The Best Bourbon Glasses: Your Buying Guide
No drinking experience is complete without a fitting glass. Bourbon glassware is meticulously designed to help you enjoy your spirit to the fullest. However, bourbon glasses come in different shapes and names, so buying one can be a rather confusing process. In this buying guide, you’re going to boost your spirit knowledge by learning about the different types of bourbon glassware, how they differ from each other, and some of the best bourbon glasses you can buy. To fill your glasses with rare, top-quality bourbon regularly, consider joining our Bourbon of the Month Club.
What Makes a Bourbon Glass?
First thing first: let’s take a look at the three parts that make a bourbon glass.
- The rim. This is the edge of the glass. The rim diameter affects the aroma; a small rim keeps the smell of alcohol concentrated, and a large one will disperse alcohol away from the nose which allows the subtler scents to come out.
- The body. the main part of the glass where the spirit is poured. A bowl-like body will bring out the aromas towards the rim as you swirl the glass.
- The stem. This is the bottom part of the glass. The stem makes the glass easier to hold in your hand. Some glasses have thicker stems than others, and some others lack stems but are designed to allow a firm hold on them.
Keep these three terms in mind because they are often used to describe the characteristics of bourbon glasses.
Types of Bourbon Glasses
Bourbon glassware can be classified into three categories: shape, material, and use. Every glass belongs to one type from these categories.
Bourbon glasses come in different shapes, each with different characteristics. Here are the most common glass shapes which every bourbon connoisseur should be familiar with:
- Rocks. Also known as Old Fashioned Glass or a Tumbler, this is the most common shape of bourbon glassware you’ll find. Its capacity typically varies from 7 to 12 oz. It’s perfect for cocktails and adding ice.
- Glencairn. Found in most distilleries and considered by some as the best shape for whiskey, the Glencairn is the gold standard glass to use for drinking bourbon. It’s easy to recognize with its bulbous, tulip-like shape. The small rim keeps the aroma concentrated and its base makes it easy to swirl around.
- Snifter. Also called the balloon, brandy bowl, and cognac glass, the Snifter is a classy glass with a large body that funnels the aromas towards your nose. It’s also excellent for tasting and cocktails.
- Shot. Shot glasses are used to, well, take shots as they say. You quickly drink a small amount of bourbon without ice. Shot glasses are deliberately made small to prevent over-pouring.
- Wine. As the name says, this type of glass is used to drink wine, but bourbon fits inside just as well. Its shape allows you to swish your spirit easier than with most other glasses, which helps bring out more aromas.
- NEAT. This glass with a peculiar shape has a unique origin: it was a mistake in a glass blowing factory in 2002 that turned out to be quite effective at dissipating alcohol aromas away from the nose while helping hidden aromas come out. The term NEAT stands for Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology and refers to the scientific design approach that aims to maximize the olfactory experience.
Not all glasses are made of glass. There are four main materials used to make glassware, each with its specific advantages.
- Glass. The most common material used to make glasses – makes sense, right? Glass allows for an endless variety of shapes and isn’t expensive. It’s the standard material used for whiskey glasses, so you can’t go wrong with it.
- Crystal. Crystal glasses are the most expensive for a good reason: they provide the most clarity and luster and often feature highly stylish designs. However, they are also the most breakable glasses, so be sure to handle them with care!
- Tritan plastic. While plastic doesn’t sound as glamorous as glass or crystal, this material is worth considering because it’s very resistant to impacts and is the most affordable. Tritan plastic has a very similar look and luster to glass, but keep in mind it is easier to scratch than glass.
- Stainless steel. Not everyone loves glasses of stainless steel because they are not transparent, but they do have some things going for them. For starters, stainless steel is shatterproof and rust-free. It also keeps alcohol at the right temperature and prevents ice from melting quickly.
There’s more to a glass than its shape and materials – different glasses have different uses:
Occasions: let’s say you have invited friends to your home bar or you’re having a barbecue in your yard. You can buy a mix of different glasses like tumblers and snifters. If you want something more unique and memorable, you can look for glasses with unusual shapes like a diamond, personalized leather holders, or – if you enjoy smoking cigars –a rocks glass with a cigar holder.
Savoring bourbon at home: there’s no “one best choice” here. A simple wine glass can do the job. Glencairn and Snifter are great for enhancing the nose. If you want to unlock all the aromas hidden inside your spirit, go for Neat glass.
Mixing cocktails: If you want to try different cocktail recipes or even come up with your own, the rocks glass is an excellent choice as you have plenty of room to mix two drinks as well as add ice and fruit. You can also go for a cocktail glass for its aesthetic, glamorous design.
The Best Bourbon Glasses: 3 Recommendations from Taster’s Club
By now, you have a good understanding of bourbon glass types and what makes each one different. If you are looking to buy a set of glasses, here are our recommendations:
OFFICIAL GLENCAIRN CRYSTAL WHISKEY TASTING GLASS
An essential glass for every spirits fan, the Glencairn glass is both classy and practical. While it’s called a whiskey glass, it’s perfectly suitable for bourbon as well. The Official Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Tasting Glass is made from lead-free crystal and weighs 0.35 pounds. The clarity of the crystal allows you to fully appreciate the color of your bourbon, and the shape makes the glass easy to hold, swirl, and sip from. This is a glass you can’t go wrong with – you’ll find it in almost any bar or festival, and for good reason.
RIEDEL TUMBLER SPEY WHISKEY GLASS
The Riedel Tumbler is a great choice if you like to mix cocktails or add ice – even a large ice cube will fit inside. This glass is made of fine crystal and weighs one pound. Its dimensions and weight allow it to fit nicely in your hand, and the intricate and luxurious design will draw attention and get you compliments. For its affordable price, it will be a great addition to your bourbon glass collection. It can also make for a beautiful and lasting gift to your boss, friend, or family member.
NEAT GLASS OFFICIAL COMPETITION JUDGING GLASS
This glass is made of lead-free crystalline and weighs 12.3 ounces. If you are keen on enjoying all the scents present in your bourbon, the NEAT glass is designed specifically for that. With its unique shape that facilitates swirling and its wide rim that moves alcohol away from your nose to make way for the subtler aromas, the NEAT glass is all about maximizing the nose experience, which helps you enjoy your bourbon to the fullest.
Bourbon Glasses FAQ
DOES THE BOURBON GLASS I USE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Yes, the glass you use plays an important role in your drinking experience. Some shapes are more effective at preventing the aroma from dispersing in the air, while others allow for easier swirling than others. There are also glasses that capture heat more than others. That said, there’s no “one best glass”
WHAT GLASS STYLE SHOULD I PICK?
You should simply pick the glass(s) you like the most. There is no wrong choice when it comes to choosing glassware. While each type of glass is more effective at something than others, there’s no glass that will ruin your drinking experience. Just
WHAT IS THE BEST MATERIAL FOR BOURBON GLASSES?
Again, it all comes down to personal preference. Glass is the standard material and will last a long time provided you handle it carefully. If you want a shatterproof bourbon glass, consider buying a plastic or stainless steel glass. Crystal is the most sparkling and expensive, but it can break easier than other materials.
This bourbon glass buying guide has covered all the essential things to know about spirit glassware. Your knowledge of glass types and their characteristics will help you choose the right glasses to complement your drinking experience. Each of the recommendations above will work perfectly well for any bourbon you have or plan to purchase.