For years the way to enjoy a good hearty dram was in a tumbler, with or without ice, sitting on a big red leather armchair or indeed your favourite sitting chair in an office or front room. But that all changed when glassware started to get designed specifically for the enjoyment of whisky, and when science was brought in to the equation in order to heighten experiences and maximise the enjoyment of our drams.
There are so many different glassware options available now for whisky drinkers the world over, that it can be incredibly hard to know which is the right glass for you and for which type of whisky you are enjoying. Each has a specific reason for being and delivers the nose and palate in subtle and interesting ways.
Do you know your tumbler from your Glencairn, your Túath from your Copita or your Norlan from your Blender’s Glass? Here is your handy guide to some of the greatest in whisky glassware as having your own understanding on what the best glassware for whisky is will play a huge role in your enjoyment of this spirit.
The Humble Tumbler
Typically these are heavy, chunky with straight walls and a wide rim at the top, feeling very solid, making you feel good when you hold them, a sort of reward for your efforts that day. There is an informality to them too; no pretence and no need to overthink the contents of the glass, just pure, honest enjoyment. The downside is that tumblers are not designed to retain aromas for any nose enhancement, but they are easy to use and a joy to hold.
The Glencairn Glass
Dubbed "The Official Whisky Glass", the Glencairn is one of the most ubiquitous pieces of glassware in world whisky. This iconic glass has led to a Queen’s Award for Enterprise being awarded to the company in 2006. As a glass, it is shorter than many other options, it has a solid punt for you to hold firmly in your hand and a big bulbous body that retains the aromas of the liquid whilst simultaneously directing the nose through the narrow opening at the top of the glass for a more concentrated nosing experience. 'There has never been a single definitive glass that the whisky world could call its own.'
Following in the tradition of Scottish innovation, The Glencairn Glass was created combining the knowledge and expertise of some of the whisky world’s leading innovators. 'It’s roots lie in the traditional nosing glass used by master blenders and connoisseurs around the world. The unique and stylish shape has been crafted with eminent care to enhance the enjoyment of single malts and aged blends', said Raymond Davidson of Glencairn.
The Blender’s Glass
A relatively new glass to the market, this stunning-looking glass was resurrected from the 1920s through a collaboration between The Whisky Exchange and Angus MacRaild, whisky writer and ancient whisky specialist. When asked about the benefits of this onion-shaped glass, MacRaild said that, 'The blender's glass works by providing a large enclosed surface area which captures a high level of aromas as they escape off that surface with the evaporating alcohol. It effectively turns up the volume on the aromas of almost all whiskies to a rather startling degree. Can be somewhat intense with cask strength whiskies but for lower abv or more delicate drams it's really perfect'.
The Copita Glass
Often used in the professional judging of whisky, and a favourite of Richard Paterson, the Copita Glass is a tulip-shaped glass originally hailing from Spain and used for nosing Sherry. Originally referred to as the "dock glass" due to its early use by wine merchants when receiving and approving shipments at shipping docks during the 18th Century and even earlier. Nowadays blenders and distillers in the whisky industry have taken to it as the size and surface area of the glass is such that whisky can be rolled around the glass releasing aromas, whilst retaining the alcohol vapours. When using the Copita Glass it is advised to let the whisky sit in the glass for a while, with a cap on if you have one, to allow aromas and oxygen to work together to amplify your flavour experience.
The Túath Glass
A very new additional the world of whiskey glassware, the Túath Glass has been designed specifically for the enjoyment of Irish whiskey, with a focus on how the glass feels in the hand. Rosanna Goswell, commercial director for the Túath Glass explained further: 'Whiskey nosing and tasting is seldom a solitary exercise so we created a glass that technically enhances the experience through the chemistry of its shape and the secure comfort it gives in the hand. 'It is designed to work in a social context, hence its more generous proportions and ease of drinking. 'It has been really exciting for us to seeing the confidence people get from holding Túath’s somewhat idiosyncratic base which was inspired by Skellig Michael. Beautiful whiskey deserves a beautiful glass.'
The NEAT glass has had mixed reviews, but does do something really quite interesting. By using two distinct sections in the glass, the wide bowl at the bottom and the wide rim at the top, the NEAT glass promotes the numbing of the alcohol vapours, particularly cask strength whiskies, so that the drinker’s delicate nose is not overpowered by the high ABVs present in the glass. One point here is that by eliminating the alcohol burn means that you miss out on some of the flavour notes and composition of certain whiskies, but trial and error will help you find to the best whiskies to use this glass with.
Perfect Whisky Glass
Not the biggest glass in the cabinet, that’s for sure, but this little gem from Urban Bar is great for holding in your hands and for carrying along with you at whisky festivals. As explained by Urban Bar themselves, 'The rounded bowl gives plenty of room for swirling your spirit, while the narrowed rim directs aromas towards the nose. The copita shape glass sits on top of a bold solid glass stem for a comfortable hold.' This glass is a mini-classic, and one that helps keep your precious whisky at room temperature too when cupped, for perfect enjoyment of any dram you may be sipping.
Remember; we all experience whisky differently so don’t just follow what others are doing as ultimately, it can be a personal decision as to what glassware you use, but one thing that is worth doing is something that even the professionals in the industry do from time to time; nose the same whisky in multiple types of glassware and see if you can work out what the differences are, which gives more intense and more nuanced flavours, then see if you find a new favourite vessel for your drams.
A decent tumbler is a pleasure