Glass and crystal decanters provide a touch of sophistication

Even if you don't have a discerning palette for wine or whisky, if you've ever been served either from a beautiful, ornate decanter, you know why decanters are well worth the investment: they add an unmistakable feeling of elegance to any dinner party, afternoon toast or other social event with friends or colleagues.

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Of course, decanters are functional as well as attractive. Simply put, decanting is the process of artificially aging a bottle of wine or whisky by exposing its contents to the oxygen in the air. A decanter provides a vessel for this exposure, allowing the wine or whisky to breathe -- the reason many decanters feature a large, wide bottom and long, funnel-shaped neck is precisely to aid in oxygenation. However, it's also important that the decanter have a snugly fitting stopper to provide you with control over this process.

Whether you wish to use your decanter for that special bottle of red you've been saving for a special celebration, or that expensive single-malt you got for your birthday, shop around a little and you're sure to find something eye-catching that fits your style and your budget.

Wine Decanters

Quite often, wine decanters resemble some sort of fancy beaker. These glass decanters are most often found in plain clear glass, but they are also available in colored glass or with hand-painted detailing.

For a more interesting, artistic option that's sure to leave a lasting impression with your guests, consider a blown-glass wine decanter that's been molded into an abstract shape and looks more like a sculpture than a vessel for holding liquid.

Whisky Decanters

Whisky never looks classier than when it's displayed in intricately carved crystal decanters. Common looks for whisky decanters include a wide, round bottom with narrow neck or a tall rectangular shape, and their beautiful crystal stoppers are often as impressive as the decanters themselves.

Best of all, even when they're not in use, crystal decanters still look impressive, sparkling behind the doors of dining room china cabinets -- however, the whisky itself should not be left in the decanter long-term unless the stopper seals extremely well and the decanter is kept in a cool, dark place.