Personal effects,July 14
By JERRY SAMPSON
Question: Hey J., I know that I drive you raving crazy but I have another question. My hubby and I have been bitten by the bourbon bug. For his birthday this last April, I gave him a great decanter for our growing bourbon collection. I noticed that the stopper in this decanter was kind of wobbly. Is that right? Is that for the angel’s share? And, my mama gave me a whole box of stoppers. She got them at an auction years and years ago. Are they worth keeping in the event I find a decanter without a stopper, or should I toss them?
Thanks as always.
Answer: No problem. Yes, the bourbon bug has bitten many folks. This question has a double-sided answer.
A wobbly stopper is a sure sign that it has been replaced. Ideally, a stopper should be ground. By ground, I mean the glass has been ground with a grinding tool and its white/grey-ish colored and satin like. The inside of a neck should also look this. This grounding makes an air tight seal so the stopper must fit perfectly.
If you see a stopper that hangs down inside a decanter or one that sits very proud or elevated, those are also signs that it’s a replacement.
Stoppers are to have no wobble or give. They are meant to be airtight. The angel’s share is what is lost to evaporation when the bourbon is aging in the barrel, not when it’s in a decanter. In the decanter, you’re losing bourbon.
If a stopper is too tight, it could “lock” tight forever or even break when you try to remove it. If it’s too loose, it could fall out and cause a spill, and no one wants that.
That’s why original stoppers are so desirable for good decanters. It’s why dealers tape, tie and lock away stoppers when they have them for sale. People have a habit of stealing them. Each one is unique to its decanter. Sure you can find a stopper that properly fits, but it will never, really fit like the original did. Trust me.
Now for the double edge answer here. It is proven that lead crystal decanters should not be used for the long term storage of liquids, and that includes bourbon and spirits. Sorry, but it’s shown that over the course of years, lead can and will leach into those stored liquids. Save the lead crystal decanters for the times you have something special or company coming. However, if you drink quickly this won’t be a problem. It’s just not good for long-term storage and this applies to all food stuffs and liquids.
No, don’t toss your stoppers. Even if they never fit a stopperless decanter, you find they are still beautiful to display and look at. While you’re at it, if you are matching decanters to stoppers, try not to ever mix cut glass with pressed glass. Always stick to the same type of age and manufacturing process. It just really spoils the look to have a lovely 1890s cut glass decanter with a cheap soda glass stopper from the 1940s in its neck.
Thanks for a great question.