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There are a lot of opinions in the whiskey world when it comes to the best glasses. Many preach that the tulip-shaped copita glass is ideal for presenting the spirits’ aromas and flavors. Others prefer a good old-fashioned or rocks glass for sipping whiskey. Or, “Let's be honest,” jokes Robin Goodfellow, co-owner of Toronto cocktail havens PrettyUgly and Bar Raval, “most of the whisk(e)y we consume in our life is from a shot glass.”
Whatever you pick for your poison, a glass can change your whole drinking experience. Some are designed to highlight the spirit, while others are versatile enough for cocktails, neat pours, and beyond. Still, all are good options—though we’d argue a well-stocked bar should carry a few different types. Whether bourbon, Scotch, Rye, or Irish Whiskey is your drink of choice, here are the best options for giving your whiskey glassware an upgrade.
Best Overall: Riedel Vinum Whisky Glasses
A crowd-favorite across the board is Riedel’s classic 7-ounce Vinum whiskey glass. "They’re great for nosing spirits,” recommends Marissa Mazzotta, bar manager at New York Distilling’s The Shanty. “It's a particularly ideal glass to use when we are tasting through barrel samples.”
These elegant glasses from the 300-year-old glassware company were designed in collaboration with Scotch whiskey experts back in 1992 when the Riedel family brought in Scotland’s finest master distillers to help tweak and fine-tune every step of the design process. “The shape of the glass really allows you to get the top notes as you smell and a full sip across the palate when you go in for it,” Mazzotta explains. “Though a bit pricey, they’re totally worth it if you’re able to splurge."
Best Double-Wall: Norlan Whisky Glass
This isn’t your ordinary whiskey glass. Initially launched by a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, Norlan’s glasses aren’t cut from crystal or hand-blown glass—each is conjured up via a 3D printer. Although the design process sounds unconventional, the company, comprised of designer Sruli Recht, brand director Brian Fichtner, and CEO Shane Bahng, created the glass with some of the most well-respected figures in the Scotch world.
With this insight, the founders used biomimicry and fluid dynamic modeling to create the perfect whiskey glass, combining the easy-sipping nature of tumbler glasses with the technical qualities of nosing glasses. The 7-ounce glass’ double-walled design keeps hand heat away from liquid: the round curves of the outer wall nestle the glass comfortably in your hand while the tulip-shaped inner wall focuses and diffuses the aroma to reveal nuanced flavors.
Best for Japanese Whisky: The Neat Glass The Experience
If there’s any indication of how much whiskey lovers fawn over this Neat Glass option, 30 of the world’s top tasting competitions use this as its standard tasting glass, and with good reason: each glass is thoughtfully mouth-blown from lead-free crystal. The heavier weight of the glass—similar to what you’d get from antique crystal—is also a thoughtful touch.
The glass holds 4 ounces and is wider than the traditional tasting glass: this broader opening is designed to amplify the aromas and flavor characters of the spirit, like the delicate flavors of Japanese whiskey, while avoiding the nose-numbing, overpowering ethanol scent. This design, a result of nine years of tastings and studies, brings out the layers of aromas in a spirit but also points out any potential flaws within the liquid. Each glass comes in an elegant burgundy and silver gift box, making it a go-to gift.
Good to Know:
While antique and vintage glassware is a beautiful addition to a home bar, many older pieces were made with lead oxide (this added a reflective sheen to the exterior of the glasses). Keep this in mind when you buy antiques, or opt for new glassware with a retro design.
Best Splurge: Waterford Aras Double Old Fashioned
A solid Old Fashioned glass has been a bar cart staple for over a hundred years. Today, Waterford’s 12-ounce Aras glass is one of the most reliable on the market, combining old-school design with modern updates. The glass has a heavy, weighted feel to it, as a good antique glass would, but this new design is inspired by the lively hospitality of Irish drinking culture. Notorious whiskey enthusiasts themselves, Waterford also features vertical cuts on the glass to reference storybook castles of Ireland’s landscape.
The Old Fashioned glass is one of Goodfellow’s favorite ways to sip the brown spirit, thanks to insight from the professional distillers he’s worked with over the years. “The whisk(e)y distillers taught me a valuable lesson about the difference between enjoying a spirit and tasting it,” he says. “The nose on this glass may not be as 'efficient’ as the cordial or ISO tasting glasses, but I like the way it feels: it’s a nice glass to swirl!” Use it for neat pours of whiskey, or, the glass doubles as a perfect vessel for cocktails—mix it with Old Fashioneds or with Irish whiskey.
