Wines have their own glasses — so do highballs, beer, martinis, and even hurricanes. Whiskey needs it’s own glass, too.
*Note: “Whiskey” will hereby be referred to as “Whisky.” What’s the difference? Adding the “e” refers to Irish Whiskey and American Whiskey. This here glass is a Scottish thing, so I will refer to it in its Scottish “Whisky” spelling.
Glass shapes serve different functions.
One function is presentation. Think of a crystal clear martini with a perfectly curled twist visible from all angles.
Next is how you hold it. With the martini, you want to be able to hold the stem so your hand doesn’t warm the drink. With a quality whisky, you probably want that sweet amber liquid to be at room temperature so you don’t need a stem, but a little something to hold so you don’t overheat your whisky.
A key feature in a beverage glass’ shape is how you smell the aroma. If this sounds pretentious, stay with me. I can assure you the smelling stage helps even a moderately priced whisky taste better.
How to use a Glencairn Whisky Glass
If you follow a few simple steps, your whisky will taste better. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and try using a Glencairn Whisky Glass and a regular low-ball glass with the same liquor.
Pour 1 oz. of Bourbon, Whiskey, Scotch or Whisky
The Glencairn Whisky Glass works best with exactly 1 oz. of liquor. It helps you properly smell the whisky, and prevents spilling in the next step.
Swirl the liquor
This aerates the whisky. It allows some of the aroma to release from the liquor.
See how the tulip shape helps the whisky swirl and aerate without spilling? Genius.
Smell the liquor
You may feel silly at first, but stick your nose right into the glass and smell the aroma. Don’t wave it in front of your face — get your nose right in there. Is it sweet? Smoky? Peaty? Does it smell like citrus? What else do you smell?
It’s almost time to taste, but wait.
Repeat the process
Swirl and smell again. And again. And again. Some of my favourite whiskies burn my nose until the third or fourth swirl-and-smell. If you get to the point where it doesn’t burn your nose anymore, your taste buds will also notice the difference.
Think of this process as your introduction to the whisky. Say, “Hello” with one swirl and smell. “How are you?” with another, “Very well,” and finally, “Thank you.” That’s four swirl and smells. It really makes a difference.
Add water, ice or nothing?
I am of the opinion that you add a bit of cool, not cold, water. I know this is an unpopular choice here in Canada.
When using a Glencairn Whisky Glass, don’t add ice. Straight is okay, but that little bit of water takes the burn off.
Sip, don’t chug
Now you’re ready to taste the fruits (smokes, or peats) of your labour. You’ll notice if you tried this with a “bottom shelf” or cheap whisky, it might not taste great. But it’s probably better.
If you try this with a moderately priced whisky, you’re in flavour town. If you have afforded yourself the luxury of an expensive drink, you can feel assured that you’re tasting it as it was intended.
Scotch is broken up into four divisions: The Highlands, The Lowlands, The Islay (pronounced eye’-lah) and The Campbeltown. Each of these produce distinct flavours.
There’s also the different flavours of Irish Whiskey, Kentucky Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey, Canadian Whisky, Suntory (Japanese) whisky and others.
Do the distilleries (and your taste buds) the honour of truly appreciating their differences.
Always drink in moderation, and PLEASE don’t drink and drive.
Buy some Glencairn Whisky Glasses and enjoy the flavours at home like a sir and/or madam.