There comes a time during every man’s life – often in his mid-twenties – where he’s more than happy to trade the weekend shot glass for whisky glasses (or whiskey glasses depending on your dram); perhaps to accompany the appreciation of his growing record collection. The desire to break into the high-brow world of whisky drinking is a noble one, but one that can’t be truly enjoyed without the right drinkware to get the job done.
Before long, you’ll be pouring drams in the company of like-minded friends, sharing thoughts on the colour, aroma and maturation of the amber liquid with more and more insight after every sip. To do this, however, you’ll need a selection of the best whisky glasses on the market. While you’re free to drink whisky however the hell you please, enjoying it from the correct glass isn’t one up for debate. In a twist on the normal sense of the phrase – without the gear, you’ll really have no idea.
How to choose the best scotch whisky or whiskey glasses for you
Choosing the right glass is mostly a matter of personal preference – think of it as an extension of your personality and your current whisky tastes. Your collection will likely evolve over time, but here are a few factors you need to consider before getting started. And don’t worry about the whisky/whiskey back and forth – it’s merely a reference to the country or origin or the dram mentioned in context (but more on that later).
Glass Design & Structure
Ideally, a whisky glass’ design needs to be optimised for breathability. No one wins when the dram is suffocated, preventing the much-needed aeration of unwanted molecules. Likewise, it’s best if the whisky isn’t lost in the bottom of a deep glass, miles from your nose, either.
This is why professional whisky tastings are usually conducted with a Glencairn glass or snifter, as they appropriately funnel the whisky out of the glass and heighten the nose of the dram overall. They also perfectly connect with the lips by way of the glass’ curled rim. We’ll get to these types of glasses soon enough.
Glass Feel & Aesthetic
If you’re paying good money for a whisky glass, you should rightly expect a premium touch, balanced weight, and one that comfortably fits your hand. If your hands run on the slightly larger side, perhaps consider a wider tumbler to enjoy nursing the drink. While money should buy you quality, it should also buy you a glass that’s easy on the eye and fits well in a well-appointed apartment or office setting. Half of the battle is looking the part, right?
Types of Whisky Glasses
A Snifter is a short-stemmed glass that’s vessel has a wide bottom and a relatively narrow top. Think Mad Men or a member’s club vibe.
A Glencairn glass, as we mentioned previously, is likely the most common whisky glass you’ll come across during a tasting. They’re slightly thicker and more suited to sociable drinking, and, due to their size and shape, are fantastic for learning how to swirl whisky.
A Tumbler glass – AKA the rocks glass, the old fashioned glass, or the lowball – is the most common scotch glass or whiskey glass you’ll come across when ordering a drop at the bar.
The Tulip glass is based on the ‘copita’ – the traditional Spanish drinkware used to sample sherry. Its slightly longer stem than the snifter prevents the oils from the hand from coming into contact with the rim of the glass and interfering with the nose.
Now the Neat glass might sound like an age-old staple of whisky drinking, but the relatively new invention was designed to expertly direct harsh vapours away from the nose. It actually stands for ‘Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology’, and it expels the ethanol molecules out of the opening, leaving behind the heavier, more enjoyable parts of the whisky within the glass.
The 12 Best Scotch & Whisky Glasses On The Market Right Now
Glencairn Crystal Whisky Glass
Glencairn set the standard for premium crystal glasses and now that design is synonyms with its namesake, reigning true across multiple manufacturers.
Price: AU$39.99 (set of 2)
Norlan Whisky Glass
The Norlan whisky glass is one of the best in the business. The hand-blown double-walled borosilicate glass embraces a modern design and a concave outer rim fits the lower lip of the mouth perfectly. It’s also been refined with the input of master distiller Jim McEwan.
Price: AU$86.72 (set of 2)
Everest Whiskey Glass
The ‘Everest’ whiskey glass is no novelty – this meticulously crafted drinkware boasts a 3D modelling of the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest. Each glass is hand-blown and takes 12 hours to complete. The perfect bold statement that’s sure to be a unique talking point.
Price: AU$54.11 (set of 2)
Waterford Elegance Wine Story Single Malt Glass
The Waterford Elegance collection’s wine story single malt glass is only for the absolute best drams from your top shelf. It’s uniquely designed to bring out the best of a fine distilled and full flavoured whisky, but with the price to match the privilege.
Price: AU$229.76 (set of 2)
Denver & Liely Whisky Glass
Rated the number one whisky glass by Forbes magazine, the Denver & Liely vessel has been self-titled as “the best possible, highest performance whisky glass in the world.” They also do a dedicated bourbon whiskey glass which shows the brand’s dedication to delivering both a unique malt and corn experience. With top notch customer service from an Australian brand, Denver & Liely are worth supporting.
Corkcicle Whiskey Wedge Glass
Say goodbye to overly watered-down whisky with this unique take on the whisky glass that captures the best of chilled scotch or bourbon with a strategically designed ice wedge.
Glencairn Crystal Canadian Whisky Glass
Designed to be enjoyed specifically with Canadian whisky, this hybrid between a neat glass and a snifter allows for the fullest appreciation of colour.
Viski Seneca Faceted Crystal Tumbler
This angular, mid-century crystal design looks great on any bar cart and can be rested upright or on an angle without tipping over.
Royal Scot Crystal Scottish Thistle
This crystal Scottish Thistle is a classically hand-cut whisky suite with a distinctive Scottish Thistle diamond design. This is the kind of glass you’d expect to see ‘M’ hand James Bond after congratulating him on a job well done.
Price: AU$218 (set of 2 + presentation box)
Orrefors Intermezzo Satin White Drop Glass
Designed by Erika Lagerbielke and handmade in Sweden, Orrefors’ satin white drop glass is a tasteful piece suitable for all occasions, particularly those that call for whisky-inspired cocktails.
Price: AU$239.11 (set of 2)
Norlan Rauk Heavy Tumbler
Better suited to an Old Fashioned or a double nip of the sweet nectar with room for rocks, Norlan’s Rauk heavy tumbler prioritises cold drams. However for those keen to get the most out of the aromatic experience and sans ice, we’d recommend trying the brand’s classic whisky glass above instead.
Luigi Bormioli Michelangelo Masterpiece
These Italian-made, break-resistant glasses from Luigi Bormioli are available in a variety of sizes, perfect to cover all bases from a neat drop of Scotch to sophisticated cocktails.
Price: AU$273.57 (set of 6)
Are you still asking yourself, “what is the difference between whisky and whiskey?”
Don’t be shy, we’ve all asked the answer to this question at some point during our whisk(e)y drinking careers. Essentially, ‘whisky’ is typically the spelling of the spirit from Scotland, Canada & Japan. ‘Whiskey’ on the other hand is predominantly the American (bourbon) and Irish variant; though some American bourbons such as Maker’s Mark use the Scottish spelling as a nod to their ancestral heritage.
For a crash course on easy whisky terms every drinker should know, we’d suggest checking out this article. If you’re still wondering what the difference is between cheap and expensive whisky might be, head here.