Best Crystal Decanter Sets

Updated September 2021
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Buying guide for Best crystal decanter sets

One of the most beautiful and eye-catching additions to any home bar or cart is crystal glassware. Lighter and more durable than standard glass, crystal can be crafted into exciting designs that bring character to your space and wondrously reflect light.

A crystal decanter set features a number of glasses and a matching decanter. Crystal decanters are usually used for whiskey because they highlight the goldens, yellows, and browns of the liquor and provide a quality glass from which to sip and enjoy, whether you’re drinking an old fashioned or a whiskey neat.

Because of the high quality, crystal glass decanters are no small investment. What’s more, with so many styles and designs offered, it may take some time to find the right one for your taste. Whether you're purchasing a crystal decanter set as a gift or rounding out your home bar setup, our guide provides all you need to know about crystal decanter sets.

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If you want a matching bar set, look for reputable glassware companies that make a variety of glass options. You can start with a crystal decanter set you like, then add flutes, wine glasses, and other cocktail necessities.

Key considerations

Decanting

Although crystal decanters are traditionally used for whiskey, wine is the most commonly decanted alcohol, as exposure to oxygen can smooth out harsh, bitter tannins and release desirable aromas. Decanting is often done with medium and full-bodied red wines that are old and rich, but casual bottles of less-expensive wine may be decanted too. Decanting can be done for anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours to achieve the desired effect.

Because whiskey doesn’t possess nearly the amount of tannin that wine does, aeration doesn’t drastically change the taste, although some aficionados may argue that there are subtle changes. Whiskey also has a much higher alcohol content than wine, so its structure is more stable when poured from a bottle.

Purpose

If a crystal decanter doesn’t significantly alter the taste of your whiskey, what is it for? Simply for looks. Crystal decanters are meant to be elegant, attention-getting vessels for housing and serving whiskey. They brilliantly show off the color, not unlike a straw gold chardonnay or a deep ruby cab housed within a wine decanter. What’s more, as liquor bottles are made in a variety of shapes and sizes with different colors and logos, too often, you can't see the liquor inside and might miss out on something special looking. A crystal decanter allows you to show off your whiskey.

Size

A standard liquor bottle holds around 750 milliliters (25 ounces). As such, most whiskey decanters hold between 800 and 1,000 milliliters. Budget-priced options may hold slightly less, so keep this in mind when opening a new bottle of whiskey; you may not be able to fit the entirety of the liquor in the decanter.

Note that specialty decanters often hold up to 1,500 milliliters, while some options are much smaller, holding around 350 milliliters.

Crystal whiskey decanters come with lids to block air from entering (wine decanters are open). They are made in a variety of shapes, the majority featuring a wide, sturdy base.

While most accompanying glasses are similar in size, depending on how you enjoy your whiskey, you’ll want to take a look at their specific measurements. If you prefer whiskey with a large ice ball, be sure there’s room for it to fit easily.

Number of pieces

Most crystal decanter sets feature five pieces: four matching glasses and one decanter. You may come across some that add or subtract a pair of glasses, influencing the price. We’ve also seen some sets that simply feature the decanter and a lone complementary glass.

Glasses

While the decanter may be the centerpiece of the set, the glasses of a crystal decanter set shouldn’t be overlooked, as they are the pieces you will interact with most. The type of glass that comes with these sets is almost always a standard tumbler, also known as a rocks glass, lowball, or old-fashioned glass. These glasses are common and versatile: they are the proper receptacle for a variety of cocktails as well as liquor on the rocks. Their size and shape allow for drinks to be stirred or muddled easily. However, they aren’t the ideal glass for a variety of other whiskey-based drinks. The size may be limiting for certain cocktails, especially for people who like lots of ice. They’re also not ideal for sniffing whiskey and other liquors.

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Did You Know?
When the liquor is referred to as “whiskey” with an ‘e,’ it’s from the United States or Ireland. Without the “e,” whisky is from Canada, Japan, Scotland, and other countries.
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Features

Gift box

Crystal decanter sets are popular as gifts because they are reasonably priced yet have a luxurious look and feel to them, often resulting in something that seems more an indulgence than a necessity. As such, many come in elegant gift boxes. While these make for an impressive introduction, the point of the set is to show it off, so the box has little use once the set has been opened.

Decanter design

We mentioned that most crystal decanters have a flat, sturdy bottle and are rather wide and medium to tall in height. However, there is no shortage of unique designs that are especially artistic. For example, some decanters have no base at all and must be held in a stand. These are typically spherical in shape: some are meant to resemble globes or planets. Others take the shape of a skull, animal, or even a diamond.