Most Durable: Libbey 56 Straight-Sided Glassware
“My favorite whiskey glass is the one that’s clean and close,” jokes Morgan Weber, co-owner and bar director of Austin’s Agricole Hospitality. But if he has to choose, “We use Libbey 56 straight-sided glasses because they’re well-priced.” He explains, “We’re utilitarian at our bars—they get the job done, which is necessary since we do so much volume at [Agricole Hospitality’s] Eight Row Flint.” The simple, sturdy 5-ounce glasses are high-quality, yet incredibly durable. And, the low-cost of the glasses justify some of the breaks and chips that might occur. “Pro-tip,” adds Mazzotta, “throw them in the fridge to chill before you serve a drink in them.”
Best Glencairn: Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass
These Glencairn glasses are beloved by whiskey drinkers as they concentrate the aromas—something a rocks glass does not. Each 6-ounce glass is designed to show off the color and the aroma of the spirit. “The ideal glass, so I've been told by many whisk(e)y distillers, for tasting is a stemmed glass that has a wider base than the nose, like ISO or Cordial glass,” explains Goodfellow. “You can see the spirits well—the glass tapers towards the top to concentrate the smell when you nose it, and the stem removes any unintentional heat to the spirit.”
Kristen Voisey, owner of cocktail retail giant Cocktail Emporium and the brand’s glassware designer, agrees: “This is the standard tasting glass used at most distilleries." She adds, "The shape is meant to enhance the aromas of fine whisk(e)y, and I find it does that job well.”
Good to Know:
Goodfellow would also recommend adding a bit of room temperature water to the Glencairn glass to help open up the spirit.
Best Rocks Glass: Riedel Drink-Specific Rocks Glass
A rocks glass is good for anything: single-ounce pours, spirits on the rocks cocktails, or even water. For Voisey, Riedel’s 9-ounce heavy-base tumblers are particularly “great for drinking Old Fashioneds or classic whiskey cocktails on the rocks.”
For this drink-specific line of glasses, Georg Riedel tapped a range of bartenders and industry experts to create these glasses. Each design is made to showcase both spirits and cocktails and hold up in a high-energy bar environment—it’s common to spot these glasses on bar tops across the country.
“It's also perfect for drinking whiskey straight with its unique 2-ounce pour indicator etch (the top of the triangle at the bottom measures exactly 2 ounces),” Voisey adds. “It's just a beautiful glass!” Note that the larger size allows for a few chunks of ice to a dram of whiskey.
Best Small Glass: Villeroy & Boch Boston Crystal Shot Glass
Even if you own a venerable selection of snifters, there may be an occasion (or two) that calls for drinking whiskey in a more festive manner. These easy crystal shot glasses have the air of more elegant barware, thanks to patterned designs and classic coloring (including pale blue, bright red, rose, and grey), but they boast the fun of a solid shot glass. “I prefer a shot glass that holds at least 1.5 ounces,” explains Goodfellow, “allowing 1 ounce to comfortably rest without spilling over the top.” This crystal version holds about 2.5 ounces. “I’m also a fan of the short shot glasses that slightly fan out and have some weight to them, rather than the ones that just go straight up like a test tube,” he says. Dishwasher safe, these gorgeous, durable glasses are ready to survive jostles, slips, and slam downs on the bar.
Most Unique: Huckberry Whiskey Peaks
Huckberry’s Whiskey Peaks line boasts as much form as they do function: made of hand-blown glass, the handsome conversation pieces are almost paper-thin and designed to let the spirit shine. Best of all, delicate, topographic impressions of famed mountains and peaks—including Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon, Denali, Mt. Kilimanjaro, or the homegrown Mt. Rainier and Mt. Washington—float up from the bottom of each glass. Whether you’re keen on climbing up rock faces or looking for a spirited souvenir, the 11.5-ounce Whiskey Peaks glass is a unique way to elevate a drinking experiment. Think of them as a great gift for bosses, bachelors, and beyond.
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Kate Dingwall is an experienced spirits writer and glassware collector. She has been writing about the bar and spirits world for five years, including extensive coverage on the subject of glassware. She owns a concerning amount of glassware, from art deco Karl Palda decanters to 1800s-era crystal coupes, and she’s happy to wax poetic about all of them.