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Does shape make a difference?


Ziggy925
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I'm new to the forum and also new to bourbon tasting, so my question is: Does the shape of the glass make a difference? Right now I'm drinking from a straight sided highball/old fashion glass, what you'd get in a bar if you ordered a bourbon. Would a glass that curves inward or outward make a difference in how the bourbon tastes, or is it more for aesthetics? I realize part of tasting is the nose, and it's certainly easy enough to stick your nose into a highball glass.

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I'm new to the forum and also new to bourbon tasting, so my question is: Does the shape of the glass make a difference? Right now I'm drinking from a straight sided highball/old fashion glass, what you'd get in a bar if you ordered a bourbon. Would a glass that curves inward or outward make a difference in how the bourbon tastes, or is it more for aesthetics? I realize part of tasting is the nose, and it's certainly easy enough to stick your nose into a highball glass.

It is certainly subjective. Once I am familiar with a whiskey I tend to like a single old fashioned glass (a small size of the most typical old fashioned glass which are usually a double). But if I am tasting something new then a glencairn or other slope sided glass is my typical preference. I think the nose does help inform the palate and you lose something if you don't have the ability to fully appreciate it.

With that said you can use any old glass in a pinch!

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I notice a difference if I'm trying to get to know a whiskey from a rocks glass vs a Glencairn. No scientist here so I'm not sure the real reason (hell, could be their marketing bullshit attacked my subconscious, eh!)

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The glass can make a big difference. Try different sizes and shapes and see what you like best. I like the glencairn glass. I also like tall glasses like a collins glass, or a large goblet usually for water, beer, or wine, with the sides curved in at the top. I find tall and straight works well too. Short and straight I find to be the worst.

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In my experience the 'tulip' shape of a Glencairn or any similar glass conducts the vapors to the schnozz better, so gives a better sensory experience. ...Usefull especially when analyzing or doing some really serious tasting. Also, a high-proof dram can be hard to nose in a short glass (irritating to the 'old-factory'). Giving the alcohol-vapors a chance to evaporate a bit by using a narrow, tall glass like a champagne flute or even a Grappa glass can ameliorate that, and lead to a more satisfying experience.

All that said; anything that doesn't leak will get the fluid to your nose and mouth, and will get the job done. :rolleyes:

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All good points.

One thing to consider is your drinking style. Personally I enjoy the process of nosing a rich spirit and I spend much more time nosing than I do tasting, so for me its a no brainer, narrow top/tulip shape for savouring a good pour and a rocks glass for knocking back/on rocks where I dont nose much (the dilution and drop in temperature dont do much for vapour generation)

It did take me a good couple years before I fully appreciated the glencairn, I think if I had tried using one at the begining of my whiskey 'career' the intensity may have been overwhelming.

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I prefer the Glencairn then the stemmed Ridel whiskey glass. While on the subject when nosing hold your nose in the glass and inhale through your slightly open mouth.

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JMHO and I'm sure I am in the distinct minority on this one but I have come to prefer a larger more open glass, slightly inward curving, straight or with a outward flair all work. A better description might be a slightly scaled down rocks glass. Lets the pour open up and frankly my nose fits and it doesn't feel as fussy, I enjoy the Bourbon more. With the alcohol and bold scents found in most Bourbon noses using a Glencairn or similar to concentrate the aromas seems overkill to me. Scotch and Canadian juice might need to be concentrated to pick up the nuances on the nose but not so much with Bourbon.

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B.B. Babington

I never use a rocks glass unless out somewhere's and that's what's handed to me. If in the backyard, or just hangin with a drink for a while, might use glencairn with watch glass cover. Most often use cordials glasses shaped like mini-glencairns.

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Thanks for the suggestions and I may have found the perfect glass today at the local kitchen store. It looks like a small, white wine tumbler (no stem). It's fine German crystal, wasn't cheap, and just seems to be the perfect shape for scotch or bourbon. You can swirl it, warm it and it just feels good in your hands. I only got one so guests will have to use the jelly glasses.

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Thanks for the suggestions and I may have found the perfect glass today at the local kitchen store. It looks like a small, white wine tumbler (no stem). It's fine German crystal, wasn't cheap, and just seems to be the perfect shape for scotch or bourbon. You can swirl it, warm it and it just feels good in your hands. I only got one so guests will have to use the jelly glasses.
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I prefer the Glencairn then the stemmed Ridel whiskey glass. While on the subject when nosing hold your nose in the glass and inhale through your slightly open mouth.
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For casual sipping I generally use the Four Roses freebie glasses as I have more than a dozen. For actual tasting I prefer either a Glencairn or I have some bourbon glasses that came from Crate & Barrel that are similar to the Reidel bourbon glasses. Those are honestly my favorite.

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For tasting I use a very thin walled, tulip shaped wineglass. For everyday drinking I only require the container not leak.

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For tasting I use a very thin walled, tulip shaped wineglass. For everyday drinking I only require the container not leak.

LOL. Yes, the glass I got has very thin walls. I'm not sure if "thin" is just the nature of expensive glassware, or if the idea is less glass and more booze. It kinda seems like I'm holding the actually drink in my hand and not the glass. Interesting.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Ziggy,

The Glencairn is now an industry standard, more or less. I recommend all newbies to our hobby own at least one. When tasting a bourbon (or many other spirits) for the first time, it's always in the Glencairn first. You can think of it as a reference point.

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I prefer the small heavy bottomed glasse that Four Roses uses for their after tour samples. Its got a wide mouth that allows alcohol vapors to dissipate but is small enough that I can cover the glass with a few fingers for nosing. It is nowhere as fragile as the Glencairn either.

I've never been a fan of Glencairns but I do have a set of Riedel bourbon glasses for when I want to feel classy.

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Indeed, the shape of a Mason jar enhances the characteristics of a fine moonshine. When ordering moonshine, should you offer your wine, rocks, or Glencairn glass to the sommelier, he will certainly respond: "Wrong glass, sir!"

Yes, I like the movie Blues Brothers way too much.

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I prefer the small heavy bottomed glasse that Four Roses uses for their after tour samples.

Any way to obtain those short of a Four Roses tour?

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Any way to obtain those short of a Four Roses tour?

Best bet would probably be a local tasting or Christmas box set. Of course, you could probably order them online through the site, but I'm too lazy to check to be sure.

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I did check their site before posting, and was disappointed to find that the glassware section of their online store consists of a rock glass and a shot glass. :rolleyes: (eyerolling is for Four Roses, not you).

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All of mine were sourced from the distillery, but you may have luck finding some on an auction site or Amazon.

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