Whisky Tasting Glasses Comparison

Something totally different from me this time, instead of comparing whiskies, I will be sticking to a single whisky and instead comparing the drinking vessel.

It is not something that has really crossed my mind to compare before, a tasting glass is pretty much always the same style, that of the Glencairn glass, as I know it. There are obviously many different styles of tumbler to choose from but for tasting glasses I am not aware of many.

There is a good reason this thought has popped into my head, I am organising Stoke-on-Trent Whisky Festival and as part of the preparations I started to have a quick look around at glass options. A new one sprung to mind that I had recently seen on Twitter, The NEAT Glass, so I decided to approach them. They were kind enough to send me a sample to evaluate it and see if it is appropriate for the festival.

I have 5 different styles of glass in at present so I thought I would do a side-by-side comparison of them. I should point out at this point that I am a bit of a glass geek, if only in my love of them rather than knowledge of them. Below are the glasses in question:

Whisky Glasses

OldPulteney1993But what whisky to have with the comparison? Well I chose my 1993 Old Pulteney Cask Strength by Gordon & MacPhail.

Why this particular dram I hear you ask, there must be a reason. Why yes there is ladies and gentlemen; this has to have one of the most complex and continuously developing noses and any whisky in my collection, and pretty high up on all of the drams I’ve tried actually. It is also cask strength, a whopping 59.9% in fact, so this should help to determine if any of the glasses handle the ethanol displacement better than the others.

Small Glencairn

I do not know if Glencairn actually made this but it is the common style, just a little smaller.

I’ve always quite liked the look f this glass, it has the lovely lines that is usually associated with a whisky tasting glass, just miniaturised, it’s a lovely little thing.

It is light and you can easily get you whole hand around it. This means that it is easy to warm the contents up a little with your hands if need be. Due to it’s size however, it does not sit in your hand, rather you have to hold it.

From a distance: Channels the aromas very nicely, good strength in the aromas coming through.
Nose in glass: Really draws in the aromas, delivering a rich powerful nose. You do get a little ethanol burn however.

The mouth of the glass feels a little small to be honest, it’s a little cramped. It’s small mouth does however mean that it will slide completely below the nose when drinking, making it comfortable to drink from. A small amount of neck movement required to access the dram.

Large Glencairn

This is the traditional tasting glass as I understand it at least, it is the one that I see at most festivals and also for sale in shops/online.

It’s a nice looking glass, nice flowing lines, well recognised with good room for branding around it.

It has a little bit of weight to it so feels sturdy. You can wrap both hands around this one ok to help warm the whisky if required. It feels nice in the hand, sits better than the smaller one.

From a distance: Like the last one it channels the aromas beautifully, allowing you to really pick out the more delicate aromas that are present.
Nose in glass: Wide enough mouth to allow you to really get your nose in and take in the more powerful aromas. No ethanol burn with this one.

Much better size mouth to this, does not feel cramped, but your nose actually gets in the way more than with the smaller glass. You do have to tilt your head quite far back to get to the whisky (for festival sample servings). It appears to have aerated differently also as there is more of an oaky dryness that comes to it with time.

Rastel Stemmed Whisky Glass

It is branded as Rastel but unfortunately their website appears to be down so I am unable to find out any details.

I got this at TWE Whisky Show 2014 and instantly took a liking to it. It has a similar shape to that of the traditional glass, but with a 3″ stem. You do get the base of the stem that can be used for branding also.

It is very light, lighter than the first glass reviewed here. It does make it feel a little flimsy to be honest, fine at home, but at a festival where breakages are much easier, it felt a little fragile. I’m unsure on the stem also, more the necessity of it really. On a wine glass it is generally so you can hold the base and not touch the glass itself, therefore not to warm white wines, I’m not sure it is needed for whisky. I do prefer mine at room temperature though, I know not everyone does.

From a distance: Delivers a slightly more delicate nose to it this glass compared to the others. Not a huge difference but noticeable.
Nose in glass: Again, more delicate, less powerful than with the other glasses. Like the first glass however, there is a touch of ethanol burn there.

