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A Guide to Different Types of Whiskey Glasses
With all the craft and time that goes into making a good whiskey, it’s only fitting to drink it out of a glass that does it justice.
Not all whiskey glasses are the same. Different sizes and shapes are suited to different whiskeys, so it pays to know which is which.
This guide will take you through the main types of whiskey glasses and answer some common questions about serving and drinking - so you’ll be able to savour your next glass at its best.
A tumbler, also known as a rocks glass or old fashioned glass, is what most people think of when they imagine whiskey on the rocks. It’s a short glass with a thick base that’s perfect for insulating ice cubes or muddling the ingredients in a whiskey cocktail. It’s equally suited to other cocktails too, making it a staple of any home bar.
Explore Waterford’s range of hand-cut crystal tumblers for your next glass on the rocks.
Sometimes referred to as a balloon, the snifter is a trademark of debonair lounges and exclusive smoking rooms. Its tulip shape means it can be swirled and held almost horizontally without spilling the whiskey, and it accentuates the nose by funneling aromas towards the top. For this reason, it’s best reserved for appreciating whiskey neat - as well as brandy or cognac.
Relax with an indulgent splash of dark liquor in one of Waterford’s crystal balloons.
Highballs are tall, narrow glasses that have plenty of room for ice and a mixer. Use one for a classic long drink such as a scotch and soda, or whiskey with dry ginger ale.
Top up one of Waterford’s exquisite crystal highballs with a refreshing long drink.
Designed solely for whiskey, the Glencairn glass has a tulip shape similar to a snifter - but it’s generally smaller in size and more robust. It also has a slight lip around the rim for easy drinkability (see the Lismore Connoisseur Flared Sipping Tumbler for an example).
What is the best size for a whiskey glass?
The size of your chosen glass will depend on how the whiskey is served. As a general rule of thumb, short and stout glasses are best suited to whiskey that’s neat or on the rocks, while taller glasses that have room for mixers and ice are perfect for long drinks.
How to hold a whiskey glass
Holding a whiskey glass properly allows you to swirl without spilling and slow down the melting of any ice. It also communicates a sense of etiquette and distinction when appreciating a fine whiskey.
Depending on the glass itself, you might choose to hold it by:
This is suitable for tumblers, whose thick base will insulate the ice cubes from the heat of your fingertips. Simply support the base of the glass with three to four fingers and stabilise the side closest to you with your thumb.
For snifters or Glencairn glasses, hold the stem between a thumb and two or three fingers, with the rest of your fingers gently resting on the foot of the glass. This is a good way to ensure the whiskey remains at room temperature without excess heat from your hands.
A snifter or tulip-shaped glass with a thin stem can also be held by the bowl - a convenient grip for slow and steady swirling. Situate the stem of the glass between your middle and ring fingers, and support the entire bowl with your palm.
Can a glass improve the taste of whiskey?
Specialty whiskey glassware, such as Waterford’s Short Stories or Lismore Connoisseur ranges, can significantly enhance the taste of your whiskey by giving individual aromas a chance to breathe. This opens up subtle notes you may not notice if drinking out of a standard glass and brings the full spectrum of sensory appreciation to your drinking experience.
How to care for crystal whiskey glassware
With only a small amount of periodic cleaning and care, your whiskey glassware can last a lifetime. Use the following tips to keep your glasses in mint condition.
Hand wash glasses in warm soapy water before rinsing thoroughly and drying with a lint-free cloth.
Avoid twisting glasses around the cloth while gripping the stem, as this can cause breakage. Rotate the entire glass gently instead.
Do not place crystal glasses in the dishwasher. Heat, friction, and detergent can dull or scratch the surface.
Avoid pouring hot liquids into cold glasses, or very cold liquids into warm glasses. Cracks or breakage can ensue.
The finely made rims are the most fragile part of a whiskey glass, so don’t turn it upside down while drying or storing.
Produced in Scotland, Scotch is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years and distilled anywhere from two to twenty times. It generally has complex smoky, peaty notes.
Scotch itself comes in four varieties:
Single malt: scotches produced in one distillery from only water and malted barley.
Single grain: malt and water scotches from a single distillery, but with other grains added (e.g. corn, wheat).
Blended malts: a rare combination of two or more single malts blended together.
Blended: scotches made of both single grain and single malt whiskeys that have been mixed together.
Many of the most common names on the whiskey market are blended scotches (e.g. Johnnie Walker), while single malts generally have a reputation for top-shelf quality.
Whiskey from Ireland has all the deep oakiness of Scotch, but with a slightly lighter and smoother taste owing to its combination of malted and unmalted barley.
Bourbon is the most popular variety of American whiskey. It’s made from a grain mash with at least 51% corn and generally has a slightly sweeter taste than scotch.
Rye is similar to bourbon but distilled with rye grain in place of corn. The rye gives it a slightly spicier and drier taste than sour mash bourbon.
Japanese whiskey recreates the same distilling process and taste profile as Scotch, but it’s become a global force of its own right in the whiskey market. In Japan, it’s most commonly served as a highball with soda or ginger ale.
Canada has relatively few regulations around whiskey production, making for a wide variety of different blends that generally have a sweeter, lighter taste than American whiskeys.
Does whiskey taste better with water?
Many whiskey drinkers say whiskey should be enjoyed neat, with no water or ice. Yet while this might not be the purist’s answer, adding water can sometimes enhance the taste.
This is particularly true when drinking cask strength whiskeys with higher alcohol levels (up to and over 60% ABV). The alcohol burn in these liquors can sometimes overpower the taste, so a dash of water might be just what’s needed to open up the subtleties of the palate.
If you want to keep your whiskey cool without ice, consider a set of whiskey stones. These can be kept in the freezer and dropped into your glass without diluting the liquor.