You’ve probably noticed that there are several different types of whiskey glasses and while this may be confusing at first, I assure you that the right one will only enhance the whiskey you put in it and your enjoyment of it. So, to ensure you’re getting the most out of your drink, here are the four types of whiskey glasses and when to use them.
1. The Nosing Glass
Nosing glasses are tulip shaped, meaning tall-ish, with a wide bowl, long narrow neck, thin stem and broad pedestal. They’re used when you want to pick up all the aromas and flavors of your whiskey. This is especially true if the whiskey is of high quality or an aged single malt.
The wide bowl helps reduce the impact of the alcohol (that’s between 40% – 68%ABV) which keeps many of the whiskey’s flavors closed up and overpowers any flavors that aren’t. It can also numb your nose and palate, temporarily reducing your ability to smell or taste any flavors.
It does this by providing more room for air to get to the whiskey so it can breathe, which allows some of the alcohol to evaporate and your whiskey’s flavors to open up. It also gives the whiskey more room to be swirled around so that more air can get to more of the whiskey, quicker, allowing even more alcohol to evaporate.
The long narrow neck provides a place for the whiskey aromas to accumulate. Flavors is smell as well as taste, so it’s important to pick up as many of the whiskey’s aromas as possible. Without a place for them to accumulate they will dissipate, and the whiskey’s flavors will be relatively muted.
The stem keeps your hand and any accompanying smells (even nice ones) from coming too close to your nose and interfering with your ability to smell the whiskey. It also allows you to cradle the glass and warm up a cold whiskey whose flavors can become muted at lower temperatures.
Once you have a stem you now need a pedestal, otherwise putting these glasses down on the table would involve a minor balancing act.
Most whiskey nosing glasses have the same basic shape – any differences between them are mainly variations in the size of the bowl and the neck. The most popular nosing glasses for drinking whiskey are:
- The Glencairn Whisky Glass
- The Norlan Whisky Glass
- The NEAT Glass
- The Glencairn Copita
I have written a more detailed article about the best whiskey glasses that enhance your drinking experience, which you can find here.
2. The Rocks Glass or Tumbler
Rocks glasses or tumblers are short and wide with straight sides, a thick or heavy flat bottom and no stem or handle. They’re used when you want to chill your whiskey with ice (this is another way of reducing the impact of the alcohol) or for drinking smaller whiskey cocktails.
If you want to chill your whiskey with ice it’s best to use a tumbler. It’s wide opening allows you add one or two large or even giant ice cubes which is important because with less surface area than many smaller ice cubes of the same volume, they’ll melt slower, and you won’t have to worry about your whiskey becoming diluted quickly.
Slowly melting ice cubes also means you can taste all the changes in your whiskey that occur when the gradually added water opens ups its flavors.
The stronger sides and thicker bottom of tumblers prevent the ice cubes from breaking or scratching the glass – something that can easily occur with the more delicate and fragile nosing glasses. It also insulates the contents of the glass from the heat coming from your hand or surface the glass is resting on. That way, you don’t also warm your whiskey while you’re trying to chill it.
If you’re drinking a smaller whiskey cocktail, you’ll also need to use a tumbler.
You’ll also need a tumbler if you’re drinking a smaller whiskey cocktail. That’s because it’s large enough for a bigger drink and strong enough that if the cocktail is built inside the glass you can muddle the ingredients against the base without worrying about it breaking.
Since the shape of tumblers is less complex than that of nosing glasses there is more room for variation of designs. That’s why you’ll find plain whiskey tumblers and whiskey tumblers with a diamond and wedge cut. You’ll find round whiskey tumblers, square whiskey tumblers, oval whiskey tumblers and even twisted whiskey tumblers.
Tumblers can be some of the most unique whiskey glasses out there, and I wrote an article with 15 of my favorite ones which you can find here.
3. The Highball
The highball is the taller brother of the tumbler. While both are wide with straight sides, a thick or heavy flat bottom and no stem or handle, the tumbler is short while the highball is, as its name suggests … tall. They’re used for whiskey cocktails that have a higher proportion of non-alcoholic mixer, such as a scotch and soda or whiskey and ginger ale.
Their large size makes them great for bigger drinks. Especially those with lots of ice and mixers.
The narrowness of the glass causes any bubbles of a cocktail to concentrate which makes the drink hold its carbonation for longer. It also brings the flavors and aromas of your drink to the top of the glass.
The stronger sides and thicker bottom of highballs also prevents the ice cubes from breaking or scratching the glass and insulates the contents of the glass from the heat coming from your hand or surface the glass is resting on. Being tall and thin, the heavier bottom also helps makes highball glasses more stable.
Again, the shape of the highballs is less complex than that of nosing glasses so there’s more room for variation of designs. However, you don’t often find very fancy highball glasses as you do with whiskey tumblers.
4. The Shot Glass
Shot glasses are the smallest of all the whiskey glasses. They’re short, narrow, with a thick or heavy flat bottom. They also have no stem or handle. They’re used for drinking whiskey quickly and in one gulp when you’re less interested in the aromas and flavors of the whiskey (perhaps it’s of low quality and doesn’t have any) and just want to relax and get alcohol into your body as fast as possible.
Although shot glasses are small, they’re made to hold a precise amount of liquid – 1fl oz or 1.5fl oz, which are standard amounts for a shot of alcohol. 1.5fl oz of 40%ABV whiskey contains 15 grams of pure alcohol, which, in the US, is one standard drink. Since you’re filling the shot glass all the way to the top, you can keep track of how much whiskey you’re drinking easily – which is useful considering the goal of drinking whiskey this way.
The thick, heavy bottom of shot glasses may be unnecessary in terms of ensuring your hand or surface doesn’t warm the whiskey, but they sure do make it look like your drink is bigger than it actually is.