While the choice may be a subjective one, making an informed subjective decision requires you know the alternatives and their pros and cons. Remember, drinking whiskey is about the experience. This experience includes appearance, feel, drinkability and nosing capability.
Appearance -The look of the glass. Whether perched on the shelf or sitting in your palm, the form, clarity and aura of the glass itself can heighten your overall drinking experience.
Feel – How the glass feels in your hand. Weight, size, and grip all contribute here.
Drinkability – How easily the glass is to drink from. Thickness , curvature, and slope of the brim all contribute here. You can’t look suave with a spill on your shirt.
Nosing Capability – Possibly the most important factor for a whiskey glass is how easily it allows for a proper nose or smell of the whiskey. The curvature of the glass, paired with its shape, will determine if there is the potential for a good nosing. Whiskey connoisseur Charles Maclean (http://www.whiskymax.co.uk/) agrees: “the taste buds are of secondary importance when it comes to the sensory evaluation of any whisky.”
The tumbler is the straight-edged classic for drinking whiskey. A heavy based crystal tumbler is great looking and its weight makes really nice to hold. It is a must-have for any whiskey drinker’s collection. It does, however, have one critical downfall. The straight walls of the tumbler do not allow for the whiskey aroma to be funneled for a good nosing. That said, it you’re ordering a scotch at the bar, the tumbler is most likely the glass that you’ll see in front of you.
Appearance – 5/5
Feel – 5/5
Drinkability – 4/5
Nosing Capability – 1/5
You guessed it, the “Snifter” has its name for a reason: it allows for proper use of your sniffer. Also known as a “balloon” or a “brandy sniffer”, this tulip shaped glass narrows near the top of the glass and funnels the whiskey aromas for maximum sensory evaluation. However, it too, has its downfalls. The inward slope isn’t the easiest to drink out of and can cause spills. My dad has a big nose, and he is not fond of the narrow-topped snifter. Typically, a snifter also lacks the weight and the solid feel of a classic tumbler, although you can find heavy- based snifters.
Appearance – 3/5
Feel – 3/5
Drinkability – 3/5
Nosing Capability – 5/5
The Glencairn glass is a type of glass developed specifically for drinking whiskey by Glencairn Crystal Ltd. (http://www.glencairn.co.uk/Glass.aspx), Scotland. With a tulip shaped base that opens up to an easily drinkable mouth, the Glencairn combines the best of both the tumbler and the snifter into a uniquely shaped, heavy bottomed glass. There are others like it, but the Glencairn was the first to be endorsed by the Scotch Whiskey Association. Downfalls include the cost, the availability, and the loss of that classic tumbler feel and appearance.
Appearance – 4/5
Feel – 5/5
Drinkability – 5/5
Nosing Capability – 5/5
All in all, choose the type of glass that you like the best. I personally prefer having the weight of a tumbler and will forgo the aromatic benefit of a snifter or a Glencairn for that classic look and feel. Learn and test the benefits of each glass to refine your whiskey experience. Practice makes perfect.
Oh, and of course, the whiskey matters too, but that’s for another day. And keep in mind, as novelist Raymond Chandler so elegantly put: ““There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.”