Whiskey School is a series of posts created to help you better understand everything about the beverage we all love. From the history to the distillation process, from the different types to how to drink them, and more, Whiskey School will help you become a knowledgeable drinker to impress all your friends.
When it comes to transporting whiskey from the bottle to your mouth, a glass is just a glass, right? Think again. While there is definitely some marketing and personal preference involved, the size, shape and even type of glass can greatly influence the way flavors and scents are perceived. If you are going to spend large sums of money on a high quality whiskey, it is only right to have a proper vessel to get the most out of your tasting experience.
Why are There Different Types of Whiskey Glasses?
For as long as distillers have been trying to make the perfect whiskey, drinkers have been trying to find the perfect glass to drink their perfect whiskey. While the differences in taste may be imperceptible to a novice, there is definitely a science behind whiskey glassware. It all comes down to smell.
Even if you are brand new to the world of whiskey, you have probably observed this same phenomena in a wine bar or a proper craft brewery. Different shapes and sizes of glasses have been engineered to enhance the flavor of your selected beverage. Although there is not really a specific whiskey glass designed for any specific styles of whiskey, in general, they are all intended to improve the tasting experience.
While things like stem length or size really do come down to personal preference, you will notice many similar characteristics when it comes to the overall curved shape. The intent is really to focus the underlying aromas towards your nose, thus enhancing and concentrating the scent. As you may be aware, much of our perception of taste is actually driven by our sense of smell. If you ever held your nose (or had a cold) and tried to taste one of your favorite drams, your tasting experience was likely completely different. And also the flavors were likely muted.
8 Best Glasses for Sampling Whiskey
There is no one, single best glass for tasting a whiskey. However, there are certainly some highly popular styles to help you step your tasting game up. Yes, they will cost you more than your standard glassware, but if you are a serious whiskey drinker (or trying to become one), it is well worth the investment. Try one of these eight whiskey glasses – listed in no particular order – to enjoy drinking your whiskey even more.
The Glencairn is one of the most popular and well-known types of whiskey glasses. Despite its ubiquitous presence, (its the official tasting glass of all Scottish & Irish distilleries) the Glencairn glass has only been around for the last 10 years. Today, more than 1 million glasses are shipped from Glencairn’s factory around the world.
It has a narrow tip, a wider base and a short and solid stem. This results in a sturdy glass that lets the whiskey’s aromas come forward. The design provides an excellent tasting experience that is still very manageable even when you are a few too many drams in.
Price: around €7 / £6 / $9
2. NEAT Glass
The NEAT glass is a scientifically designed nosing and tasting glass with a wide tip and base. This glass supposedly eliminates nose burn and numbing, which helps to bring out the more subtle aromas. Perhaps for this reason it has been adopted by dozens of international spirits competitions as an official tasting glass.
It’s an excellent nosing glass, but shape makes drinking slightly less easy.
Price: around €10 / £9 / $12
3. Tulip / Copita
Nothing beats a classic. A copita or tulip glass is the most traditional whisky nosing glass. It is also the preferred tasting glass of the legendary Richard Paterson. It’s similar to a Glencairn in shape, but with a longer, thin stem. These glasses can have rounded or a pointed bottoms.
Although it may be the most traditional of the 8 different types of whiskey glasses, it is also the most likely to get you in trouble over the course of multiple tastings. It’s long stem and narrow base make it the most unstable, and therefore highly likely to be tipped over or broken if you aren’t careful.
Price: around €6 / £5 / $8
4. Norlan Glass
The double-walled Norlan Whisky Glass uses science to capture whisky’s complex aromatics. The inner wall is pretty much shaped like a Glencairn, with swirl ridges added at the bottom that are supposed to bring out the aromas. The outer wall provides a more robust, easier to handle glass shaped similar to a stemless wine glass.
It’s also available in heavier (and pricier!) tumbler-version. This is one where your personal sense of style may have to outweigh the additional cost compared to a simple Glencairn.
5. Tumbler/Rocks Glass
The tumbler (or rocks glass as it is more commonly referred to in the US) is another classic. It is a wide glass with a thick, heavy bottom and little to no changes in shape of the body of the glass. A nice tumbler screams Mad Men all the way. This is often the glass scene when actors or actresses are enjoying whiskey on screen.
This solid glass makes drinking very easy, but the straight glass walls make it less suitable for nosing. While it is probably not the best option for whiskey purists, its size and shape best allow for the addition of large ice cubes. This whiskey glass is also perfect for cocktails, particularly
Price: around €9 / £8 / $11
Snifter glasses are also known as balloons or cognac glasses. The short stem of the snifter glass allows the glass to be cupped in the hand, which slowly warms the whisky. If you prefer your whisky chilled, this probably isn’t the ideal type of glass for you.
Price: around €8 / £7 / $10
7. Vinum Single Malt
Vinum is a tall whisky glass by wine glass designing experts Riedel, which pretty much has the looks of a snifter and a Glencairn, blended with a vase. Why do you need this Franken-glass? Unclear. According to Riedel’s website, the glass has “an elongated thistle shape on a truncated stem, and incorporates a small, slightly outturned lip which highlights sweetness.”
Price: around €20 / £19 / $22
8. Swirling Glass
A swirling glass has a ridge or spike in the bottom of the glass, to enhance ethanol vaporization when you swirl the whisky in the glass. Normann Copenhagen’s designer Rikke Hagen created a glass with a swirl pyramid.
Price: around €20 / £19 / $22
These are some of our favorite types of whiskey glasses. What is your go to glass for sipping your favorite dram or tasting something new?