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A Guide to Different Types of Whiskey Glasses

Whiskey, the water of life, the amber-colored spirit reminding us that life is worth living. We’ve learned about how to drink it, but what about choosing the correct vessel for tasting this life-giving spirit? We’re going to review the best whiskey glasses, distinguishing features of each, and which glasses to buy for the best tasting experience (and perhaps we’ll sing the famous Morgan Wallen song in the process).

Whiskey Glass Anatomy: What makes a whiskey glass special?

You may be thinking, why can’t I drink whiskey out of a red Solo cup? Won’t it taste the same? Oh, my dear Whiskey newb(ie), you have much to learn. You see, whiskey glasses done right enhance the complex flavor of whiskey. Certain glasses have thick bottoms to aerate the whiskey.

The basic structure consists of:

  • The rim
  • The body
  • The stem

The rim is the outer edge of the glass that reveals subtle aromas in the whiskey. Small diameter rims keep the smell concentrated on the nose, wide diameter rims disperse alcohol into the air and away from the nose.

The body enhances both taste and aroma. Round, bowl-shaped glasses focus aromas to the nose through a tapered rim. While concentrating aromas, round glasses enable swirling for aeration and are the most popular option for this reason.

The stem is the bottom of the glass and allows for effortless swirling. Longer stems are best for the perfect swirl and prevents the drinker’s hand from getting too close to the nose and interfering with the whiskey’s aroma.

These terms define whiskey glasses.

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Types of Whiskey Glasses

The right whiskey glass exposes discreet aromas in the whiskey. 

Tumbler

The traditional whiskey glass you’re probably most familiar with: the rocks glass, the old-fashioned glass, and the lowball. Each distinctive name corresponds to its various uses.

This type of glass is ideal for variations: neat, on the rocks, or for whiskey cocktails like a Manhattan.

Even though its rim dimension is wider, there’s an equal distribution of aroma vapors upon smelling. It’s a less focused scent, but allows you to smell the whiskey holistically.

Snifter

What better way to sniff than to use a Snifter? It’s also known as a brandy bowl or a balloon glass.

This type of glass is ideal for bourbon tasting and cocktails. The longer stem provides easy grip, keeping the hand away from the rim. The wide bottom, and narrow rim focus the aromas, revealing secret flavors within the whiskey or bourbon for only you to know.

Glencairn

The golden standard of whiskey sipping glasses, the Glencairn.

Get your perfect swirl on with its short, sturdy base. It’s the best multipurpose sniffing and tasting glass for all whiskies. The small, but thick neck and narrow rim focuses the aromas, and diffuses the smell.

With a Glencairn glass, you’ll appreciate the subtleties in the whiskey through smell and taste.

Neat Glass

NEAT (or Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology) glass is what happens when whiskey-enthused scientists experiment with glass technology. But really, it’s the result of a faulty error in a glass blowing factory.

The spherical base fits a single serving, 1.5 ounces of liquid goodness and pulls out subtle aromas. The glasses bottom is easily held in the palm of your hand, warming the whiskey, and the flared rim perfectly positions your nose.

Shot

Typically, holding between 1.25-1.5 ounces, this shot glass is the main design element in every college student’s dormitory. Some stories trace the origins of the shot glass to holding quill pens over 100 years ago. As the legend goes, the original shot glass had thick walls and was filled with lead shot for feather quills. When your feather quill wasn’t in use, it was stored upright in the lead-filled shot glass. (Imagine someone from the 1800s time travelling to 2021 and seeing everyone drinking what they think is “lead” in shot glasses!)

Reserve this glass in times or desperation, when you want to pregame, or for a cheap whiskey like Old Crow (sorry, Old Crow).

What are whiskey glasses made of?

There are four materials typically used to make whiskey glassware. They are:

  • Glass. Can’t spell glasses without glass. Glass makes you feel like a classy, cigar-smoking, worldy individual.
  • Crystal. The Warren Buffet of glasses, providing clarity, luster, prestige, and style.
  • Tritan plastic. A little less enthusiastic, this material is resistant to impacts and is the affordable option.
  • Stainless steel. Shatterproof, and rust resistant this material keeps alcohol at the correct temperature. It also makes for a great improvised instrument.

The Best Whiskey Glasses: 5 Recommendations from Taster’s Club

Each one of these featured glasses is designed for the perfect balance, weight, and feel. We have special recommendations to impress even the most discerning whiskey connoisseurs.

Norlan Whiskey Glass

Digitally designed and crafted by master distiller Jim McEwan, the Norlan Whiskey Glass was specifically designed for an enhanced whiskey-tasting experience. It features a transparent, double-walled structure that intensifies the flavor and color of the whiskey. It was crafted with an ingenious glass-blowing technique that creates an effect that looks like a glass within a glass. It has phenomenal aeration and nosing performance and is the glass you need to add to your collection.

Price: $48.00 (set of two)
Where to buy: NorlanGlass.com, Amazon

Glencairn Copita

This curved tulip glass is versatile: for beers and whiskey alike. It’s manufactured in lead-free crystal and optimized for sensory analysis. This “dock class” is an icon and sets you apart from casual whisker drinkers. The tulip shaped bowl allows for the ideal swirl, and the smaller rim concentrates the vapors to the nose.

