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We purchased the Glencairn Whiskey Glass so our reviewer could put it to the test in their home bar. Read on for the full review.
The Bottom Line:
If your idea of drinking whiskey involves taking in its aroma, scrutinizing its color, and pondering its nuances, the Glencairn Whisky Glass is the official drinkware for the job.
Designed to appreciate all aspects of whiskey
Thin lip for neat sipping
Neck and base easy to hold
Dainty size difficult for bigger hands
Narrow opening requires adjusting how you sip
Design: If you were served a dram of whiskey in a Glencairn Whisky Glass, instinctually you'd know what the next step was before taking that first sip. Its tulip-shaped design seems to instruct you on just how to get acquainted with your whiskey.
Material: The Glencairn glass is made from lead-free crystal, backing up its dainty size and lightweight, durable quality.
Cleaning: Even though the Glencairn Crystal site says its glasses can be washed in the dishwasher, which is how many bars clean them, hand-washing is highly recommended.
Price: The Glencairn Whisky Glass, though preciously made, is actually not as precious-priced. You will find that they are can be purchased one at a time for around $10 or in sets of two ($16.99) all the way up to 12 (about $70). Compare that to competitor Riedel Vinum Single Malt Whisky glasses, which retail for $65 for a set of two. Even though the Glencairn is a single-purpose glass, the fact that it's constructed of quality crystal makes it more than worth the price.
There's a special glass for drinking Bordeaux, brandy, pilsner, or cordial. But amazingly, even though whiskey has been around for centuries, whiskey lovers were sipping their drams from tumblers, highballs and shot glasses as recently as 30 years ago. Then Glencairn Crystal founder Raymond Davidson designed the Glencairn Whisky Glass in 1976 and promptly shelved it since it would have cost too much to produce. After his sons discovered the design 20 years later and consulted with top master blenders to improve upon it, the glass was launched in 2001 at a whiskey festival in London. Since then it's become the official whiskey glassware, endorsed by the Scotch Whisky Association and populating distillery tasting rooms and bars around the world.
But does one really need a special glass to drink whiskey? And why this glass? How much does it contribute to the actual enjoyment of the spirit? Does it live up to a best whiskey glass distinction? I tried quite a few drams in the Glencairn Whisky Glass to be sure.
"The Glencairn's tulip-shaped design seems to instruct you just how to get acquainted with your whiskey."
As you lightly hold the 1.41-ounce glass, wrapping your index finger and thumb around its neck and balancing the bottom of "The Glencairn Glass"-etched base across your middle finger, you'll then raise it up to the light to get a good look at the color of the spirit. Its clear crystal allows for this and you might find yourself putting one of your best whiskeys or best feasible scotch in it to drink. And of course, you'd feel compelled to swirl the whiskey around in the Glencairn's bowl and stick your nose into the 1.75-inch opening that tapers up from the body to breathe in those delicious aromas. Can you pick up on its fruity, sweet or grain notes? The narrow opening also forces you to tilt your head back further than you're used to when drinking to prevent the other side of the glass from hitting your nose as you sip. Thanks to the thin rim, it's easy to take a small, neat pondering sip.
Measuring 4.5 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide with a 6.5-ounce capacity, the wee glass is only able to accommodate the whiskey and, if you're so inclined, a small ice cube or some water. It's not a versatile vessel and can't double as a cocktail or water glass, but that's fine if all you want it for is to appreciate your whiskey the right way.
"The crystal's clarity is conducive to admiring the whiskey's body and color."
As far as material is concerned, the crystal's clarity that makes up the Glencairn Whisky Glass is conducive to admiring the whiskey's body and color. Each glass is said to be individually handcrafted and may therefore have slight variations, such as tiny air bubbles or pattern and color irregularities. But I didn't notice any such imperfections in any of my four glasses.
When it comes to cleaning the glasses, handwashing them is especially the case if you want to preserve "The Glencairn Glass" etching on the bottom, which will fade over time.
The Glencairn Whisky Glass has been pitted against the Riedel Vinum Single Malt Whisky Glass (view at Amazon) since the former debuted 20 years ago. Both crystal glasses are the same height at 4.5 inches and have similar capacity (Glencairn 6.5 ounces vs. Riedel 7 ounces). They were created to showcase the spirit, but it was the tulip-shaped Glencairn that was adopted as the "official whisky glass," even though it showed up on the scene years after the Vinum.
The Riedel's outurned lip is said to highlight a single malt's sweetness, while the Glencairn is tapered to facilitate nosing the whiskey. However, of the two, the Glencairn seems more adaptable to bar life. Its sturdy, solid crystal base, compared to the Riedel's thinner, flat foot, is more able to withstand being set down on a bar with loud enthusiasm. I'd cringe to try that with the Riedel. And there's the matter of pricing. A set of two Riedels retails for $65 while you could buy 12 Glencairn glasses for about $5 more.
The Final Verdict
You are not allowed to call yourself a whiskey connoisseur if you don't already own a Glencairn Whisky Glass (view at Amazon). Again, this glass was designed to appreciate the spirit, from admiring its color through the clear crystal to nosing its aroma through the narrow opening to taking a thoughtfully small sip from its thin lip.
- Product Name: Glencairn Whisky Glasses
- Product Brand: Glencairn
- Product Number/UPC/SKU: GLEN-WSKY-1G
- Price: $8.99
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 inches wide and 4.5 inches tall
- Capacity: 6.5 ounces
- Material: Lead-free crystal
- Warranty (if any): None
- What’s Included: 1 glass
Why Trust Liquor.com?
We purchased these glasses for our tester, Caroline Pardilla, to try out for a month and review. Caroline is a writer specializing in cocktails and bars. She is based in Los Angeles and has contributed to Liquor.com since 2016. She has nearly two decades of experience as a writer and editor for publications including BBC Travel, Eater, LAist, LA Weekly and Los Angeles magazine.