Glass texture and design

Most crystal decanter sets feature glasses that are textured, providing a noticeable grip. The glass should feel comfortable in your hand and resist accumulating condensation or showing fingerprints. A “twisted” design is common for both decanter and glass, with the corners of the glass spiraling upward on a curve.

Some glasses may even appear tilted. These are meant to sturdily rest on a slanted side with the opening leaning in one direction. Just as decanters may be works of art, so too are some glasses.

Extras

Some crystal decanter sets include accessories to enhance your home bar and whiskey routine. Whiskey stones are particularly common, as is a freezer pouch to store them. Tongs may be included to help you elegantly and carefully manipulate ice. We’ve also seen whiskey spheres and coasters included in a set.

Give your new decanter a thorough rinse before using it for the first time. You’ll want it to be fresh, clean, and free of residue when it meets the liquor.

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Accessories

Bar cart: HomyShopy Industrial Bar Cart
The focal point of any home bar is the bar cart, providing aesthetics and functionality. We love this rustic option that features a wine rack, wine glass holder, and plenty of space.

Glass wine decanter: Le Château Wine Decanter
A glass decanter is a necessary tool for those who enjoy a bottle of wine every now and then. This classically designed model made of crystal from Le Chateau is beautiful and durable.

Bar set: Buddy 16-Piece Cocktail Mixing Bar Kit
For all your favorite whiskey cocktails and any other beverages of choice, you’ll need a proper bar set with all the necessary tools. We recommend this comprehensive kit from Buddy featuring 16 pieces.

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Did You Know?
Whiskey is a liquor made from fermented grain mash. The grains may include corn, rye, barley, wheat, or a combination of various grains.
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Crystal decanter set prices

Inexpensive: You can find a simple crystal decanter set with two or four glasses for under $50, though they may not have elaborate designs or durable construction.

Mid-range: Most crystal decanter sets cost between $50 and $100, with varied designs available. These may feature anywhere from one to six accompanying glasses.

Expensive: The most elegant and elaborate crystal decanter sets start at around $100. These are among the most durable and eye-catching, with glasses designed to enhance your drink.

Tips

  • Buy lead-free crystal. Though increasingly uncommon, avoid any crystal glass that contains lead. Prolonged exposure, like sitting in a decanter over time, can result in lead leaching into the drink.
  • Remember the bottle. When you fill a decanter, you empty your whiskey bottle. Whether you recycle it or store it away, it might be easy to forget what specific type you poured, especially if you have a busy bar cart.
  • Keep the lid on. Crystal decanters come with matching tops or lids that fit securely. Avoid leaving the decanter open, as this will rapidly speed up oxidation and may lead to particles getting into the liquor.
  • Be mindful of where you store your filled decanter. Oxidation may not drastically affect the taste, but temperature and sunlight can. Avoid leaving the decanter in areas of extreme temperature or direct sunlight.
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A snifter and a highball glass are commonly used glasses, especially for whiskey enthusiasts. Aficionados may also want to invest in a tulip glass as well as the coveted Glencairn glass.

FAQ

Q. How should I wash my crystal decanter set?

A. Some decanter sets may be dishwasher safe, but it's best to exercise caution. Any movement within the dishwasher could cause the glasses to chip or break. Some dishwashers may start to cloud the glasses, especially cheaper ones. It’s best to soak and clean the decanter by hand. Fill it with soap and warm water, and then let it sit. Empty and thoroughly rinse it, giving it plenty of time to air dry. If you have a decanter cleaner, a tool commonly used to wash wine decanters, you’ll be able to wash and dry more quickly. 

Q. What’s the difference between Scotch, whiskey, and bourbon?

A. Generally speaking, whiskey is the overarching category of drinks made from fermented grain. Scotch, bourbon, and rye are among popular types of whiskey given distinct names based on the geographic region in which they’re made. Scotch is whisky from Scotland, while bourbon is from America — specifically, Kentucky. The Bluegrass State and its southern neighbor Tennessee are prominently known for their whiskeys.

Q. Can I pour other liquors in my crystal decanter?

A. Since the main purpose of a decanter is to show off the color of the alcohol in an aesthetically pleasing vessel, you likely won’t find much enjoyment from pouring in clear liquors such as vodka, silver tequila, or white rum. You’ll find some richness and color when you opt for any liquor with a tinge, like dark rum, gold tequila, or cognac. Like whiskey, they won’t change notably in taste and flavor, but they should look attractive.
 

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