October 29

How to select a whisky glass

Mark of craftsmanship

The age-old question of how to pick the 'correct' whisky glassware never seems to be answered to satisfaction. And rightly so. There is no such thing as selecting the right glass for a fine single malt. Sometimes you need a lab capita tinted blue so that the colour of the whisky doesn't influence your perception. Sometimes you raise a toast and take a sip of Scotch from a quaich. Both are valid, rich whisky experiences.

Extremes aside, there is a relatively limited selection of what we would refer to as whisky glasses. They can be roughly categorised into tumblers and snifters with the Glencairn glass, sometimes referred to as the blender’s glass, being a cross between these two and a popular separate category in itself. Let’s take a look at all three.


A tumbler is a short and squat glass with a wide opening and, often, a heavy base. It can be straight or rounded, the latter is sometimes referred to as a fishbowl glass. Tumblers are perfect for a casual drink of whisky. They certainly don’t help with the nosing – wide opening allows most of the aroma to escape – but they sit very comfortably in the palm of your hand and are very easy to drink from. A crystal tumbler adds a touch of style to any occasion and will serve in a variety of non-whisky situations.

Our serve for the tumbler today is Balblair Vintage 1999 2nd release with an ice ball. This may be a bit unorthodox – we would certainly recommend drinking this fine vintage on its own in most situations. But the richly aromatic, perfumes fruitiness and tropical sweetness of it actually fares well with ice, so long as it’s not diluted too far. Chilled, the 1999 becomes silky and even sweeter with some of the malty and sherry-cask-derived notes locked in. Try it after a long day.


These professional glasses were designed to do a very specific job – concentrate aroma of your whisky around the rim. Tulip-shaped and on a short stem, they often come with a lid which helps to amplify the effect. These delicate glasses are the perfect whisky evaluation companion, allowing the aroma spectrum of any whisky to shine fully. They are, however, not toasting glasses. Due to small opening sipping from them can be tricky and their thin walls and delicate stem can be brittle.

A snifter is the perfect glass for enjoying Balblair Vintage 1983. A slightly waxy expression of Balblair which will take time to open up to the full potential will take a drop of water well. And once it’s going it will keep on giving depth and complexity, telling both the story of the cask and the spirit. It’s one of those whiskies you will nose for ever before even taking the first sip.


This is a relatively new type of glass. Developed by the Scottish glass company Glencairn, it shares features with both the snifter and the tumbler. It’s tulip-shaped for good nosing performance but the walls of the glass straighten up at the top to help even an inexperienced taster take small, controlled sips. There is no stem but instead the base is narrower than the rest of the glass. It sits comfortably in the hand and allows you to hold the glass without warming the contents up. This a great all-rounder glass and a staple for many whisky aficionados.

Tonight we’re going to serve our Balblair Vintage 2003 in a Glencairn glass. This light and fruity expression of Balblair is as engaging on the nose as it is on the palate and comfortably switches from being a fascinating insight into the distillery’s house style to a great sipping whisky, playing background to a conversation. All-round glass for an all-round dram.

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