function, hence her affinity for keeping multiple decanters around the house. In her opinion, no bar cart is complete without one.
Zuckerman MA. Lead exposure from lead crystal. Lancet. 1991;337(8740):550. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(91)91332-o
Rebeniak M, Wojciechowska-Mazurek M, Mania M, Szynal T, Strzelecka A, Starska K. Exposure to lead and cadmium released from ceramics and glassware intended to come into contact with food. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2014;65(4):301-309.