Whisk(e)y Wisdom, Whisk(e)y How To

Do Specialty Glasses Make Your Whiskey Taste Better?

Norlan, Glencairn, Riedel, and Neat. Are specialty whiskey glasses really worth it?

The short answer; yes. You will get more aromatics and flavor from your whiskey when you use whiskey specific glassware. Now, if you’re my kind of people – and I think you are – the next question is: Why? What is it about those pricey glasses that makes them better for nosing and sipping?

Let’s find out.

But first, I must clarify. I’m not saying specialty whiskey glasses are the ONLY glasses to use for drinking whiskey. The best whiskey glass is the glass you have with you. I’ve been known to use a coffee mug, tin cup, mason jar, stone bowl, or pewter dish to name a few. Heck, I’ve even nipped straight from the bottle a time or two. Point is, it’s ok to use whatever you’ve got on hand.

However, if you want to really get in there and explore your whiskey, then you’ll want the right tools for the job. This is where the fancy glassware shines. Let’s look at two ways the right glass will make your whiskey taste better.

First, whiskey glasses are DESIGNED to help you get more from your whiskey. Some smart folks have put a lot of time into designing the form of your whiskey glass. No, they didn’t pick those shapes because they look pretty. All those curves serve a purpose. Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular glasses and their function:

NEAT: The wide mouth and outward slant of this glass simultaneously directs aromatics to your nose while venting as much hair singeing ethanol as possible. A good glass for people new to drinking hard liquor neat.

Riedel: The tulip shape of this glass serves the same function as the NEAT glass, but with less ethanol venting.

Norlan: This is basically a Riedel glass encased in a double wall. The Norlan performs like a Riedel but with an extra insulating layer to keep your hand from warming your whiskey.

Glencairn: An upside-down funnel. This glass directs everything to your nose. You get the aromatics AND the ethanol. This glass is best for people who are practiced at navigating ethanol’s vapor stream.

Second, whiskey glasses prep your brain for drinking whiskey. Did you know that using a whiskey glass and blinking have a lot in common? Yes, blinking, as in what your eyelids do. It’s true. Have you noticed how often you blink?

Your eyes blink an average of fifteen to twenty times per minute. Not at regular intervals. And sometimes you blink more often. Like when dust or smoke blows into your eyes. Or on a line change when reading. Blinking usually feels involuntary. But now that we’re talking about it, you realize you’re in control of every single blink. Suddenly your eyelids feel heavier and you’re keenly aware of their movement.

Sorry, I’m done. We’ll stop talking about blinking. The above paragraph was a cheap shot and a practical demonstration of the power of suggestion.

Please forgive me.

It was important that I show you.

What does this have to do with whiskey and whiskey glasses?

Don’t dismiss the power of suggestion. When you pour a golden dram into a glass designed for whiskey, your brain sits up and pays attention. And by extension, your senses are more alert. Suddenly, you're aware of your whiskey’s aromatics. You pick out hints of this and notes of that. Your whiskey tastes better and you enjoy it more.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

So take advantage of the advantages granted. Use whiskey specific glassware. If you don’t have a whiskey glass, then get one.

You’ll be glad you did.

— Zac Smith