Does Glassware Matter?

I am a glassware snob.  I am neither proud, nor embarrassed.  Like I said in previous blogs, I started out as a wine guy and I have no greater pet peeve than going to a restaurant, ordering a nice bottle of wine, and being served in poor glassware.  Actually, low quality, hot, just out of the dishwasher glassware is even offensive to my personal code.  At home I have lots of different glasses for different types of wines so why not have the same thing for whiskey?


There is a new whiskey glass out on the market, which I ordered off of Kickstarer a while ago, the Norlan glass; it just arrived this weekend.  I believed it was prudent to test it versus the old time favorite Glencairn glass.  For good measure I also also tested them against  Reidel’s single malt glass and the Dorset Old-Fashioned glass.

I decided to test the glasses with two of my current favorite whiskeys, one of a high proof cask strength version and one of a lower proof, the subjects chosen were: Elmer T. Lee bourbon and Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 Sherry Cask Finish.  Both of these are great whiskeys and I’ve enjoyed them many times before in Glencairn glasses.  I also decided to do two separate taste tests, the first at two minutes after pouring and the second at forty-five minutes.  This experiment is not about testing the whiskeys, as I know they are both world class, but rather to see how the glasses express the whiskeys.

Elmer T. Lee first round:

Dorset Old-Fashioned Glass:  I’m not getting a lot out of this one, smells ok.

Riedel Single Malt Scotch Glass:  Even less aroma than the old-fashioned glass.

Glencairn Glass:  Really nice concentrated nose, very flavorful, just awesome.

Norlan Glass:  Elegant nose, not as concentrated as the Glencairn, very enjoyable.

Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 Sherry Cash first round:

Dorset Old-Fashioned Glass:  Lots of heat, not a lot of flavor.

Riedel Single Malt Scotch Glass:  Not getting much on the nose here.

Glencairn Glass:  Very concentrated aroma, not a lot of heat, very enoyable.

Norlan Glass:  Almost no heat at all, less concentrated aroma than the Glencairn, but more balanced.

Elmer T. Lee Second round:

Dorset Old-Fashioned Glass:  Same as round one, small but ok flavor.

Riedel Single Malt Scotch Glass: Still not getting much here at all.

Glencairn Glass:  Very concentrated aroma, excellent.

Norlan Glass: Same as round one, very enjoyable but less concentrated.

Barrell Whiskey Batch 002 Sherry Cash second round:

Dorset Old-Fashioned Glass:  The heat is gone now, enjoyable.

Riedel Single Malt Scotch Glass:  Finally getting aromas now, elegant.

Glencairn Glass: Extremely concentrated and powerful nose, very complex.

Norlan Glass: Wow!  Best smell of the night, elegant, no heat, complex and flavorful.

Conclusion:  I only rated the smells I was getting from the different glasses as the tastes were too close to differentiate.  I wasn’t sure what to expect before testing these glasses, as I’ve been using mostly Glencairn glasses for a while, but I’m glad I did this.  The main conclusion is that both the Glencairn and the Norlan glasses are excellent.  If you are drinking an old-fasioned, the Dorset is fine, but don’t drink anything straight out of it.  I was extremely disappointed by the Reidel glass, the outward sloping glass lets out all the enjoyment.  For a less powerful whiskey the Glencairn glass is the clear winner: the Elmer T. Lee came out best when the aromas were captured in the tulip glass.  For a cask strenth, high proof whiskey, it’s almost too close to call, but for this test, the Norlan Whisky Glass won by a nose.  The Norlan’s design removed some of the ethanol, while maintaining the essence for the consumers enjoyment.  The answer to the question of whether glassware matters is a resounding yes.




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