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Ultimate Guide to Decanters

Fancy yourself as a wine sommelier? Consider yourself a whiskey connoisseur? You’ll know just how important finding the right glassware is, including things like carafes and decanters

In our ultimate guide to decanters, we cover the following topics to make sure you’re doing your favourite tipple justice:

  • The best wine decanter for beginners
  • The best decanter for white wine
  • The best red wine decanter
  • The best decanter for whiskey

But first, let’s explore exactly what a decanter is and what role it plays when pouring your favourite alcoholic drinks.

What is a decanter?

A decanter is a type of vessel primarily used to hold and serve alcoholic liquids—mainly wine and whiskey. 

A decanter’s main purpose is to allow the liquid inside to breathe and separate the sediment that can appear in beverages like wine and whiskey over time. 

In some houses and on some bars, a decanter is nothing more than a decorative artefact that looks pretty and makes the space feel fancy. However, decanters have the power to completely transform the way a beverage tastes, smells, and develops out of the bottle.

How does a decanter work?

Sediment is a combination of solid particles and tannins that develop in the liquid as it ages and can negatively impact taste and aroma. 

Pouring the liquid into a decanter, which has a wide base, allows the separation process to occur, meaning it won’t be mixed into your drink once poured.

Some decanters have a broad base and wide opening. This is so the liquid contents can get more exposure to oxygen—a process called aeration. 

One example of this is the Wedgewood Vera Wang Bande Wine Decanter, which has a broad base to maximise the surface area inside. This allows the wine to come into contact with as much air as possible, which encourages aeration. 

As oxygen hits the liquid, a chemical reaction called oxidation happens, which softens harsh tannins, releases volatile compounds, and makes for a much smoother drinking experience.

What is the difference between a decanter and a carafe?

Decanters and carafes are pretty similar things in the wonderful world of glassware. However, they do have nuances when it comes to design and functionality. 


Decanters are primarily used for serving wine or whiskey and are specifically designed to enhance flavours and aroma by allowing the beverage to breathe and separate from sediment. 

Carafes, on the other hand, are more versatile and can be used for a variety of different everyday drinks, including water and juice. While a carafe may offer some aeration, they’re not typically designed with this specific purpose in mind. 


As we explained above, some decanters have a wide base and a long neck, with an elegant, curvaceous shape that supports aeration. These are more commonly used for wine, where you would want to encourage oxidation and the separation of sediments.

However, decanters can come in other shapes and designs. Whiskey or brandy decanters, for example, are usually square or cylindrical. These are more aesthetically pleasing, and offer a level of stability for pouring.

Our Wedgwood Vera Wang Bande Spirits Decanter is an excellent example of this. The cylindrical shape and simple design offers a sense of ageless sophistication to any room.

Additionally, decanters normally come with a stopper or lid. This is designed to help preserve aromas and protect the contents from contamination (dust, insects, etc), like in our Waterford Lismore Short Stories Evolution Decanter, which is perfect for whiskey. 

On the other hand, carafes tend to have a simpler, more cylindrical shape, with a narrower neck and a wider mouth, like our Portmeirion Auris Carafe. However, this isn’t necessarily always the case.

Carafes also don’t normally have a lid or stopper because their contents is typically served immediately so doesn’t need protection.

The best wine decanter for beginners

All decanters have the same fundamental purposes and the same basic features. So, if you’re a beginner and looking for the best wine decanter to kickstart your collection, we’d recommend choosing something universal in design and on the lower end of the price spectrum.

Our Wedgwood Vera Wang Bande Wine Decanter is a great place to start because it’s one of our lower-priced wine decanters and has a classic, timeless silhouette. Its understated design is sophisticated and classy and will age well as glassware trends evolve.

Plus, it aerates all types of wine beautifully, whether you fancy a nice glass of red or a crisp glass of white.

The best red wine decanter

The magic of a decanter truly comes to life when storing and pouring red wine. The aim of the game is to get as much oxygen to the wine as possible to separate sediment, soften astringent tannins, and release as many pleasant, fruity notes and aromas as possible.

For this reason, the best red wine decanter is one with a super wide base and a long open neck. That said, specific types of red wine benefit from particular sizes and shapes of decanter too, like the versatile Wedgewood Vera Wang Bande Spirit Decanter.

Here are some examples:

  • Full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tempranillo, etc., flourish in a large decanter with as wide a base as possible.

  • Medium-bodied red wines like Merlot, Shiraz, Zinfandel, etc., will come to life in a medium-sized decanter with a wide base.

  • Light-bodied red wines like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, Primitivo, Grenache, etc., are delicious after being decanted into a chilled, small-medium decanter with a wide base.

The best decanter for white wine

Although decanters really work their aeration magic best on red wines and vintage wines, they do have some benefits for white wine and rosé wine too. 

As a general rule of thumb, white wines should be decanted for 15-20 minutes for the optimum drinking experience.

Choose a small, simple decanter, as you won’t require the extra wide base that red wines do. For this reason, you can also opt for a decanter that’s a more regular shape, rather than the curvaceous designs you will see available. 

When decanting white or rosé wines, make sure to chill your decanter in the fridge.

The best decanter for whiskey

As well as looking for something that is going to look elegant and show-stopping on the shelf, opt for a decanter with a stopper to prevent dust, dirt, and bugs from getting into the liquid. 

Whiskey doesn’t necessarily benefit from as much aeration or breathing as wine, so you can choose a silhouette that is more even in width. Whiskey decanters don’t necessarily need to have that wide, bulbous base and long, thin neck.

When shopping for the perfect whiskey decanter, we would also recommend choosing a classic, timeless style, like our pure crystal Waterford Lismore Ships Decanter

This is because whiskey is a beverage that will likely sit on the shelf for a lot longer than a bottle of wine, for example, so you want to make sure you’re going to enjoy the design of your chosen decanter for a long time to come.

As a note, brandy requires the same qualities as whiskey from a decanter, so you can choose an elegant style to complement your collection and ensure your spirits last on the shelf.

Shop premium decanters and carafes right here at Milly’s Store

Are you looking for extraordinary glassware? Look no further because our wide selection of premium decanters and carafes is sure to have you covered. 

Each and every crystal decanter and carafe delivers top-quality craftsmanship without any compromise on style. We partner with the very best brands on the market (Vera Wang, Portmeirion, Waterford, and more) to offer you nothing short of spectacular.

Take your pick from a range of contemporary or traditional styles, and an assortment of both unique and universal silhouettes. So whether it’s wine or whiskey (or both!) we’re confident we’ve got something to suit you.

Find the best decanters and carafes for your bar at Milly’s Store today

For more news, information, and product advice, check out the Milly’s Store blog

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