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I’m not a big drinker but there are occasions that I love to unwind with a glass of whiskey, rye or bourbon. The complex smell of the barrel-aged liquor with hints of vanilla or caramel, woodsy oak or cedar, and spices like pepper or nutmeg all mingle together as I sip and relax in the evening. Yes, I’m that pretentious guy that will swirl the glass around and look at color, noting if it’s a honey amber or a darker oak color before taking a sniff and sip.
And yes, I pick and choose my whiskey glasses depending on whether I want to really investigate the smell and taste of a new-to-me bottle of bourbon, or if I just want to casually sip and relax. Whiskey glasses are actually a pretty personal thing. LC May, grandson of Clyde May, the original bootlegger, and brand ambassador to Clyde May’s Alabama Whiskey prefers Glencairn whiskey glasses for at-home tasting or special occasions. “The Glencairn glass is ideal for tasting whiskey neat," says May. "It has a thick, sturdy base and the shape allows for easy swirling and color observation. The opening is more narrow than your everyday glass, which allows for more intimate nosing and tasting."
Camper English, a cocktail writer, prefers a straight-sided rocks glass. "Most of the time I drink whiskey neat or on one big ice cube, and prefer it in a straight-sided glass, otherwise known as a single or double old-fashioned glass," says English. "It's not the type of glass with curves I use for professional tasting, but it still allows for good aromatics to come from the whiskey. It's a glass for fun whiskey drinking rather than super studious tasting." My tested winner, the Riedel Crystal Rocks Glass, is similar in style.
Here are the best whiskey glasses for everyone’s personal taste, according to my tests.
Best Overall: Riedel Crystal Rocks Glass, Set of 2
What We Love: Modern functional design, bottom is heavy and stable, crystal is clear of imperfections
What We Don't Love: Expensive, prominent logo on the bottom of glass
Riedel is known for its wine variety-specific stemware so it’s no surprise that Riedel's drink-specific rocks glasses would hit the sweet spot for the best overall whiskey glass. Modern clean indentations on the bottom wrap around and up the side of the glass to form an inverted “v” shape that tapers into a vertical line. When I tested them, I found the top of the “v”, where it turns into a thin line, is also the marking of a 2-ounce pour, so the design is both functional as well as beautiful.
These machine-made crystal glasses have a nice bottom heft to them, which makes them feel stable when you place them on the table. The wide opening also allows you to place a large ice cube inside if you happen to like your whiskey on the rocks. And the fact that the glasses are dishwasher safe means you don’t have to save them for special occasions, though certainly, they are handsome enough for those times as well.
Shape: Rocks glass | Material: Crystal | Dimensions: 3.25 x 3.25 inches | Capacity: 9.5 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Number in Set: 2
Best Giftable: Whiskey Peaks American Mountains, Set of 4
What We Love: Beautiful mountain impression at bottom, handmade and glass blown
What We Don't Love: Design takes away room for ice, handwash only
If you’re looking for that gift for a whiskey-loving friend that has nearly everything, consider the Whiskey Peaks. This set of four different rocks glass is handblown with the bottom silhouette and impression of an American landmark mountain. The American mountain set features Half Dome, Denali, Mount Rainer, and Mount Whitney, though there are also other glasses that feature different mountains.
These hand-blown glasses are made of lead-free glass and are a little more lightweight than a typical rocks glass, making them feel slightly less sturdy than other glasses. But the whiskey looks beautiful when it sits in the glass, especially as you sip through the evening and the top of the mountain top silhouette starts to peak out. Even better, each glass has the specific mountain labeled on the bottom, so you know exactly which glass is yours if you are enjoying whiskey with friends. Buy a set for your friend and then invite yourself over to share a glass with them.
Shape: Rocks glass | Material: Lead-free glass | Dimensions: 3.25 X 3.875 inches | Capacity: 11.5 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: No | Number in Set: 4
Best for Everyday: Schott Zwiesel Paris Juice/Cocktail Tasting Glass
What We Love: Simple and clean design, hefty and sturdy bottom, dishwasher safe
What We Don't Love: Too small for ice, straight sides can get a little slippery when wet
Occasionally you’ve had that hard day of work and you just want to pour yourself an evening drink without thinking about the glass you’re using. The Schott Zwiesel Paris Juice/Cocktail Tasting Glass is the answer. It’s simple, it’s basic and no-frills, with just the right amount of heft so it feels sturdy in your hands and when you put it down.
The glass itself is a petite 5.1 ounces, which means it fits a 2-ounce pour comfortably. The set of 6 is reasonably priced so you won’t get upset if something happens to one of them. Best of all, the glasses, which can also function as juice glasses, are dishwasher safe so they can be added in after dinner.
