The Different Types of Whiskey Glasses

By Timo Torner / Last updated on April 6, 2023

Find out everything about the different types of whiskey glasses, the reason for the different designs, their pros and cons, and when to use them.
Different types of whiskey glasses

Does it sound absurd to you that someone may feel their drink is ruined because it came in the wrong glass? It certainly is not crazy to many whiskey lovers. And actually, there are valid reasons for the many different styles and shapes of whiskey glasses.

The range goes from classic whiskey tumblers to snifters, and the whiskey experience can vary depending on your choice. So let me explain why there are differences and show you the most common types of whiskey glasses and when to use them:

The different Whiskey glasses

One quick tip: From clean and elegant tumblers to the fancy NEAT glass; regardless of the design, make sure the whiskey has enough space to swill. Similar to good wine, whiskey needs space to breathe to develop its aroma.

The Tulip or Copita glass

Tulip Copita glass

The design of the Copita glass is derived from a traditional Sherry sampling glass. This small, stemmed glass is often used for tasting spirits of all kinds. Thus, many whiskey lovers, master distillers, and blenders choose this kind of glass for tasting their own whiskey.

Holding it at its stem will prevent your hand from being too close to your nose, which otherwise could cause irritations and distort the true aroma of the whiskey.

Further, the bowl of the copita glass is narrow and tall. That concentrates aromas and makes this glass a perfect choice for nosing whiskey. If you're looking for glassware that highlights the nuances of a single malt Whiskey, go for a copita.

The Glencairn Whiskey glass

This glass is solely for whiskey tasting. Shape-wise, the Glencairn is quite similar to the copita. The main difference is the missing stem and the overall more robust appearance. The glass is shorter and thicker, making it ideal for sociable drinking without worry about breaking it.

Glencairn whiskey glass

With its small size, the Glencairn makes the perfect glass for swirling your whiskey. That will unfold the aromas in the whiskey, which intensify due to the bowl shape.

Whiskey tumbler or Old fashioned glass

Whiskey tumbler old fashioned

tumbler is the most common whiskey glass you can find. In movies, you most certainly will see a tumbler somewhere when whiskey is on the menu.

Whiskey in a tumbler usually is served on the rocks. This glass is definitely not for nosing a whiskey, but that is also not its purpose. Other types take care of this aspect. 

The wide, cylindric shape allows you to add an extra-large ice sphere or cube. And this is already the main advantage of this glass. It's also commonly used for serving all kinds of spirits on the rocks and drinks like Whiskey Sour.

The Snifter Glass

Wide bottom, narrow top, short stem - that's the snifter, also known as brandy bowl or cognac glass - all mean the same thing. 

snifter whiskey glass brandy bowl

By tasting whiskey in a snifter, you want to show class. That is the kind of glassware you will see in high-class Gentlemen's clubs, where guests sit on Chesterfield sofas and smoke Cuban cigars. 

It's perfect for refined, aged, dark spirits like Whiskey, Rum, Brandy, or Cognac. I suggest getting some of them for your home bar.

The NEAT glass

neat whiskey glass

The neat glass is relatively new and offers an intriguing feature. Its shape prevents harsh notes of alcohol from getting to your nose. 

In this context, "NEAT" is short for Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology. The way it works is that the build of the glass lets lighter molecules out but keeps the heavier ones in the whiskey. It's a fun way to drink whiskey. However, it takes some time to get used to due to its unconventional shape.

Why do Whiskey glasses have thick bottoms?

There are multiple reasons why some types of whiskey glasses have a thick bottom. Besides the apparent effects on durability and stability, there is more behind it:

One point is that the bottom of a whiskey glass helps maintain temperature. Changes in temperature can have enormous effects on the taste of whiskey. So significant that some people would never drink their whiskey on the rocks as they consider it a waste of money. Now, no matter the temperature you want your whiskey to have, you will want to keep it at the same level for as long as possible.

The second reason is more related to functionality in the early days of cocktails. When Old Fashioned cocktails were trending, the thick bottom was essential. 

It is perfect for muddling ingredients inside the glass. For instance, when you wanted to create an Old Fashioned, you muddled the sugar cube drenched in aromatic bitters before adding the spirit.

Do Whiskey glasses make a difference?

How can the choice of whiskey glass possibly make a difference to your drinking experience?

Like every quality spirit, whiskey needs space and temperature to unfold its full aroma. You need to be able to smell and taste the different nuances. 

The shape and design of whiskey glasses can support this in different ways. For instance, some glassware is designed to concentrate the vapor and pronounce the smell of the whiskey, while other designs take away the harsh aromas of their content simply by their shape.

So the answer is: yes, glasses can make a difference if you care about details and nuances.

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