It’s well known that whiskey glasses have thick and heavy bottoms but what’s less well known is whether there’s a good reason for it. Turns out that not only is there a good reason for it, there are six good reasons for it. Here then are the six reasons why whiskey glasses have thick and heavy bottoms.
1. It Prevents the Warming of Your Whiskey
The thick and heavy bottom of whiskey glasses prevents your drink from becoming warm through the transfer of heat from the hand holding the glass or the surface on which your glass is resting.
This reason doesn’t apply to nosing glasses that can be held by their stems or to shot glasses where you’re drinking your whiskey so quickly that it has no time to get warm. It applies to whiskey tumblers which are used when you want to chill your drink by adding ice, to reduce the impact of the alcohol and make it easier to smell and taste the flavors of your whiskey. When you’re cooling your drink, you’ll obviously want to keep out anything that would heat it up.
And not only because it’s counterproductive but because more heat can make things worse by causing the ice to melt quicker and dilute your whiskey!
But you have to hold your glass or set it down somewhere and both can transfer heat to your drink. The solution: a whiskey tumbler’s thick and heavy bottom.
2. It Makes the Glass More Stable
Whiskey glasses have a thick and heavy bottom to keep them stable.
This doesn’t apply to whiskey tumblers that have large flat bottoms or the much shorter shot glass, both of which would be stable without a thick and heavy bottom. It applies to nosing glasses and highballs that can be less stable.
A nosing glass is designed to help you pick up all the aromas and flavors of a whiskey. Its wide bowl allows your whiskey to breathe which lets more of the ethanol evaporate and opens up more of your whiskey’s flavors, and the tapered neck stops the whiskey aromas from dissipating and concentrates them towards the narrow rim.
To ensure you pick up only the whiskey aromas that you’ve just released, you need to keep your hand away from your nose. This is true even if your personal hygiene is impeccable because even good smells from your hand can interfere with those from the whiskey.
This is why nosing glasses have a stem, because holding the glass by it increases the distance between your hand and nose. Of course, if a glass has a stem it’s going to need some sort of base, and it’s this stem and base combination that can result in a glass that’s somewhat unstable. To increase stability, some whiskey nosing glasses have a shorter stem and a very thick and heavy base.
Highball glasses are also somewhat unstable. Part of it is because they’re tall and narrow so relatively easy to knock over. The other part is the fact that the whiskey cocktails drunk in highballs are filled to the brim, making the consequence of any instability that much greater.
To increase stability, many highball glasses have a thick and heavy bottom. Though in my experience, the knocking over problem is merely reduced, not eliminated.
3. It Makes the Glass Stronger
The thick and heavy bottom of whiskey glasses makes them stronger.
This doesn’t apply to nosing glasses that are still quite delicate even when they have a thick and heavy bottom because the extra strength is not in the glass itself but the base which is separated from it by a stem. It applies to whiskey tumblers that need to be stronger because of the ice and cocktails you’re putting in them.
Now you may think it’s just ice and cocktails. They can’t really damage your whiskey glass. But you’d be wrong.
When it comes to ice, the makers of some whiskey nosing glasses specifically discourage you from adding any because it could break the glass, which goes to show that the only reason you feel comfortable putting ice cubes in glasses is because the ones you’ve been using are stronger in the first place.
And of course, the base needs to be the strongest and most reinforced part of the glass since it receives the brunt of the attack from the ice.
Also, some people like to use whiskey stones to cool their drink instead of ice because being frozen pieces of stone or metal they don’t melt and dilute your whiskey. The only problem is that they’re frozen pieces of stone or metal being put into a glass, so it’s a good idea to use a strong one with a thick and heavy bottom, although even then it doesn’t guarantee the glass will survive the encounter intact.
When it comes to whiskey cocktails, they’re obviously not going to damage the glass but because the type of cocktails that tumblers are used for are smaller ones that are built inside the glass – meaning that you’re not using a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, you can already see that unless they’re strengthened, there’s more possibility of them breaking.
Also, since part of making some cocktails is to muddle the ingredients – meaning to press ingredients against the base of a glass with a pestle to extract essential oils or juices, you can see why a thick and heavy bottom will prevent the glass from breaking.
4. It Makes the Glass More Comfortable to Hold
Whiskey glasses have a thick and heavy bottom because it makes them more comfortable to hold.
This is important because it can take a while to drink a glass of whiskey and even longer to drink a few. And if you’re anything like me, taking your time over a few drinks of whiskey won’t be a one-off occurrence and comfort is always important in something you use often and for a long time.
A decent heft and weight will make your whiskey glass comfortable to hold. Obviously, you don’t want it to be too heavy but if it’s too light, like many nosing glasses, they can feel somewhat fragile and delicate in your hand. I don’t know about you, but I find it less comfortable to hold something that feels like it’s about to break.
The thick and heavy bottom that whiskey tumblers and some nosing glasses have, gives them more substance making them much more comfortable to hold.
5. It Allows for More Design Possibilities
The thick and heavy bottom of whiskey glasses allows for a greater variety of designs.
This doesn’t apply to nosing glasses as they all need the same basic shape and design in order to bring out the aromas and flavors of the whiskey, but tumblers have no such constrains. That’s why when it comes to whiskey tumblers there are so many different designs, many of which are made easier by their thick and heavy bottoms.
This is not only because a strong base makes for a strong glass which makes all sorts of etching and engraving (like the classic diamond and wedge cut) easier, but because some of the designs are actually in the base. Here are some examples:
- The JoyJolt Carre Square Scotch Glass has a very thick bottom so that part of it can be offset diagonally.
- The 63 Above Everest Whiskey Glass has a 3D model of Mount Everest in its large base.
- The Sagaform Rocking Whiskey Glass has a curve in its thick bottom that makes the glass tilt from side to side.
- The SHTOX Rotating Whiskey Glass has a tiny protuberance in its base so that you can spin the glass.
6. It Makes It Look like There’s More Whiskey in the Glass
That’s right, a thick and heavy base will make it look like there’s more whiskey in the glass then there actually is!
This is important because you’re only meant to pour 1 – 3 fl oz of whiskey into your glass at a time, and although you might make up for that by having a second or third pour, it’s also nice if it looks like your glass contains a substantial amount of whiskey.
This won’t apply to nosing glasses because as mentioned, even if they do have a thick bottom, it’s below the stem and it may apply to whiskey tumblers, but where it’s most valuable is in shot glasses.
That’s because shot glasses can be as small as 1 fl oz which put another way, is not a lot of whiskey at all, so to make it seem like there’s more whiskey in the glass then there actually is, shot glasses often have thick bottoms.
It can also apply to whiskey tumblers which is why whenever I’m served whiskey in glass that has an unusually thick bottom, I ask for a little more. Although to be fair I ask for that whenever I’m not pouring the whiskey myself, just in case.