Looking for a new decanter to buy? Wine expert Kate Hawkings has gathered her top picks of the best wine and whisky decanters to buy, whether you're looking for a simple option to display on a bar cart, a housewarming gift for a wine enthusiast or a blow the budget investment for a true connoisseur.


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What is a decanter?

Before glass bottles were mass produced, in the 19th century, wine would always be served from decanters, having been bought directly from the barrel in take-home containers. These days they’ve rather fallen out of fashion but, as well as being attractive centrepieces to a table, wine decanters serve two practical but different purposes.

Firstly, to separate wine from any sediments that may have formed in the bottle - this is common in older wines, particularly robust reds and vintage ports, and while the sediments are harmless, their bitterness and gritty texture can spoil the pleasure if they reach the glass.

Stand the bottle upright and leave it undisturbed for at least 24 hours. Pour the wine slowly and continuously into the decanter, using a funnel if your hand is not steady, with a light source behind it so you can see when the sediment appears at the neck of the bottle, at which point you stop pouring. You can use a candle or a lamp for this, or the torch on your phone. Slender decanters are best for these wines as they can spoil if exposed to too much air.

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On the other hand, younger wines, especially full-bodied reds that are high in tannins, often benefit from decanting to aerate the wine and allow it to soften. Natural wines that smell a bit funky are also improved with decanting; the exposure to oxygen gets rid of the stink and lets the wine properly open up. Any container would do - I often just use a water jug and pour the wine in from a height to maximise aeration - but a wide-based decanter is a more aesthetically pleasing choice. Pour the wine into the decanter, then swirl it around for a few seconds to maximise contact with the air.

For special occasions, I have a beautiful, theatrical Le Creuset decanter with a glass funnel. It’s a pleasure to use but difficult to clean so usually I use a simple glass jug instead. In decanter-less situations, don’t despair. Aerate your wine by pouring a little into a tulip-shaped glass, hold it by the stem and swirl in an anti-clockwise direction for 30 seconds then repeat; or pour carefully from bottle to glass and stop when any sediment appears.

Whisky, brandy and other spirits can be kept in decanters almost indefinitely, because they’re totally stable when they’re bottled so won’t spoil with exposure to air. Stoppers prevent evaporation, and keep dust and flying insects out of the liquid. Vintage ports should be drunk within a week of decanting because they oxidise quite quickly, but tawny ports and madeiras, while they don’t need decanting because they don’t have sediment, look so attractive in a nice decanter and will keep for months after opening.

How to clean a decanter

Keep your decanters clean by rinsing them out thoroughly with warm water after use, using a bottle brush if you have one, then polish the outside with a soft cloth. Red wine and port can stain decanters after a while, so invest in cleaning balls (see below) to keep them at their sparkling best.

Best wine and whisky decanters at a glance

  • Best classic whisky decanter: Luigi Bormioli Texture Decanter, £22.25
  • Best versatile decanter: LSA Gio carafe, £37.59
  • Best minimalist wine decanter: Dartington decanter, £40
  • Best decanter for gifting: Anthropologie waterfall carafe, £58
  • Best decanter for port: Dartington hoggit decanter, £135
  • Best decanter for spirits or batch cocktails: Pols Potten bottle set, £295
  • Best luxury whisky decanter: Richard Brendon large fluted decanter, £340
  • Best blow the budget wine decanter: Riedel crystal 'mamba' decanter, £450

Best wine and whisky decanters to buy 2023

Luigi Bormioli Texture Decanter

Whisky decanter

Best classic whisky decanter

A modern twist on a classic cut-glass decanter at a very affordable price, its dimpled texture refracts light very beautifully through whisky or any other spirit.

Available from:
The Whisky Exchange (£22.25)

LSA Carafe

Cork Stopper Clear Glass LSA International

Best versatile decanter

The stopper on this carafe makes it a great contemporary decanter for spirits, or for when you have some wine left over you want to keep. If so, store it in the fridge overnight to maintain its freshness; if it’s red, bring it out a couple of hours before you’re ready to drink to bring it to room temperature. It's also equally versatile for soft drinks and water in summer.

Available from:
Amazon (£37.59)
Harvey Nichols (£50)

Dartington decanter

Laithwaites decanter

Best minimalist wine decanter

An elegant choice for mature wines decanted to get rid of sediment rather than to aerate. Its wide mouth makes it easy to fill, and a doddle to clean with a bottle brush.

Available from:
Laithwaites (£40)

Anthropologie waterfall carafe

Anthropologie Waterfall Carafe

Best decanter for gifting

Prettily tinged with pink at its base and with a 24-carat gold trim at its mouth, the rippled texture on this versatile decanter looks really beautiful in candlelight. It's also available in a honey or pale blue trim instead of the pink.

Available from:
Anthropologie (£58)

Dartington Hoggit decanter

Hoggit decanter

Best decanter for port

A hoggit is a round-bottomed decanter for port that traditionally was passed from diner to diner at the end of a meal until it returned to its wooden stand at the head of the table, preventing it being hogged by greedy guests. This stylish example can be engraved to order, so would make a fine personalised gift for a special occasion.

Available from:
Dartington Crystal (£135)

Pols Potten bottle set

Pols potten bubbles bottles set of four, in bright red, blue, green and purple colours

Best decanter for spirits or batch cocktails

These beautiful, brightly coloured mouth-blown bottles make fabulous decanters for spirits or for serving up batch cocktails when guests come over for drinks.

Available from:
Heal's (£295)

Fluted cut-glass crystal decanter

Richard Brendon Decanter

Best luxury whisky decanter

A drop-dead gorgeous spirits decanter that calls to mind the decadent days of the Jazz Age. Mouth-blown and hand-cut in Slovenia, the quality of the craftsmanship really shines through.

Available from:
Richard Brendon (£340)

Riedel crystal ‘mamba’ decanter

Riedel Mamba decanter

Best blow the budget wine decanter

Riedel is one of the world’s finest glass producers, famous for the quality of its products. This extraordinary, blow-the-budget decanter is mouth-blown in Austria by master craftsmen; its spectacular snake-like contours make the very best of a spectacular bottle of wine.

Available from:
Riedel (£450)


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Kate HawkingsWine Columnist

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