The World of Single Malt Whisk(e)y
A Scotsman, an Irishman and an American walk into a bar. Each takes a seat at the bar and asks the bartender for a single malt whisk(e)y. The Scotsman asks for an Oban 14 year, the Irishman asks for a Bushmills 10 year and the American asks for a Westland Sherry Wood. The Bartender returns and places each of the drams in front of the corresponding petitioners. In front of the Scotsman is a Glencairn Whisky Glass, in front of the Irishman is a Tuath Whisky Glass and in front of the American is a Tumbler/Rock Glass.
Each of the glasses set in front of our single malt drinkers is representative of that countries influence on the type of vessel adopted by that country as their whisk(e)y glass of choice.
Your Malt Mate brings you his favorite glassware
The thing is the above scenario would likely never happen. It’s fairly typical that a bartender will not know what a whisky nosing glass looks like, let alone what a Glencairn or Tuath glass is. Chances are all the pours are going to be served in a tumbler, maybe a wine glass or brandy snifter.
So what are our choices of glassware for drinking single malts and why would there even be different types of glassware to be considered? Truth be told, we could just use any old cup, glass, container, Mason jar or the bottle itself to transfer the sweet nectar of the gods to our lips. Unless you’re filling your container to drink from your home-made still in the back of your house behind the shed, you may want to consider your glass of choice.
Single Malt drinkers are connoisseurs, we share the same personal experience in regards to the appreciation of the bottles we purchase, drink, collect and share with friends. It’s not uncommon for our shared interest to lead us to that same experience with our glassware. Whisk(e)y glasses are designed to enhance our experience. Whisk(e)y glasses come different shapes and sizes but one thing they all have in common is that they are rounded at the bottom and taper toward the top of the glass. They are made to optimize our sense of smell, taste and esthetics. A whisk(e)y glass is a Nosing glass. Some nosing glasses have stems that raise the glass above the base and are referred to as Stemware, the others sit on their own base.
We have two basic choices, a Tumbler (low ball, old fashioned, rock) or a Tulip shaped glass. A tumbler is versatile and can fit most any occasion. Whether it’s a single malt, bourbon, or any other libation, it’s adaptable. From adding ice to making a mixed drink it’s glassware that should be accessible in your home bar. The downside to a tumbler in regards to drinking single malts is that it doesn’t allow you to cup the glass in your hand and warm your single malt should you so choose. Additionally, the open diameter of the glass doesn’t concentrate the aromatics and taste when it greets your nose and taste buds. Even so, this glass will be what you will see in movies and television whether the whisk(e)y is shared in a gentleman’s study, a bar, an event or most any occasion. It’s the classic standard and as previously mentioned it’s also the glass the bartender is likely to serve your single malt in.
There are many styles and choices of both Tumblers and Tulip glasses. Both should have a place in your home bar. While many different nosing glasses have come into the market in the last 10 years due to the popularity of world whisk(e)y making claims that theirs is the best, you need to be the judge. Just like your single malts it’s all personal preference. Here are a few of the more popular ones and some of my favorites.
The Glencairn Whisky Glass
What Glencairn says, “The Glencairn Whisky Glass is a revolutionary whisky glass that really lets one savor the taste and complexity of fine whisky. These are great to use for any of your Single Malt Whisky's,Irish Whiskey's, and also your single barrel bourbons. With the tapered mouth, you are able to really smell all of the nuances the whisky has to offer. Any malt advocate will love this glass!”
My opinion: The Glencairn has become the go to tasting glass for most single malts connoisseurs. They’re inexpensive and represent the characteristics we’re looking for in a tasting glass. It’s the glass I use when company is over for a tasting or get together. It does everything a good nosing glass should. Capacity 6 US fl oz. Priced around $8 USD plus shipping.
The Túath Irish Whiskey Glass
What Túath says, “The TÚATH (tu - ah) - from the old Irish for family or nation, is a conical shaped nosing and tasting glass for whiskey that functions superbly by concentrating & capturing all the aromas and flavours that make Irish Whiskey unique.
The generosity of Irish spirit is reflected in the enhanced chamber capacity delivering a more generous drinking experience.
WHY? With the re-birth of Irish Whiskey production, the development of new world class distilleries, visitor centers and The Irish Whiskey Tourism Trail, it's time for a contemporary glass to become the iconic symbol unifying Irish Whiskey drinkers around the world.