Not a badly sized mouth, in between the previous two I feel. With regard to neck movement, it again slots in between the previous two as to the amount of movement required. This one aerates much like the small glass.

Wine Tasting Glass

It’s another style of tasting glass, so I thought, why not?

Fairly plain looking but does have the channelling shape to focus the aromas.

Medium weight, heavier than the Rastel but still lighter than the small Glencairn. Sits nicely in you hand if you wrap you hand around the bowl of the glass and it is light enough that you can still comfortably hold the base if required.

From a distance: Draws in the aromas very nicely actually, allowing you to pick out the delicate notes but delivering a more pronounced aroma than the others.
Nose in glass: Delivers the more powerful aromas as with the Glencairn but does have a little ethanol burn to it.

Good sized mouth on it allowing comfortable drinking. Neck movement and aeration are both very similar to the large Glencairn glass.

The NEAT Glass

Onto the glass that actually got me onto this comparison in the first place. It is quite a new glass I believe and from reading the website, there appears to be some science behind the design also.

It is very different to any other glass I have drank from to be honest, but grabbed my interest when I first saw it. It is kind of like a small, slightly squashed tapered jar, with a flared top. I might have undersold the effort The NEAT Glass put into there, but I hope you get my point. It has a large base which is good for branding but also has space for branding around the glass, as long as the branding is not too tall.

Again, very different feel to it. It has a good weight to it, nice large flat base so feels sturdy when placed down. It sits in you hand quite nicely too when held at the base, but also feels nice to hold at the rim, again sturdy, the flared rim does not feel fragile to hold.

From a distance: Really delicate, too much so, almost feels a little lost.
Nose in glass: Again, really delicate, does not deliver the intensity of the nose like the others. More on par with the Glencairn nose ‘from a distance’ rather than ‘in glass’. There is no ethanol burn present however.

Very comfortable to drink from. Although a lot of the glass actually enters the mouth (the flared rim), which is unusual at first, it is very nice to drink from. Minimal neck angle is needed for drinking at first, a little more so towards the end due to the shape of the glass. The aeration is different to all others, it has left it much softer than the others, with much less of an oaky dryness.


Firstly, as I have just read through this post I would like to apologise, for being far big a glass geek than I expected. I really did start out with the idea of doing a simple comparison, guess I got carried away.

Lets be fair, all of the whisky tasting glasses look great, the wine one a little dull. There is a considerable difference in feel to them, for me The NEAT Glass actually wins this one ever so slightly over the Large Glencairn, simply because you hold it less, it sits in the hand the nicest.

Now onto the two most important factors, nose and drinking sensation. Nose wise the Large Glencairn won hands down for me. It delivers delicate nose from a distance, admittedly not the most delicate, that went to the the Rastel. It also handles ABV better than most of the others, The NEAT Glass also did very well in this aspect. The final thing was the in glass nosing; it delivered the power and richness that the Old Pulteney has without any of the ethanol burn that some of the others did in this situation.

When it comes to the drinking sensation I would say it is very close between the Small Glencairn and The NEAT Glass. I would same The NEAT Glass is the most comfortable with its flared rim delivering the whisky very nicely along with the the very delicate way that it preserved the whisky, completely different to the rest. The Small Glencairn however is also comfortable and delivers a more familiar way of drinking in regards to not having so much glass in your mouth whilst drinking. It also preserved more of the stronger flavours of the whisky than The NEAT Glass.

It is difficult to select a winner to be honest, The NEAT Glass does very well, however I was very disappointed with the nose delivery of it. The Large Glencairn is very nice, plus familiar to a lot of people. I’m afraid I have no answer right now, I will have to sample a few other drams, see how they hold up and report back.

On a side note though, the 1993 Old Pulteney is just amazing, I absolutely adore it, and I can’t say I’m complaining about being ‘forced’ into having five samples of it tonight 🙂

Part 2 available here