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.