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We purchased the Norlan 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 you're attracted to cutting-edge looks and an intriguing backstory, you may find the Norlan whisky glass worth that premium price tag.
Thoughtful and attractive design
Comfortable for large hands
Ideal for nosing whiskey
Thick rim for sipping
Buy on Amazon, $48
Design: The Norlan whisky glass' futuristic attractiveness and ethereal lightness make those memories of drinking from your grandparents' heavy crystal tumblers feel so quaint and old-fashioned. Unlike vintage glassware, this one combines two glass styles in one. The outer wall tumbler encases a nosing glass, allowing you to get acquainted with your whiskey's aromas and colors without getting your fingerprints all over the bowl. The double-walled design also prevents your hand from warming up the spirit.
Material: Norlan glasses are made from hand-blown double-walled borosilicate glass, which is the same durable material Pyrex uses to make its laboratory glassware. Borosilicate is harder than regular glass and won't crack when boiling water is poured on it.
Cleaning: The included black 11 x 11.5-inch polishing cloth, which is like the one that comes with your eyeglasses, is wrapped in a set of instructions on how to treat your whisky glasses with care, including how to handwash them.
Price: If you want the Norlan for its space-age good looks and you enjoy nosing your whiskey—and you have $50 burning a hole in your pocket—then yes, it may be worth it to you to buy a set. But outside of that, you could get a set of two Glencairns for about half that price, and sipping from them is a better experience. Plus they aren't as precious, coming with a list of care instructions.
The gem-like Norlan whisky glasses are the result of a super-successful Kickstarter campaign, which was able to raise $730,000 over the initial $75k ask. The hybrid design strongly resonated with whiskey lovers looking for a glass that combined two popular whiskey-drinking vessels: the tumbler and the nosing glass. Part of the Norlan pitch is that its whisky glass allows the drinker to not only nose the spirit but to be social and maintain eye contact while sipping from it. Unlike a Glencairn. And then there's the claim that thanks to the fin-like protrusions in the glass more ethanol is forced to evaporate with every swirl, allowing the whiskey's aromas to shine through.
These are interesting assertions for a whisky glass to make. But are they worth paying a premium for? Will you be better able to appreciate the whiskey and a good time while sipping from a Norlan? I broke out a pair of Norlans for a whiskey tasting at home to find out.
Since the glasses are hand-blown, each one is a bit different. My set had imperfections, such as an indentation on the lip and a slightly cock-eyed rim that made the glass appear crooked even when sitting on an even plane.
"The fins at the bottom of the glass are purported to dissipate burn, allowing you to pick up more of the whiskey's aromas, not only in scent but even taste."
But the Norlan's truly unique feature that it uses to rep itself as some of the best whiskey glasses is its four fin-like protrusions located at the bottom of the inner glass. Swirl the whiskey and the fins are purported to force more ethanol to evaporate with every movement of the glass, dissipating that burn and allowing you to pick up more of the whiskey's aromas, not only in scent but even taste.
In practice, when compared to nosing and drinking from a Glencairn, since there's none of that burn, you end up breathing it in more deeply as well as sipping without wincing. But when testing out an Islay whiskey, the peatiness came through stronger on the nose with the Glencairn than the Norlan, where it was almost muted.
Drinking from the Norlan's thick rim isn't as tidy of an experience. The liquid wets the corners of your mouth and your upper lip, milk moustache style. Compare that to drinking from a Glencairn where you can purse your lips more, directing the spirit neatly into your mouth. (If that's not some of the best high-rollin' American whiskey!)
Even though the Norlan whisky glass is made from more hardy borosilicate, since the glass walls in the Norlan are thin, the care instructions that accompany the microfiber polishing cloth remind you that it is a very dear product. You're told to not place them in a microwave or oven or use whisky stones with them. And you're warned against putting them in the freezer because of the risk of thermal shock. The glass is very light to carry. It is almost plastic-like in its airiness until you tap it with a fingernail to confirm that, yes, it's glass. A neat trick is how, thanks to the clarity of the borosilicate glass, the two walls intensify the whiskey's color, even repeating it in the glass' rim and making it appear as if it was rimmed in gold.
When it comes to cleaning, you should use a mild detergent and a non-abrasive cloth on your Norlan whisky glass. But the secret hack? The first line of instructions is to use the set-included polishing cloth to "lovingly polish" the glasses before use or placing on your decked out bar cart before your next bar party as a little show off.
The Norlan Whisky Glass and Glencairn Whisky Glass (view at Amazon) were both created based on input from master distillers to best showcase the spirit. However, the Norlan set out to be a better nosing glass but in tumbler form. Its design with those small fins in the inner glass dissipate the ethanol so you can pick up the whiskey's aromas without searing your nostrils. And that 2.5-inch diameter opening is also larger so you don't have to tilt your head as far back as you do when drinking from the Glencairn's 1.75-inch-diameter opening, allowing you to, yes, maintain eye contact with friends.
But even though the Glencairn is finless and smaller-mouthed, it is still a better glass to sip whiskey from. Drinking from the Norlan's thick rim, which is due to its double-walled construction, is just not as pleasant an experience. Sure, it's something that one could adapt to, but it just doesn't feel as good in the mouth.
"The Norlan would be a gorgeous conversation starter on any bar cart."
The Norlan's tumbler shape is, however, better suited for those with bigger hands who normally have to grapple with the Glencairn's neck. The Norlan is shorter (3.7 inches) with a smaller capacity (5.9 ounces) compared to the Glencairn (4.5 inches tall, 6.5 ounces). The glass you choose will come down to the importance you place on pricing (Glencairn is $16 for two, Norlan $48) or looks. The Glencairns are more ubiquitous, found in bars and tasting rooms, while the Norlan would be a gorgeous conversation starter on any bar cart.
The Final Verdict
The beautifully designed Norlan whisky glass (view at Amazon) has got the backstory and the attractiveness to kick off any conversation and glass envy while showing off your scotch collection. Those sensitive to whiskey's ethanol burn will appreciate how the glass' unique design helps tamp that down in both scent and taste. If all that sounds good to you and you don't mind paying a premium for it, this whiskey glass is worth the splurge.
- Product Brand: Norlan
- Product Name: Whisky Glass
- Price: $48
- Product Dimensions: 3.7 x 3.2 x 2.5 inches
- Capacity: 5.9 ounces
- Material: Borosilicate glass
- What’s Included: 2 glasses and a microfiber polishing cloth
Why Trust Liquor.com?
We purchased this pair of 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.