Tumbler, glencairn, copita, or tulip glass? Our co-editor Justin Choo looks at the different glassware that you can use to enjoy your whisky in this whisky glass primer.
To the lay person, the word ‘whisky’ alone evokes images of gruff Scotsmen in all their colourful candour, vigorously clinking tumblers and gulping down copious amounts of equally fiery scotch. That can not be farther from the truth – you have to include the Scotswomen as well. Well that, and the fact that whisky (or whiskey, to cover all bases for the pedantic) has been considered by many enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike as a complex and flavourful spirit, and one that will leave you transfixed by its diversity.
This brings us then to this introductory primer on whisky glasses. While there is no absolute ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to drink your whisky, but there certainly are tried-and-tested ways to enhance your whisky-drinking experience. The most basic way, and also the one that has more impact than most, is through a canny choice of glassware. Try drinking a fine wine or scotch from a disposable plastic cup, and you’ll know exactly why – you’ll have difficulty detecting all the nuances of the spirit.
If you don’t already have at least one of the following styles of glasses listed below, then it’s high time you consider getting one if you’re really into whiskies. Feel free to experiment with glasses not in the list as well; just because one glass doesn’t bring out certain aromas for one spirit doesn’t mean that it won’t make another come alive. As we mentioned earlier, there aren’t any hard and fast rules.
The classic tumbler
Possibly the most recognisable glass here, and one that’s most commonly associated with whisky. With its wide mouth, you can have your whiskeys straight up or with ice cubes. It’s the most durable of all the glasses here, and is great for casual drinking and s**t-faced hangover extravaganzas.
Final Touch’s On the Rock glass is a modern take on the classic whisky tumbler
The tumbler isn’t great for nosing spirits, so it’s not the best glass for tasting complex 18 year-olds – save it for whiskies that you want to knock back without serious thought. It goes without saying then, that it’s by far the ‘manliest’ glass on offer – bold, yet dignified. When was the last time you ever saw Daniel Craig’s Double-O-Seven drink a Macallan out of a snifter?
The classic copita
The ‘classic’ copita is pretty much a sherry copita. A popular and readily available glass (and also not so pricey), and its shape is conducive for nosing. The wide bowl increases the surface area of the spirit exposed to air, so that more flavours and scents are released. The narrow mouth concentrates the aromas, making it easier to pick out individual characteristics.
Villeroy and Boch’s nosing goblet is a classy, copita-style glass
The narrow mouth means that ice is out of the question, although some people have taken to using whiskey stones and the like. Generally it is not a hardy glass – although the quality of the make does play a small part – so it needs to be handled and washed with care. There’s an elegance in simplicity, although it might be considered a little dainty by some. It’s fine as long as you don’t do the curly finger thingie. PLEASE DON’T.
The tulip glass
The tulip-style glass is also somewhat of a classic design, and it is versatile, and is even used to serve beers. The wide bowl coaxes the aromas from the whiskies, while the taper funnels and concentrates the aromas. Depending on design, some glasses sport a slight outward flare, which may help a little to temper the alcohol sting of strong whiskies and make nosing the whisky a much easier endeavour (see Esich Jeunesse below).
Like the copita, these are a little easier to find than specialised whisky glasses, and generally give fairly decent results (for the price, of course). A popular and cheap glass used by many aficionados is the Rastal Bugatti Kelch, but its scarcity in this part of the world dictates it for us Singaporeans you’d be better off looking for something else.
We’d recommend the all-purpose Chef and Sommelier Open Up Spirits Ambient glass, which goes for about S$6.25 (U.P. S$12.50) a pop.
Designed because the Scots felt that there wasn’t a definitive glass that was purely designed for scotch; after all, the copita was originally used for sherry. The result of all that brainstorming was this: the now-classic Glencairn glass. Designed to look like a pot still used in the distillation of whisky, the Glencairn combined all the desirable traits that whisky drinkers wanted. It wasn’t dainty-looking, it was fairly robust and not prone to toppling over, and it had a narrower mouth that made for a more intense nose.
They’re not something you can find off the shelves at any departmental store, but, you can easily get them online or from Whisky World, the local distributor. It’s a bit of a ‘marmite’ kind of look; either you like its character, or you find it silly-looking. But it sure as hell works as advertised, and is our go-to glass for most whiskies.
The weird and the wonderful
To many whisky fans, their collection of glassware is as diverse as their collection of whiskies, and holding a nice glass is half the experience. Here are some that we picked out.
There are many variants of the tulip-styled glass, but the most exquisite example of such a glass is the Eisch Jeunesse malt whisky glass. For a ‘traditional’ style of glass, it’s particularly good at especially cask strength whiskies, which can be as strong as 60% AVB. Classy and highly rated by the connoisseurs, and understandably very pricey too.
The NEAT glass was designed with nosing in mind. It looks really difficult to drink out of, with its large flare and steeply tapered body, but this unusual combination apparently helps to bring out the aromas better and minimises the rush of alcohol to your nose. The makers also say that it isn’t restricted to whisky, so that’s a big plus if you are into other spirits as well.
The Riedel Vinum is also another variation of the theme, with a truncated stem and an elongated thistle, as well as a flared, out-turned lip. The lack of a bowl means the presentation will be a little different from a tulip-styled glass, which may or may not be a good thing. Also very pricey.
Appropriately named Schwenker, this snifter from the Versace Medusa d’Or series is opulence in its best form. The requisite medusa head and a fiendishly extravagant gold fret trim dictates that you walk around your abode in a toga and a laurel wreath. Seriously though, we won’t judge you.