HOW? The Tuath Glass is as much about emotion as it is about technicality, but here's the science bit anyway……
Smell: Aroma is a very important part of the experience of a whiskey, traditional wide brimmed tumblers cause aromas to diffuse too widely, tulip shaped nosing glasses narrowly concentrate of all the vapors and can cause ethanol to punch into the eyes and nose. The conical shape of the Túath concentrates the vapors while its slightly wider opening and flared top let more of the alcohol vapors flow out, allowing you to nose the center of the glass without alcohol burn, and the whiskey to express its hidden aromas and flavors.
Colour: Blenders and connoisseurs like a stemmed glass which allows for the inspection of the spirits colour without marking and clouding the view of the bowl with fingerprints. The Túath achieves this with its iconic short stem allowing for swirling, viewing and nosing.
Touch: The Túath's stem provides a secure anchor for the thumb, and either left or right handed users can safely swirl and nose the whiskey, while the larger chamber and wider aperture allow the drinker to retain eye contact by not having to tilt their head back so far.
Taste: The larger chamber of The Túath allows whiskey drinkers to move seamlessly from a tasting experience to a drinking experience. The fine rim of the Túath glass elegantly sits on the surface of the lip while also allowing the alcohol vapors to escape away from the mouth enhancing the taste of the whiskey.”
My opinion: I just recently started experimenting with the glass. I like the shape and esthetics of the glass and with a capacity of 7.1 US fl oz it holds a good amount of single malt. For me it doesn’t sit comfortably in my hand. The triangular base is a neat concept but with no stem it feels a bit awkward, though more time with it may change my opinion. I like the flair of the lip of the glass, it makes for a nice entry to the palate. Price around $11 USD plus shipping.
1920s’ Professional Blender’s Whisky Glass
What the Whisky Exchange says, “A modern recreation of a style of glass used by blenders in the 1920s, developed in partnership with whisky writer Angus MacRaild. The onion shape helps to concentrate the aromas and flavours, leading to a greater sensory experience.”
My opinion: The description by the Whisky Exchange doesn’t do justice to this glass. I’ve been using them for over 3 years and find when I’m reaching for glassware for that special bottle, this is one of my top glasses of choice. The onion shape allows for easily swirling the whisk(e)y and allowing great presentation of the legs of the pour.The concentration of the aromas and presentation of the single malt from glass to your palate is stunning. At 1st it’s a bit awkward due to tilting the glass so far back when tasting the pour but you soon adapt to the glass. The glass is a bit fragile at the stem and not as easy to clean as others but far makes up for it in performance. Capacity is 7.6 US fl oz. Priced around $26 USD out of the UK plus shipping.
NEAT the ultimate spirits glass
What NEAT says, “In 2002, a simple glass blowing mistake revealed a single amazing concept displaying the true expressions of all spirits, launching a new scientific approach to drinking enjoyment and understanding. Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology (NEAT) is the foundation for the best spirits glass available. Flavor is 90% aroma, and every spirits glass should display all aromas and enhance flavor.
Studying human olfactory physiology and applying physics and chemistry sciences, we unlocked the hidden dimensions of distilled spirits with a spirits nosing glass that enhances drinking pleasure, enjoyment, and diagnostics. After nine years, fifty two design revisions, hundreds of tastings and aroma profile studies we learned enough to release the perfect spirits glass - NEAT, to serious spirits drinkers. The tulip glass is now “old school” obsolete and proven to be non-functional as serious drinkers depend on the NEAT spirits glass to understand true spirit character and quality and make buying decisions.”
Taste the Truth: Taste and aroma are true measures of a spirit's quality. Alcohol burn numbs the nose and overwhelms the truth, spoiling your drinking experience. NEAT eliminates nose burn and numbing, enhancing ability to detect, savor, and enjoy the subtle, wonderful aromas the distiller intended. NEAT is the best spirits glass ever.
My opinion: I’ve had a pair for a couple years. This glass is noted as being an official competition judging glass though I’m not sure which competition it represents. For my personal experience I find the glass a bit to squat to allow the aromatics to condense and transfer to the top of the glass. While the opening of the glass allows for a generous nosing the glass itself doesn’t enhance that experience for me. As I like to observe the legs of the pour before tasting that is virtually eliminated due to its shape. I also find it awkward to sip from. Capacity is 4 US fl oz. Priced around $15.75 USD plus shipping.
