Recently, I have been intrigued as to whether or not lead glazed whiskey decanters contaminate their contents. As these discussions have been mixed throughout a number of threads, I thought that I would consolidate them all here.
My interest began with the purchase of a Wild Turkey Lore decanter from 1980. The 8 year old 101 proof contents were absolutely amazing. With this one purchase my Wild Turkey preference shot from "admirer" to "fan boy". I had heard rumors of lead leaching into the spirit from the decanter's glazing, but as a natural skeptic I dismissed the thought.
But then I read a post here that stated that a Wild Turkey tour guide had warned against the consumption of alcohol from early decanters for this very reason. Was this a valid warning? Or fodder for the "Things that tour guides say" thread? I visited a couple of web pages and found the lead contamination dangers for alcohol stored within a lead glazed container. In brief, if the glaze was compromised then there appeared to be a valid risk of contamination. (By the way, I also learned that eating spoonfuls of lead glaze is a very bad idea...but who would have thought?)
I went out and bought a few lead test kits designed to test water. Unfortunately, they were all inconclusive. The mechanical mechanisms on these kits assume a water substrate...and it appeared as if the alcohol was preventing them from working.