What’s the Deal with Decanters?

Ceramic whiskey decanters in the form of fire trucks, potbellied stoves, and animals were popular in the mid-20th century, with many distillers packaging their bourbons in the whimsical containers. Today, collectors of “old dusty whiskey,” like Mike Jasinski, find that decanters are bountiful and worthy of consideration. “What I’ve noticed [is that] a lot of times the decanters were given as gifts to people that didn’t really like whiskey,” Jasinski says. “So you find it’s never been opened because…you bought it for your dad and he put it on the shelf and it just sat there.”

However, caution is in order when buying decanters for drinking. Ceramic decanters were designed to sell whiskey, not store it. They are far less reliable than glass bottles because they are often prone to evaporation. “Here’s what’s interesting about decanters,” Jasinski explains. “The best whiskey I’ve ever had came from a decanter. The worst whiskey I’ve ever had came from a decanter. They’re all over the place and it’s because of the containers.”

Some decanters will be empty, even though they are still sealed. Look for those that feel like they retain most or all of their original contents. If you open it for the first time and hear a big rush of air, you’ve scored a winner. “They just go shhhh and that means it’s been sealed, free of air over a very long period of time,” says Jasinski.

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