Fans of CBS’s NCIS know Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs enjoys his whiskey from a handy coffee mug or a Mason jar, after dumping its nuts and bolts on the work counter. The manly man is a happy camper – no ice, no water, no fancy glassware, and no one telling him how to drink his booze.
On the other hand, there are options, usually described in glowing, stellar terms for what the type and shape of a particular glass does for the whiskey and its drinker. Consider the assortment of glasses in the photograph, all quite popular and all quite different.
From left to right:
The Glencairn Glass is the ubiquitous favorite of most professionals in the whisky business, distilleries, and their brands. The Winter 2013 issue of Whisky Advocate magazine features a dozen of them on the cover illustrating their Special Report about Blended Scotch Whisky.
The NEAT Glass, its name is an acronym for “naturally engineered aroma technology”, has the most science-based shape of the group. The diameters of the bowl, neck and rim as well as the angle of the lip have all been designed to dissipate the harsh ethanol (alcohol) smells and allow the true aroma of the liquid to waft upward.
Riedel’s Vinum Leaded Crystal Single Malt Whisky Glass feels the most elegant of the lot because of its remarkably thin wall and wide base. For those people who prefer adding ice to their Scotch, some trepidation may come with using this glass.
A sherry copita glass is a favorite of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for their nation-wide Extravaganzas. Its classic tulip shape, with a base wider than the mouth, encourages whisky vapors upwards then focuses them for nosing. Both a copita and a Glencairn do essentially the same thing, but with less science than NEAT.
Straight-sided Old Fashioned, or rocks glasses find favor when making whiskey cocktails, or enjoying a dram with a cube or two. If you choose to add ice to your single malt, the rocks glass is the only one of the group where the cube fits, both physically and in appearance (think Mad Men, movies from the 40s, and most whisky print ads showing whiskey in a glass.)
Many times, brandy snifters are used, again for their elegance and basic tulip shape. Snifters and rocks glasses can be found with stunning etched and cut crystal designs. One school of thought on this is that the beautiful decorations detract from enjoying the range of colors of single malts and that simple, unadorned vessels are the best.
Along with the forever ongoing “ice or no ice” and “water or no water” debates, the style of glassware used to enjoy Scotch joins the fray every time a dram is poured. What’s your take on this? Any favorite glassware not mentioned here? I’d love to hear from you.