When Drinking Whiskey, Does Glassware Matter?

This is the third guest post from our friends at GirlsDrink.Beer. Maybe they should start calling themselves GirlsDrink.WhiskeyToo? 

whiskey glass

It goes without saying that we (the women of GirlsDrink.Beer) enjoy imbibing. It could be a nice cold beer, well-crafted cocktail, robust red, or neat ounce of whiskey at home by ourselves after a long day or out with friends at our favorite bar. Regardless of the substance or context, drinking should always be an experience.

Part of that experience is using glassware that complements your drink. Trust us when we say that, when it comes to whiskey, THE GLASS MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

The whiskey tasting experience is a very sensory one. From the nose, the color of the liquid, and the aging of the spirit, you are drinking a form of art. We’re not trying to be snobs about it; we have been known to drink the stuff out of coffee mugs from time to time…haha. But we prefer to experience it properly. After all, whiskey was first introduced as a medicinal substance, aquavitae or “water of vitality.” We can’t disagree…

Your choice in glassware will most certainly influence the smells and tastes you perceive. It’s crucial to keep in mind that you want a glass that will concentrate vapors to allow you to really “nose” the whiskey. Again, it may sound snooty, but it really does make a difference. The basic sensation of flavor is a combination of taste and smell. For complex flavors, like those in alcoholic beverages, your sense of smell is even more vital to the overall experience.

glencairn glass

The Glencairn glass resembles those used in whiskey labs around the world.

More often than not, whiskey is served in a shot glass, rocks glass, or Glencairn glass. The latter was designed by Raymond Davidson from Glancairn Crystal in Scotland. Its design was derived from the glasses used in whiskey labs around the world. 

When trying to enjoy whiskey out of a shot glass, you will notice that there’s not much there. The nose is weak and so is the flavor. There isn’t anything there to direct the alcohol vapors. And since the tasting experience is directly affected by the olfactory experience, you will not be able to taste as much.

rocks glass

A rocks glass is appropriate for whiskey on the rocks and many whiskey cocktails.

When it comes to a rocks glass, you will immediately get a face full of fumes. You will definitely taste and experience way more depth than with a shot glass. The flavors definitely present better in a rocks, but sometimes they also get a bit muted. That’s why rocks glasses are mostly used for whiskey cocktails and not neat pours.

Our favorite glass for neat pours is the Glencairn. The tulip shape perfectly enhances the fragrance, and it is vey comfortable to pick up. I find that when you put it up to your mouth, the shape ushers the aromas to your nose. When we tasted the same whiskey side by side in all three types of glasses, it was obvious that the Glencairn allowed us to detect subtle aromas and flavors lost with other glassware.


A couple is ideal for whiskey cocktails served without ice, like the Manhattan. The stem keeps your warm hand away from the drink.

We encourage you to find your perfect glass. If you want to feel the burn, by all means, throw back a shot. For those who enjoy whiskey in a cocktail or on the rocks, an old fashioned glass is best. If you prefer a Manhattan, a coupe might be up your alley. But to enjoy whiskey as the craftsman intended, invest in a Glencairn or two. 

Most importantly, drink what makes you happy, and don’t forget to share with someone you love. Cheers!

Author: Syrie Roman, Photography: Tessa Lowe

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  • Taylor Bishop May 29, 2018 @ 12:58pm

    Thanks for the interesting read about drinking whiskey. I actually didn’t know that the glass could make so much of a difference, like how a rocks glass can help you taste and experience it much more than a shot glass. I’m interested to learn if this is because of the shape of the glass or if some have additional materials within them.

  • Aidan October 26, 2018 @ 3:37pm

    I would have to agree with your comments regarding the Glencairn glass. I have no affiliation to the company so my opinion is just that, my own opinion. The shape is conducive to a good hold, allowing admiration of the whiskey contained therein without possible warming of the liquid with your hand (unless you wished to do that purposefully). It can carry a “suitable” measure and allows a margin of room for the addition of some water if taking cask strength whiskey.
    I spend a lot of time in Dublin and have found this glass in the Dame Tavern. They also have an excellent array of prime labels to taste at your pleasure and leisure. Enjoy your journey, Slainte!!

  • Crystal Arc September 18, 2019 @ 6:27am

    I really need this kind of information and must share with my circle. Thanks for sharing with us.

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