Price: $19.95
Where to buy: Amazon

Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Tasting Glass

The perfect glass for savoring bourbon and Scotch, this glass is a classic. This crystal whiskey glass is made from lead-free crystal, weighing about 0.35 points. The crystal’s clarity deepens the hue of the whiskey, and the shape is conducive to holding, swirling, and sipping. The tapering mouth allows an ease of drinking and a focused nose.

No whiskey glass collection is complete without this.

Price: $8.99-10.95
Where to buy: Amazon, The Glencairn Whisky Glass

Neat Glass Elite Spirits Glass

Another crystal glass, this is where design meets practicality. It features a substantial base with functional grip. It’s made of lead-free European crystalline weighing in at 12.3 ounces. Its ergonomic shape facilitates swirling and enhances subtle aromas.

Price: $11.95-$20.99
Where to buy: Amazon, NEAT Glass

Hotel Astor Crystal Whiskey Glass

Millionaire William Waldorf Astor opened the Hotel Astor in Times Square in 1904. Inside this legendary hotel, he opened the Men-Only Bar, notorious for its strong drinks and superb service. Luckily, the outdated boy’s club rules have been overturned, there’s a rich history deep in the crystal heart of this glass. These glasses are based on the glassware used in the ol’ Men-Only Bar.

They are a standard rocks glass, but they are a beautiful addition to any collection.

Price: $38
Where to buy: History Company

Honorable Mention: North Drinkware Mountain Tumblers

Traditionally, rocks glasses are plain. They look like any old glass you can drink water out of. But not these. North Drinkware added a creative design element to the tumbler at no detriment to the form or functionality. In the base of the glasses, they molded iconic mountains using real topographical maps for accuracy. The mountain design provides a molten lava effect when combined with the amber color of the whiskey.

There are nine different featured mountains and one lake. This is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and is a unique addition to any collection.

Price: $48
Where to buy: North Drinkware

Whiskey Glasses – FAQs

What are the uses of a whiskey glass?

Glasses are simply a vessel to drink the whiskey. Use them for special occasion: a bar mitzvah, a wedding, to celebrate the birth of your best friend’s child, whatever the occasion, these glasses are a necessity. They’re also perfect for savoring whiskey in the comfort of your own home, and mixing your favorite cocktails.

What about swirling the whiskey? What does that do?

It’s not just a cool party trick, swirling the whiskey gives whiskey its “legs” or the drips that form as the liquor recedes down the sides of the glass.

Legs tell you a few things: alcohol is more viscous than water so heavier, slower-moving legs indicate higher ABV. Heavier legs also indicate an older whiskey.

Swirling also promotes evaporation. This sends aromatic chemicals towards your nose. Without evaporation, we wouldn’t be able to smell the whiskey. Swirling speeds up the process.

Why do whiskey glasses have thick bottoms?

Thick bottoms maintain the temperature of the drink. As the glass is thicker on the bottom, a drinker’s hand doesn’t warm up to the liquid (which can change the flavor). Ice doesn’t melt as quickly, and the solid base provides stability, ideal for preparing whiskey cocktails with non-liquid ingredients for garnish like orange peels or maraschino cherries.

Are whiskey and bourbon glasses the same?

Whiskey and bourbon glasses are exactly the same, and different designs morph the drinking experience.

Bourbon needs to have at least 51% corn content in order to be considered bourbon. Scotch whiskey can only be made in Scotland and is made from malted barley. The difference in content changes the taste. Choosing the right glass for bourbon or whiskey depends on your preference for preparation. Do you prefer it neat? On the rocks? In a cocktail? With a softer flavor profile or intense aromas? Picking a whiskey glass is a personal decision.

Will my whiskey taste different depending on the glass used?

You may be surprised to find out that yes, indeed it can. Because whiskey is complex and full-bodied, different glasses show off different parts of the whiskey. For example, a rocks glass provides a holistic sensory experience: you are smelling all of the whiskey’s aromas all at once, whereas a tulip glass might sharpen otherwise discrete aromas, dampen others.

What is the best material for whiskey glasses?

Just as we said, the glass you choose is a personal decision. Although glass is a standard material, stainless steel or plastic glasses are shatterproof and inexpensive. Red Solo cups are of course a great choice too. This leads us to our next question…

Are hand-blown glasses better?

With whiskey glasses, quality matters. Mass-produced whiskey glasses especially made to enhance the drinking experience work well enough, but nothing compares to a hand-made product.

Hand blown whiskey glasses provide a balanced weight, and perfect grip for your hands. Experienced craftspeople make these one-of-a-kind glasses in all shapes, sizes, and designs.

Perhaps you’ve made a decision on which whiskey glass is best for you, perhaps you need time to try a few out before committing. In the words of the renowned Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe, “drink it (whiskey) any damn way you want. If you want to put ice in it, go for it…if you want to, add a little Ginger Ale, water, cocktails. I don’t like rules on it.” Just drink it, there are no rules.

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