Much like the different types of wine glasses that are specially designed to enhance one’s enjoyment of that drink, there are several varieties of whiskey glasses. Each has its merits, and the one you choose depends on what type of whiskey you enjoy, and how you like to drink it.
The Five Most Common Whiskey Glasses
Unless you’re already acquainted with the more specialized types, the tumbler is the one you probably associate with drinking whiskey. This is the short, squat glass that Don Draper reached for whenever times got tough on Madison Avenue.
The tumbler is a perfect all-purpose whiskey glass. Its heft and the way it fits solidly in your hand make it a versatile addition to your cabinet. Also known as a rocks glass, the tumbler has plenty of room for a few ice cubes and/or mixers, if you enjoy a whiskey-based cocktail like an Old Fashioned or Sidecar.
Tumblers also make for great personalized whiskey glasses.
Sure, snifters are for brandy (and for men wearing smoking jackets in leather-filled libraries), but they’re also useful for tasting whiskey. They fulfill the same purpose with either alcohol: concentrating the aromas in order to allow for better “nosing” (that’s the whiskey aficionado’s term for, well, “smelling” — and evaluating the aromas).
Snifters often lack the satisfying weight of a tumbler, but you can find ones with heavier bases.
The Glencairn glass combines the best qualities of the snifter and the tumbler. Developed in 2001, this short, tulip-shaped glass does for whiskey lovers what the pilsener glass does for beer drinkers. It allows them to fully appreciate all the nuances of their drink.
In the case of the Glencairn glass, the rounded shape of the bowl serves as a lens through which to evaluate the Scotch’s texture and color. It also reveals any impurities. The narrowed opening helps collect aromas and prevent contact with the skin, for a purer tasting experience. Lastly, the heft of the Glencairn lends gravitas, much as a heavy crystal tumbler does — but no one would ever mistake it for a rocks or lowball glass.
Hardcore whiskey fans may know this as a “dock glass,” since the copita’s history dates back to days when merchants would nose samples from a spirits shipment right upon their arrival to a port.
The copita differs from other whiskey glasses in that it has a stem — the better to keep one’s hands (and their odors) away from one’s nose. In other respects it resembles a Glencairn or a very narrow snifter. Perfect for appreciating a fine single malt, the copita is still used by distillers in Scotland to test and taste their product.
Rocking glasses are stemless tumblers with a rounded or curved bottom. They don’t sit flush on the table, but instead rock (or roll) gently side to side. It can be a slightly disconcerting experience to place one of these on a flat surface for the first time!
Some aficionados find these glasses gimmicky, while others like the comfortable way they fit in one’s hand — and the fact that they’re conversation starters.
We hope that this has been a helpful entry into the world of whiskey glasses. If you’re serious about tasting and enjoying Scotch and other whiskeys, collecting the perfect glassware can be an interesting hobby. Whatever you drink, and whatever you drink it out of, however, we hope you enjoy!