Do You Need to Aerate Whisky?

Credit: Bearfaced

Credit: Bearfaced

If you’re a fan of red wine, you’ll know that one of the tips to help “open up” a bottle of red wine is to aerate it or decant it. Aerate simply means to introduce air to the wine, usually through the process of decanting, but sometimes with the use of an aerator. The idea is that the air mixes in with the liquid molecules of the wine and separates them a little, which makes it easier to detect some of the subtler flavors. I don’t know the exact science behind it but the experts swear by it.

If it makes sense to aerate wine, do we need to aerate whisky?

Yes and no.

Yes it helps to let whisky breathe by swirling it in your glass but I don’t recommend using an aerator or decanting it (for the purpose of aeration). A device like the Vinturi wine aerator might work for wine but it’s unnecessary for whisky.

By swirling the whisky in your glass, you’re in a sense aerating it, and you release more of the aromatic compounds so they’re easier to detect. You don’t have to do this but many whisky experts recommend it.

You also release more alcohol vapors, which can be overwhelming if you’re new to scotch and high alcohol by volume (40%+) spirits. You can counteract the higher alcohol percentage by adding a few drops of water (again, recommended by experts), which drops the alcohol by volume percentage and opens up a whole new world of flavors.

In summary, you don’t need to aerate whisky like you would aerate a red wine, but some air and water will bring out some more flavors and improve the experience. If someone wants to sell you a whisky aerator, run the other way!

5 thoughts on “Do You Need to Aerate Whisky?

  1. Thanks about the whiskey tip. We drink bourbine and I just wondered if one needs to aerate that also. Your article says no. One other question. Is it alright to aerate white wine?
    We received a set of 2 aerating Wine glasses for christams. I am looking for a little more information on the matter. Like how long do you counter swirl your wine?
    Thanks,
    Brenda

  2. In my opinion, it helps if you aerate whisky. I have been going to tastings, 8-10 tastings per year, since 1999, and have noticed the whisky always tastes better at these tastings. The 3-4 drams that we have for the tasting are typically poured about 30-60 minutes prior to the tasting. As I buy a lot of the bottles from these tastings that I enjoy (and can afford), I started to notice the taste was not always spot on as I experienced. So I boiled it down to the glass, being the difference. Having bought the same nosing glasses, the taste was still different from the actual tasting. My conclusion, therefore had to be the time from the pour to the actual tasting. Like adding a bit of water can release subtle taste difference not picked from a straight dram. I like to aerate my whisky, enjoy the taste and then I like to also add a drop or two of water. Slainte!

  3. I’m wondering if aerating ethanol would reduce bad flavors in the mixture without lowering the alcolhol content appreciable?

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