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Guest wripvanwrinkle

Leaching of Lead into Whiskey from Ceramic Decanter Glazing

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Guest wripvanwrinkle

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.

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Guest wripvanwrinkle

Time went by. I purchased a bunch of 1970's Wild Turkey "Series 1" decanters at a very good price. They all decanted well, the contents were very good, but the question remained...were they safe to drink?

I started researching "mail in" water test kits. While doing so I found Pro-Labs. Their kits are available at Home Depot for about $5, and consist of a vial and a mailer. For a $30 lab fee, they use an atomic absorption spectrometer to detect lead levels as low as 1 part per million. Surely these were my guys!

I started to have my doubts when filling out the paper work. The forms asked questions like "what kind of faucet do you own?". I wondered whether or not they would actually perform the test... Ultimately, my curiosity got the best of me and I dropped the sample in the mail. On the form I simply wrote "Alcohol Solution, 50-60%". Before sealing the envelope I added "WT101 1973.". That might just be cryptic enough to get someone's attention.

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Guest wripvanwrinkle

Today my phone rings. The voice on the other end said that they were calling from Pro-Lab in Florida. My Negative Nancy imagination started to spin the inevitable rejection story regarding dangers to their testing equipment and missing technical procedures for handling my material of choice.

Instead he continued with: "Eric, today I received your sample and don't know if I should test it or drink it". Suddenly, this was sounding promising. He asked me to explain what I was looking for. I gladly shared my story and he seemed amused.

It turned out that he had his "Chief Scientist" on speaker phone with him. The Chief Scientist shared a very interesting opinion. I had to follow up his statements with web research...so I'm probably getting this a little wrong. He said that he would call back with the results, so I will double check this understanding with him then.

In brief, he expressed doubt that Bourbon could leach the lead from the glaze. The thought was that the Bourbon was not acidic enough to do the job. There might be danger with a lower PH acid...like citrus or vinegar. He went on to say that other substances might change that, the biggest suspect being Tannin. Apparently Tannin is very effective in wrenching metal out of it's container. Although a high PH acid like alcohol should not leach the lead from the glaze, a high concentration of Tannin might.

The Tannin content in wine is very high from the grapes. Apparently these Tannins evaporate with the alcohol during distillation, and also exist in the final spirit (Brandy/Cognac). From his perspective; while a grape based spirit might leach the lead from the glaze, a grain based spirit should be fine.

So how much Tannin was extracted from 8 years of interaction with alligator char? To me this is an interesting question.

I am very hopeful that they will call with the results tomorrow.

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Enoch

I can't wait to hear the results. I know a place with many decanters but have not bought any for this very concern.

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Bourbon Boiler

Keep us posted of the results. As an engineer, I'd love to get a copy of the lab report if you don't mind.

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Guest wripvanwrinkle
Keep us posted of the results. As an engineer, I'd love to get a copy of the lab report if you don't mind.

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emr454

This is encouraging news for everyone here, I feel.

I've had some whiskey from ceramic decanters before and never thought twice about the glazing.

Eric

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AaronWF

I'm staring at two old Beam decanters from the 70's. To drink, or not to drink. Thanks for sharing your research!

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BradleyC

I never put a lot of thought into the lead, I always thought evaporation on decanters was worse than with glass. Many that I have picked up seemed a little low from gently shaking them. This and being Beam has typically steered me away from them. I did however pick up a few Michter's ceramics and drank some of those. I'm still here. Whether or not lead negatively impacted me is debatable.

Eric: I know you put all of those into glass bottles. Can you give an estimate of the percentage lost to evaporation for the average of all of them?

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Guest wripvanwrinkle
I never put a lot of thought into the lead, I always thought evaporation on decanters was worse than with glass. Many that I have picked up seemed a little low from gently shaking them. This and being Beam has typically steered me away from them. I did however pick up a few Michter's ceramics and drank some of those. I'm still here. Whether or not lead negatively impacted me is debatable.

Eric: I know you put all of those into glass bottles. Can you give an estimate of the percentage lost to evaporation for the average of all of them?

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Special Reserve

As a chemist, I'm very interested in the result. Please post when available.

Thanks.

Will

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MarkEdwards
Keep us posted of the results. As an engineer, I'd love to get a copy of the lab report if you don't mind.

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Young Blacksmith

Very interesting story, will be following this one! Gotta love those intrigued scientists in the lab too.

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LikeItWasSodaPop

I use Pro Lab for mold and lead based paint tests in my work, and I've been happy with them. Glad they are helping out with this as I have some 1980s WT 8 101 I hope will only damage my liver and not my brain.

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Special Reserve
Very interesting story, will be following this one! Gotta love those intrigued scientists in the lab too.

I'll acknowledge excitement when something different comes into the lab. Unfortunately it does not happen often these days.

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ethangsmith

I know people that have drank from many Michter's decanters over the years and while most of them are in very good health for their age, most of them are also quite unique characters. Hmmmmm.

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sailor22

I have deen brinking from decanters for years and I have yet to notice any dane bramage.

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Bourbon Boiler

Not trying to be pushy, just bumping to see if anything has been determined yet.

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hectic1

I guess they followed through on their joke and drank the sample vs testing it...can't blame them though! :)

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Guest wripvanwrinkle

No response yet...patiently waiting...

(Tap. Tap. Tap.)

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Bourbon Boiler
I guess they followed through on their joke and drank the sample vs testing it...can't blame them though! :)

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Guest wripvanwrinkle

Update: I called today and they informed me that they required the rest of the bottle, a Glencairn, and a cigar to complete the analysis. I assume that this is standard lab protocol?

Real Update: Although the person that I spoke with couldn't say why, my sample was forwarded to another lab. The expectation is that the results will be available by the end of the week.

Real Update Conspiracy Speculation: Special Reserve used his Brotherhood of the Laboratory connections to hijack my sample. Shame on you SR!!! :hot:

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Special Reserve
Update: I called today and they informed me that they required the rest of the bottle, a Glencairn, and a cigar to complete the analysis. I assume that this is standard lab protocol?

Real Update: Although the person that I spoke with couldn't say why, my sample was forwarded to another lab. The expectation is that the results will be available by the end of the week.

Real Update Conspiracy Speculation: Special Reserve used his Brotherhood of the Laboratory connections to hijack my sample. Shame on you SR!!! :hot:

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Bourbon Boiler
Update: I called today and they informed me that they required the rest of the bottle, a Glencairn, and a cigar to complete the analysis. I assume that this is standard lab protocol?

:hot:

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Special Reserve
They should have their own glassware to accomodate both nosing and tasting. The cigar and bottle sound reasonable.

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