Does your whisky glass make a difference?
Using the right whisky glass can make a big difference to the drinking experience. Different glasses can suit different whiskies. And a good whisky glass will enhance the nose (smell) and taste of a whisky.
Why should you buy a whisky glass?
Great whiskies are artisan products that should be celebrated. You'd drink champagne from a flute, a high-end Belgian beer out of a specialist glass, and a martini from a martini glass. The same is true of whisky. Investing in a quality glass adds to the sense of occasion. Whether you've reached the end of a long week and deserve a special treat. Or, better still, when you're pouring a dram for friends and loved ones.
As well as enhancing the drinking experience, they can have a marked impact on sensing the flavours of a whisky. There are three key elements to tasting a whisky: nose, palate, and finish. The nose is the aromas you smell. The palate is the taste of the whisky, and the texture, or mouthfeel, in the mouth. And the finish is the lingering taste, and feeling, left in your mouth and throat after a sip.
Where whisky glasses can have a particular impact is on the nose. The aromas of a whisky are the 'volatile elements' that evaporate from a whisky. The more of these volatile elements you can smell, the greater your perception of the aroma. So a key feature of whisky glasses is often focusing these volatile elements at the top of the glass. This makes the whisky easier to nose, and heightens the aromas. You can read more about the chemistry of whisky here.
But the influence doesn't stop here. As with food and drink in general, the perception of smell is linked to your perception of flavour. In other words, clearly smelling something improves the flavour you sense when you eat or drink it. So, in this context, better smelling, or nosing, a whisky will enhance the flavours you sense when you come to take a sip.
So, you should buy a whisky glass because it helps you celebrate an artisan product, enhances the ritual of enjoying a dram, and improves the smell and flavour of your whisky.
What is the best whisky glass?
Here are five of my favourite whisky glasses.
1. Old Fashioned Whisky Tumbler
My very first whisky glass was a cut crystal Old Fashioned glass. These are versatile. You can use them for a large pour. They're perfect for whisky on the rocks, if you take your whisky over ice. You can read more about the advantages and disadvantages of whisky and ice here. And, as the name may suggest, they are ideal for making Old Fashioned cocktails. Find some of my favourite whisky cocktails here.
The Old Fashioned whisky tumbler I've featured in this article is by Nachtmann, part of the Riedel Group - one of the best glass makers.
You can buy Nachtmann's Old Fashioned Whisky Tumbler here.
2. LSA Whisky Islay Tumbler
A heavy glass feels premium. It feels grand. And as such, it enhances the experience of drinking a good whiskey, in my book. Old Fashioned tumblers, as above, often have weighty bases. But the challenge with using these for neat whiskey is the wide rim won't focus the aromas of the whiskey. The aroma, commonly referred to as the nose, is a key part of enjoying whiskey.
Enter the LSA Islay Whisky Tumbler. These glasses are a great cross between an Old Fashioned Glass, and our next option of a Glencairn. Like the Old Fashioned Glass they have a wide belly and a heavy base. They feel grand. But like a proper tasting glass such as a Glencairn, they narrow to the rim. This narrowing of the glass focuses the aromas, making them easier to nose.
In case you're wondering, yes you can use this for whiskies other than Islay scotch.
You can buy the Islay Whisky Tumbler here.
3. Glencairn Whisky Glass
The Glencairn is the most famous of whisky glasses. It's arguably where 'proper' whisky glasses started. Certainly, if you go to a whisky tasting or festival it's most likely Glencairns you'll be using.
Then Glencairn has been specifically designed to taste the whisky. It's a smaller, narrow glass. It has a sturdy glass 'foot', which widens towards the belly, and narrows as you reach the top. This shape is perfect for focusing the aromas of the whisky. By nosing the whisky, you'll better appreciate the flavour profile of the whisky.
You can buy Glencairn whisky glasses here.
About a year ago I found myself reaching for a copita glass over a Glencairn. The body of a copita is very similar to a Glencairn. A wider belly, narrowing to a thinner opening. And like a Glencairn, it's designed to focus the aromas at the top of the glass, so that you can easily nose them. I think the reason I'm currently preferring the copita is because of its long stem. Think of it as a cross between a short wine glass, and a Glencairn. Perfect for enjoying a neat dram of your favourite whisky, or for doing mini whisky tastings.
You can buy a set of Copita whisky glasses here.
5. Riedel Whisky Glasses
Riedel is one of the biggest names in wine glasses. They also produce these delicate whisky glasses. Unlike the previous few examples which focus mostly on the nose, these glasses look to accentuate the palate.
The body of the glass is shaped like a long thistle, with a lip that turns outwards. This lip is designed to guide the whisky onto your tongue. And, by directing the pour onto your tastebuds, it aims to emphasize the creaminess and sweetness of a whisky.
These glasses would be particularly ideal for anyone who likes light, elegant glasses. These blown glass pieces are thin and elegant.
You can buy Riedel's whisky glasses here.
Investing in a good whisky glass really does improve the drinking experience. My personal favourites are the Glencairn and the Copita, but there's a glass out there for everyone's preference. And, once you've got your glass, if you'd like a quality whisky to sip out of it then check out our collection of independent whiskies here.