Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Best Bourbon Glass?

It all started with Thanksgiving.  What Thanksgiving is complete without a perfectly brined and smoked turkey?  Not ours.  So when you are awake at 5am, in the 15 degree weather, smoking a turkey, what sort of libations are adequate for the occasion?  In my book the 142 proof bourbon variety will suffice.  I had saved some of my George T Stagg from last year and had also acquired a bottle from this year’s batch.  A vertical George T Stagg tasting?  Happy freakin’ Thanksgiving!

I take out my trusty Glencarin glasses and jump into deep end of the alcoholic pool.  The first thing that struck me was the how hot the nose was.  The way the glass was shaped concentrated every bit of the hot alcohols and directed them straight into your nose holes.  The taste followed suit with plenty of heat and some oak and vanilla in the background.  Ever since I acquired my Glencarin glass I figured this was the best vessel available to enjoy my whiskey.  I was well aware that I was ingesting 142 proof alcohol but it seemed that there was too much heat muddying the nose and taste for no reason other than the shape of the glass.  Since I’ve completed my head to head comparison of the new fangled beer glasses, I have a new appreciation for how the shape of a vessel can accentuate your drinking experience.  Couple this with the incessant advertising for Christmas sales around Thanksgiving which I saw a new Glencarin Wide-Bowl whiskey glass being advertised.  This got my wallet busting curiosity in full blown overdrive. 

The research begins and I find several different whiskey glass designs ranging in price from reasonable to the pinnacle of ridiculousness, Riedel Sommeliers Single Malt Scotch Glass weighing in at $68.00 per glass.  I based my selection on some general principles I learned from my beer glass experiment.  A flared bowl should accentuate sweetness and malt, a narrower mouth will concentrate aromas and flavors.  Based on this I narrowed my selection down to two glasses.  The flared rim Glencarin Wide-Bowl and a well reviewed Glencarin Copita Nosing glass.  This should be the best of both worlds, but the question is do these principles hold true for whiskey as well as beer?  I ended up at a website because it was one of the only websites that didn’t require you to order them in sets.  You can buy from them on but I went straight to the website for fear that Amazon would be in charge of shipping them.  The website looked rather pedestrian but the service/shipping was amazing.  I had my glasses at my door in two days. 

With glasses in hand, I set out to put whiskey glass design to the ultimate test.  I chose a bottle of my W.L. Weller 12 year to test the glasses.  This is a “wheated” bourbon which has a nice complexity and a wonderful smooth drinkability.  Would I be able to pick out the nuance of the bourbon in each of these glasses?  I wasn’t sure either but I was excited to find out. 

Original Glencarin:
I tried my original Glencarin glass with the narrow opening first.  Everything about it was hot as it was with the George T Stagg.  There was some decent sweetness up front and then some spicy oak comes in briefly.  Finally the burn would come out center stage and then hit the back of your throat.

Glencarin Wide-Bowl:
I then moved to the Wide-Bowl glass expecting much better malt and sweetness based on the flared rim.  With the wider bowl the nose seems lost compared to the other two glasses.  There was much less heat with this glass.  There was more intense sweetness up front with smooth brown sugar coming through.  This leads into a more complex mid palate with distinct wood and straw character. 

Glencarin Copita Nosing Glass:
If this were the Goldilocks fable this would be the “just right” bed.  The same complexity is present from the Wide-Bowl with more of a blended quality.  The nose is concentrated better but is without the majority of the burn present in the Original Glencarin.  This glass marries the sweetness, complexity, and burn into perfect harmony.    

The Glencarin Copita Nosing Glass edges out the Glencarin Wide-Bowl whiskey glass for the win.  One thing is for sure is that they are both much better at smoothing out bourbon than the Original designed Glencarin glass.  Now when I enjoy whiskey I do it with the Copita Nosing Glass and a little splash of water to open it up.  I guess the only thing left to do is to get the $68.00 Riedel glass to determine the ultimate winner.  On second thought I think I’ll save my money for another bottle of bourbon.


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