There are two types of people in the world–those who pair the proper glassware with their whiskies and the ones who go for the nearest mug available. Never mind the fact that they’re tacky souvenir mugs, as long as it holds the liquid, right?
If you belong in the latter category–with or without the souvenir mugs–you must be wondering if the types of whisky glasses really do affect the drinking experience. We can’t speak for other spirits, but when it comes to whisky, we’re full on #teamproperglasses.
There’s a common misconception that whisky glasses are for aesthetic purposes only. While that’s partly true, there is also so much more than meets the eye. Whisky glasses are designed with form and functionality in mind. Some are meant to highlight the spirit’s notes and scent, while others are made specifically for cocktails, neat pours, and more.It’s true, the types of whisky glasses used do influence the overall drinking experience and enjoyment.
Before we delve into what type of glass to use for a particular dram, here are three criteria to consider when selecting your vessel:
How is the glass designed?
We all like nice things, but in this case, the appearance factor goes beyond just aesthetic purposes. Often, the way a whisky glass is designed is very telling of its intended use. To start, examine how the glass is modelled–from the base, the handle (if any), right up to the shape of the mouth.
How drinkable is the glass?
Have you ever come across really gorgeous or novel glasses and mugs only to find out that it’s hella difficult to actually drink from them? Drinkability is a crucial factor that you definitely don’t want to dismiss. Look out for the diameter of the rim, weight, and angle of the inside wall when you tilt it.
Does the glass support nosing?
A grand whisky experience is one part tasting, other part nosing–both equally as important. Glasses with a narrow mouth can direct the smell and aroma straight to your nose, while those with a wider mouth allow the whisky to breathe, encouraging ethanol fumes to dissipate, which can change the taste of the dram, so make sure you know what you like!
With that in mind, here are six most well-known types of whisky glasses every enthusiast should equip their shelves with because believe us, they all will come in handy at one point or another.
We try not to play favourites but when it comes to fulfilling all three criteria above, it seems like the Glencairn glass is emerging as one of the strongest contenders.
With a thick and dense base, easily drinkable mouth, and a shape that caters to both–a wider bottom allowing the whisky to breathe, and a narrower top that’s perfect for channelling the aroma for nosing–the Glencairn glass is even deemed by experts as the official whisky glass. Their words, not ours.
Not only that, the Glencairn’s well-thought-out height ensures that you can practice your swirling while preventing any accidental spillage of that precious liquid.
It’s essentially a glass that has all your whisky-drinking needs and worries sorted out. Every feature has an intended purpose–all substance, no frills–an optimum product perfect for the whisky drinker respectful of the art.
Whisky drinker or not, novice or connoisseur, the Tumbler needs no introduction. As it’s the most common whisky glass, the Tumbler is pretty straightforward. With a sturdy foundation and straight, thick walls, it’s excellent as a party or event-friendly glass where delicate-handling of glasswares is unfeasible or straight-up unheard of.
Though the Tumbler’s nosing feature is not its strongest suit, its drinkability and ease of grip are top-notch. Also dubbed the lowball, the spacious bottom and wide circumference allows for whisky on the rocks or cocktails as there’s plenty of space for all that mixing, muddling, and stirring.
Versatile, reliable, and approachable, the Tumbler is an evergreen glass and a requisite for every whisky enthusiast indeed.
Here’s another baffling quandary of what came first. The chicken or the egg? The highball glass or the highball cocktail?
Also known as the Tumbler’s counterpart, the Highball is basically its taller and skinnier sibling. It shares the same robust and heavy bottom, giving its long body much stability and durability.
Most highball glasses can usually contain up to 350ml of liquid, which means it has room for plenty of ice, spirit, and mixer–essential ingredients for a highball cocktail. In fact, the main star of the cocktail and the purpose of the Highball glass is to fill it up to the brim with lots of ice. This makes the glass ideal for a long, relaxing drink. Think catch up sessions with friends on a hot, sunny afternoon.
Apart from using Highball glasses for whisky cocktails, they’re also perfectly acceptable as everyday glasses, so you don’t have to worry about them being unused and collecting dust in a cabinet if you’re not a frequent alcoholic drinker.
Picture this setting: men in suits hold a glass of liquor in one hand while smoking cigars on the other. The glass in question has a tulip-shaped body, a short stem, and a broad base. They hold their glasses effortlessly–index finger and middle finger cradling the stem, while the base sits comfortably on their palms and fingers. Meet the Snifter, a prominent glass that has made numerous appearances in a myriad of movies and TV shows.
Like the Glencairn, the Snifter also has a narrower mouth intended for an invigorating nosing experience. As its name suggests, the glass accentuates your whisky’s aroma. Its tight rim and wide bottom direct the scent straight to your nose when you lift it up.
The Snifter might share similar characteristics with the Glencairn, but this one bears a more voluminous body–designed specifically to restrict the liquid from spilling out even when held almost horizontally. Talk about defying gravity.
The Tulip is like the hybrid child of the Glencairn and the Snifter. It embodies a similar shape–heavy and rotund at the bottom, sleek and slender on top. What distinguishes the Tulip though, is its longer stem.
Aesthetically, the longer stem makes the glass look more delicate and elegant, but it serves a practical function, too. The Tulip was designed in such a way to avoid the drinker’s hand from coming in close contact to the nose. This ensures that no other smells can pollute and interfere with the whisky’s true aroma.
Often used by blenders and avid whisky connoisseurs, the Tulip completely concentrates on the flavour and notes of a whisky, perfect for tasting sessions.
Photo by theneatglass.com.
If all the previous glasses are akin to the big boys in the whisky industry, the NEAT glass is your fresh newcomer already racking up stellar recommendations on its resume.
Its name is both a nod to its functionality and its intent. NEAT is an abbreviation for Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology–invented explicitly for ... you guessed it, neat pours.
The shape of the glass may be a little peculiar, but there’s an ingenious reason behind it. The NEAT’s hourglass figure–wide bottom that gradually inches thinner towards the top, then balloons out to a wide mouth again–is intended to expel the lighter compounds such as ethanol out of the dram, thus leaving the heavier compounds like guaiacol in, which can apparently improve the taste of the whisky overall.
The drinkability isn’t great with this one, so you’d probably wouldn’t want to use this for a casual get-together. We recommend saving it for a no-nonsense tasting session instead and let the vessel truly shine in that area.
Heighten your experience with the right type of whisky glass
Who would’ve thought that something as inconspicuous as a glass can play a major role in influencing your whisky drinking experience? From the adept Glencairn, to the ubiquitous tumbler, classic snifter, to the unconventional NEAT glass, there’s a destined vessel in various shapes, sizes, and styles for every whisky out there.
Beginners may question the propensity of it at first, but when their palates get accustomed to the nuances and intricacies of whisky-drinking, they too, will come to concede with how a good whisky glass can heighten the flavours, aromas, and overall enjoyment of a dram.