Denver and Liely’s whisky glass combines the familiarity of the classic tumbler with the purposefulness of a nosing glass.
The classic tumbler remains the quintessential scotch whisky glass (no) thanks to Hollywood: resplendent crystal cut glass, dripping with equal measures of machismo and suave, channeling a liquid of such alpha male masculinity that only action stars with A-List paycheques and immaculate five o’clock shadows can imbibe it without crumbling into a whimpering wreck as lesser mortals and stagehands do.
Off screen, the reality is that most people use a tumbler simply because it’s taken to be de facto; plus it’s relatively easy to find one. After all, it gets the job done whilst looking the part – drinking out of a teacup is more Alcoholics Anonymous than whisky connoisseur.
More importantly, people are usually satisfied with the results from using a tumbler, and you’ll never have any problems filling the glass with ice. And at least in my opinion, the tumbler does look infinitesimally cooler. Perhaps them Hollywood suits do know what they were doing.
For most people, it’s only when we open the Pandora’s Box of whisky appreciation do we discover that whisky actually tastes better when you use an appropriately-shaped glassware. This mighty ruffian of a drink is merely putting on a masquerade; within its bosom lies a cultured beast with a mesmerising personality that rewards your adventure and willingness to take a chance (or so whisky fans think).
It’s rather interesting that given the long history of scotch whisky, no one has really tried to make a tumbler that lends itself well to nosing. Rather appropriate then, that a strong case for a nosing tumbler would come from a land that is currently burgeoning with promise: Australia. With a growing stable of craft distilleries such as Sullivan’s Cove and Starward that is collectively making waves in the whiskey world, the Australian whiskey scene has never been more exciting than it is right now.
Step forward, Denver Cramer and Liely Faulkner. Designers by profession, the Melbourne-based duo hit upon the idea to collaborate on such a glass, as they share a passion for whisky. Although they’ve worked on several ideas ever since they first met, the whisky glass was the first idea that they believed strongly in. Their first prototype worked really well, and without hesitation, their industrial design genes kicked in and the wheels were swiftly in motion.
Seven prototypes, testing with five different bars, and some media feedback later, the duo finished the Denver & Liely (D&L) Whisky Glass, sent it into production, and it went on sale on the 19th of December, 2014. Speaking with Denver, he admitted that they were genuinely surprised by the response to the glass as the first two batches sold out rather quickly.
“With the first batch there were a hundred (glasses), and we didn’t expect to sell a hundred honestly. I thought I had Christmas presents for my dad and my uncle and stuff, but ended up having to buy Christmas presents… We didn’t think that we were going to sell these things, and then it just went crazy,” said Denver, recalling the initial launch of the glass.
Retailing for AUD$50 each, the D&L glass is relatively cheap amongst the ranks of fancy cut crystal tumblers, but it’s also one of the more expensive nosing glasses in the market. However, it is the only nosing glass that doubles up as a tumbler. That being said, the D&L glass is strikingly beautiful (this author’s opinion of course) and lends itself well to any occasion. I can imagine that it would make a great cocktail glass as well.
Denver emphasised that the D&L glass was designed to be functional rather than ornamental: “If you’re into glasses then buy a crystal tumbler but if you’re into whisky then buy our glass, because that’s what it’s all about – the whole thing is led by function and not by form. It’s designed to make your whisky taste better and that’s it.”
Of course, this begs the question: were there any compromises in the smell and taste since this was effectively a two-in-one glass? Denver says that while the profile is different from the Glencairn (they used the Glencairn as their benchmark), the wide hip to lip ratio actually has more potential in terms of smell. The thought of having to deal with a compromise was never on the cards to begin with; they worked simply on making a practical, adaptable whisky glass. He pointed out also that during a test done by Sydney Morning Herald, the D&L glass stood up well alongside other popular whisky glasses, and the panel of experts thought well of it.
The purpose-driven nature of the glass’ design wasn’t without its challenges: firstly, the surprisingly intricate nature of the glass design dictated that it had to be hand blown if they wanted to keep to the finalised design, and that added to the cost. “For example, on the interior of the hip: there’s a radius on the inside, but there’s quite a (comparatively) tight radius on the outside. So if we made that by machine, it would have to have a concentric radius on the inside [Ed: the radius on the inside has to be the same as what’s on the outside], but that would have changed also the sipping angle of the glass.”
The sipping angle was important. The duo wanted to avoid problems with practicality, as exemplified by the NEAT whisky glass. NEAT has a reputation as an amazing glass for nosing, but which can also be uncomfortable to drink out of.
The other major challenge was in keeping the price reasonable. Denver estimated that they would have to retail the glass for AUD$300 had they kept the entire production within Australia. To keep the cost down and not compromise the desired design and glass quality, they had to turn to China (as with all things these days). Initially they thought that despite this, the cost might still be an issue, what with Glencairn glasses available for about AUD$10-AUD$15 [Ed: Glencairns can be purchased for about S$12-S$15 here in Singapore]. However, the positive response thus far quickly put the kibosh on any doubts that they may have had.
“This whole thing was led by passion because both of us had full time jobs which is fine… and it just turned into this much bigger thing we were not expecting. But you know, I’m happy with how things are going, so it’s really good. It’s just less sleep for me,” he smiles.
You might have to wait a little, but you can pre-order from batch 3 here.
Photo credits: Denver and Liely, edited