Ulster Whiskey Blog

Whiskey Glasses

Going into a bar, even specialist whiskey bars, can very often be disappointing to the connoisseur. Your keen to get a dram of something special, to nose it, sip it and have it roll around your tongue to get the very best out of whatever you have purchased. Recently I was in a quaint country village hotel that had a very nice selection of higher end whiskies: Mortlach 16, Glenfarclas, Bushmills 21 to name a few. So I was rather excited to give something nice a nosing and tasting after what was a decent meal. So up I hops at the bar and eyes up what I was going to have. After a bit of debate with myself I thought,” Oh what the hell will have the Bush, lovely stuff it is to start with.” Now it wasn’t very expensive but certainly something that is more of a treat than an everyday dram. So I called the barmaid over and asked her could I have “A drop of that gorgeous stuff” Pointing to the bottle. “Of course” she said with a smile and reached for a little glass that reminded me of something that my mother used to make me take medicine in when I was sick and off school.

“Whoa” I said. “Have you another glass?” She held it up to the light and looked to see if it had a smear of lipstick on it or some other offending trait.

There followed a brief conversation in which I tried to explain that this wasn’t suitable for such a fantastic drink. It would be like going to the Nurburgring and going round it on a 125 Honda. It would still be a bit of fun but not what it should be. So me, and she, scoured the rows of glasses until I saw a little wine glass that was something a little more appropriate for the drink.

This glass was more like the glasses used by blenders the world over (Which is called the Copita) but it wasn’t an actual Copita glass. This would have been a 600cc when in reality we are wanting a V8 four wheeler.

So what would a 4 wheeler Whiskey glass be like? Well there is a very good reason why the professional experts use those little stemmed glasses. They are pretty much perfect for everything a higher end whiskey requires. Stemmed so the hand doesn’t warm the liquid. Wider at the bottom bowl narrowing to the top, this allows the alcohol vapours to lift the smell and concentrate it for nosing. Petite so as not to take to big a gulp and over cook the tasting. The disadvantage is they are rather fragile and not very cheap, two things that dissuade a bar owner from buying them. For me however they are the F1 of Whiskey glasses.

So what about the usual Whiskey tumbler? Well it is perfectly fine for what it usually does. Measure of whiskey, ice, and mixer, or even two. It can also hold a wee umbrella with a cherry at the end. It is a cocktail glass, in my eyes, and for basic whiskey to be used as a base spirit for cocktails. If you are having a decent, high end drink and throw all that sweetener (That’s really all the cokes and red bulls etc. are) then I have heard blenders say they would call for an execution. Bit extreme in my eyes, I think a lengthy jail sentence would suffice but I can understand the the frustration of the Pros. Of course people prefer different things, and that is a wonderful thing, but with the vast array of flavours in Whiskey to just call for a “Whiskey and coke” is almost criminal. It instantly requires the classic tumbler and destroys the subtlety that the drink has. It almost forces the bars to only stock the wide mouth glasses and means the inexperienced staff will kill the flavour with ice. That is a cocktail, not a whiskey!

So what are acceptable alternatives? The Glencairn is a great invention, so much so, that it won The Queens Award for innovation in 2006. Its a lot more robust that the Copita and can take a knock, I can attest to this, having carried out numerous crash tests (Unintentionally) after a few swallys. They are readily available and are endorsed by the the Scotch Whisky Association. Pretty much every distillery sells them at the gift shop but they are much more than a gimmick, encompassing all the qualities of the Copita, I personally prefer the stem, but that’s just me.

The choice of glass seams to be widening week by week but some you know are not going to fit the bill before you try as they dont met the basic criteria for high end spirit. There is one that isnt released yet but I have to say am fairly excited about. The Norlan Glass. It makes a lot of bold claims about “Fluid dynamics… Bio mimicry” but it looks like it could be a little different and might provide something additional, and surely that is what being a Whiskey nerd is all about. Trying new and exciting things.

There are 2 comments
  1. I’m so glad to see someone else mention the importance of the glass when we want to enjoy a good dram. My heart kind of sinks every time I see them pick up a tumbler for a good whiskey. Nowadays, unless I’m in a very specialised bar, I always ask for a brandy glass, because at least it reminds of the type of glass I’d like to use.

  2. Seán

    I wholeheartedly agree, you need to drink from a proper glass. I was just at the “Friend At Hand” to buy a nice bottle for a present, the shop itself is a delight for any whiskey drinker even to look through the collection of whiskeys no longer being produced but also to an education to hear about those new ones to the market. We went from there to The Harp Bar facing it to have a quick one for the road. After a discussion with the barman we went for his recommendation and tried the Red Spot 15 year old whiskey to which he said, “hold on I need to get you a proper whiskey glass”. The conversation continued with the barman and we sampled a few more before leaving.

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