Some years ago, Jamie and I went to a whisky festival in Toronto where all the whisky tasted terrible. It all tasted the same. The conspiracist in me suspected the big name brand bottles were refilled with junk whisky. Later, though, I realized it was because of the glassware. The festival organizers used thick rocks glasses intended for cocktails and whisky on ice, but not for whisky poured neat.
When we interviewed the founder of Glencairn, Raymond Davidson, we learned that the Glencairn company got its start at whisky festivals to give festival goers a truer interpretation of the whisky they were drinking. Before this, Raymond would ask for his whisky in a wine glass, which more closely represented the blender’s class of that time. When the Glencairn glass was introduced in 2001, it was intended for the whisky industry, and never thought of as a consumer product. These days, Glencairn sells millions of glasses directly to consumers.
The Glencairn glass is tulip shaped with a firm stand. As Raymond put it, “No self respecting whisky drinker should drink out of stemmed glassware.” I can attest that Glencairns rarely break. “The heavy base means the glass is likely to fall at it’s strongest point.” True, at least in my experience (also science). It’s more than that, though. The thinness of the rim is key. Whisky is a volatile drink. The thicker the glassware, the more volatility you’re going to get between the glass and your palate. Everything will taste ‘boozier’ with thicker glass. The other problem with the traditional rocks glass is wide diameter (compared to a Glencairn glass) that creates more surface tension. This additional surface tension creates volatility, and once again, it makes the whisky taste boozier.
The Glencairn glass borrows from the distiller's glass traditionally used by whisky blenders; with a it’s tulip shape that cups the whisky calming the alcohol. Meanwhile, the tulip shape allows for a better focus of aroma for the nose. It’s not, however, as closed off as the traditional master’s glass. This little trick allows the drinker to nose and drink the whisky simultaneously.
I’ve been using Glenciarn glassware since the beginning. Like many whisky drinkers, I started building a collection of glasses collected from whisky shows and whisky events. Later in life, I bought Glencairns (90+) for the whisky tastings that I do professionally. I was thrilled when Glencairn approached us to do a contest for whisky.buzz readers and The Whisky Topic listeners.
For your chance to receive a pair of Glencairns with the whisky.buzz logo, tweet out this article with the hashtag #whiskybuzz or post a photo to Instagram with the bottle of whisky tagging me (@markbylok) and using the #whiskybuzz hashtag. We’ll be announcing winners on November 16th, 19th, and finally on the 21st. We’ll do a redraw on the 30th if there are any unclaimed gift packages.