Norlan Whisky Glass
What Norlan says, “Inspired by nature, digitally crafted, and meticulously refined with master distiller Jim McEwan, the Norlan Whisky Glass has been designed to capture whisky’s complex flavors and aromatics and deliver them to the senses like never before. The unique double-walled structure offers a seamless integration of a scientifically performing inside with an aesthetically beautiful outside, for the perfect whisky drinking experience. The glass is formed by mouth-blowing borosilicate glass into two separate molds: one for the inner wall, and one for the outer wall. When both volumes are ready, the inner wall is inserted into the outer, at which time the rims are joined by spinning the glass rapidly across a linear flame. A distinctive result of the double-walled construction is the intensity of color added to spirits in the bowl, which is further carried up into the rim of the glass.”
My opinion: Like the NEAT glass I’ve also owned a pair of these for a few years. I have the utmost respect for Jim McEwan and love the single malts he produced as the master distiller when he was at the Bruichladdich distillery. I’m just not sure what he did to refine this glassware. I had a lot of anticipation built up before trying this glass based on the manufacturer’s description. Due to the outer wall the glass has a plastic feel to it and it’s very light. Additionally, the double wall creates an exaggerated lip to the top of the glass. It feels cumbersome and uncomfortable to sip from. From time to time I revisit using this glass but have never grown fond of it. I do know many others that enjoy this glass and it’s in my glassware cabinet for if and when they decide to come visit my tasting room. I’m not sure what Jim McEwan was thinking and question if he was really that involved in “refining” the glass. Capacity is 6.9 US fl oz. Price around $36 USD per pair plus shipping.
Eisch Jeunesse Malt Whiskey Glass
What Eisch says, “Say hello to Whiskey Magazine’s highest ranking glass for nosing single malt whiskeys! The narrow open directs the aromas to your nose and palate for the optimal experience. An absolute highlight for whiskey connoisseurs is the Jeunesses Malt Whiskey glass from Eisch - hand-crafted from lead-free crystal glass. The special shape of the nosing glass for single malt whiskey allows it to fully develop its flavor. The world-renowned "Whiskey Magazine" recommends the glass in Issue 24 as a clear winner for "Best Nosing Glass for Blended Whiskey", "Best Nosing Glass for Single Malts" and "Best Nosing Glass for cask strength malts" in the test with different malt whiskey glasses.”
My opinion: Next to the 1920s Professional Blenders Glass this is the other nosing glass I tend to reach for when drinking those exclusive selective cherished single malts. I’ve been using the Eisch for almost 5 years. Eisch is a German company and the glasses can be a bit of a challenge to source but oh so worth it. This is lead-free crystal and a bit fragile due to the stem but the experience with the glass is exemplary. The clarity of the crystal and the length of the tulip shaped bowl tapering to just the right size opening of the glass combine to make for a special experience. From the legs of the whisk(e)y to the concentration of the aromas and flavor then the introduction to your palate is something special for those looking for that moment in time with that special bottle that’s timeless. Capacity is 5.4 US fl oz. Priced around $67 USD per pair plus shipping.
Luigi Bormioli Vinoteque Spirits Snifter
What The DrinkShop says: “Beautiful award winning designs, elegance and strength are some of the features that make Luigi Bormioli crystal so special. The collection has been developed to provide a superior, resonant, blown glass in a quality and purity rivalling that of lead crystal. The fine beadless rim on a Luigi Bormioli glass has been heat treated to strengthen it and all the glasses are dishwasher proof."
My opinion: One of the best values for a stylish Copita nosing glass. It feels good in your hand, does everything you’re looking for out of a nosing glass, and impresses when introduced to your guests to drink from. These dishwasher safe glasses are sturdy and come in a set of 6. Perfect for when you have a small group over, they are available on Amazon. Capacity is 5.75 UD fl oz. Priced at $54.44 for a set of 6 plus shipping.
While there is a wide variety of glassware available, I chose but a few of those I own to represent some of what you’ll find in the market. Experiment with different ones and you’ll find those that you favor over others as I have. You may even find that much like single malts you may collect, you’ll find yourself collecting glassware too.
Until next we meet down the road as we travel the World of Single Malt Whisk(e)y -