“I'm a big whiskey drinker, but I don't usually use an official whiskey glass to drink whiskey. A few years ago I bought a set of unfussy multipurpose tasting glasses/juice glasses from Zwiesel, which match some other glasses I have from that line. The rims are delicate enough that they're pleasant to sip from—and the size is perfect for a not-too-generous after-dinner nip.” — Maggie Hoffman, Epicurious Digital Director and author of "Batch Cocktails"
Shape: Rocks glass | Material: Tritan crystal | Dimensions: 2.375 x 3 inches | Capacity: 5.1 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Number in Set: 6
Related: The Best Drinking Glasses
Best Tasting Set: Glencairn Whisky Glasses Presentation Set
What We Love: Narrow opening is great for smelling and nosing, elegant tulip shape, weighted bottom
What We Don't Love: Can be hard to hold for those with big hands, difficult to handwash
The classic Glencairn whisky glass is the standard for whiskey tastings for a reason. Found at major whiskey tasting events and used to serve whiskey at upscale bars, the signature tulip shape allows you to swirl the beverage around in the glass to see the color. The narrow opening funnels the aroma of the whiskey up into your nose, so you can smell the various notes before and after drinking the whiskey.
"When profiling barrels, I lean towards a traditional Glencairn," says Carter Collins, master distiller at Davidson Reserve. "I feel the glass profile enables one to assess all facets of the whisky: Color, Nose, Body and Palate. The Glencairn shape is well designed, allowing inspection of these aspects in detail."
The caveat to this is sipping the whiskey can sometimes be awkward as you have to tip your head back a lot. And those folks with large hands might find holding the small glass difficult. Those with larger noses might also not enjoy drinking from a Glencairn. But there’s no denying that the shape of the elegant glass makes you appreciate the smell and aroma of the whiskey in a way that a traditional rocks glass cannot. During my tests, I found this very useful to really get the taste and smell of a new-to-me whiskey or to compare different whiskey.
Shape: Tulip | Material: Lead-free crystal | Dimensions: 2.375 x 3 inches | Capacity: 6 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but not recommended | Number in Set: 4
Best Hand-Blown Glass: Denver and Liely Whisky Glass
What We Love: Elegant curve and shape, hand-blown, hand-cut and hand-polished, great for aroma and nosing
What We Don't Love: Handwash only, difficult to serve with large ice cubes
If you love the idea of using a tasting glass but you find them a little too dainty for your hand and mouth, check out the Denver and Liely whisky glass. It is a hybrid-shaped glass that looks similar to a stemless wine glass, but with a more sturdy weighted bottom. The narrow opening helps with nosing and smelling the fine aroma of the whiskey and the rounded bottom allows you to swirl and admire the color of your beverage.
When I tested this, the large shape of the glass, with the tapered sides, fit comfortably in my hand. It’s big enough to also get an ice cube in there if you like your whiskey on the rocks, though the smaller opening does limit the size of the cube. Nevertheless, this elegant glass is a great choice if you want to savor and enjoy your whiskey and its aroma but still not feel quite so precious about it.
Shape: Snifter-rocks hybrid | Material: Lead-free crystal | Dimensions: 3.875 x 3.5 inches | Capacity: 10 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: No | Number in Set: 1
Best Budget: Crate and Barrel Hatch Rocks Glass
What We Love: Classic hatch line design, hefty and sturdy glass, dishwasher safe
What We Don't Love: Molded glass shows lines, thicker glass and rim, on the short side
Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t drink your whiskey from a beautiful glass. The Crate and Barrel Hatch Rocks glass looks like a more expensive hand-cut crystal glass but is made from a mold, making it exceptionally well-priced. The wide rocks shape means it will easily fit a large piece of ice if you prefer your whiskey on the rocks. And the diamond-shaped hatch marks make it easy to pick up, even when the outside has condensation, as I found during testing.
The molded glass is thicker, with a rounded rim, unlike cut crystal, but the diamond hatch design hides the mold lines more than other molded glass designs. The thicker glass also felt solid in my hand, with a weighted bottom. This is ideal when you’re drinking and don’t want to think too much about placing your glass on the table. The reasonably priced glass is dishwasher safe, making it something you can use everyday or with company.
Shape: Rocks glass | Material: Glass | Dimensions: 3.5 x 3.125 inches | Capacity: 11 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes | Number in Set: 1
Related: The Best Cocktail Shakers
After testing, I chose the Riedel Crystal Rocks Glass because it was an expertly designed glass that wasn’t fussy or dainty, with vertical grooves that lent a modern, clean look to the glass while also adding functionality. Any whiskey enthusiast will be happy to receive the Glencairn Whisky Glasses Presentation Set.
What Are the Other Options?
Dragon Glassware Diamond Whiskey Glasses: This 10-ounce glass sit at a 50-degree angle that looks very cool but during tests, I found them impractical to use. They are awkward to hold, to drink from, and to place on the table. They are also difficult to clean, and lastly, they are made from a thick glass that makes the rim relatively thick as well.
Marquis by Waterford Markham Double Old Fashioned Glasses: This is an affordable set of glasses with a handsome design. It's a great size that's slightly narrower and taller than other glasses on this list. The bottom isn't as heavy, with weight distributed throughout the glass. But after testing, I felt that these are better suited for cocktails than for sipping whiskey.
Norlan Whisky Glass: The double wall and the internal fins inside this glass claim to help aerate the whiskey when you swirl it. When I tested this, I found it did give you a good aroma, but it also felt very precious. You'll get just as good of an experience from a thick-walled glass.
The Experience Neat Whiskey Glass: Designed for tasting and nosing, the Experience Neat glass is great for aroma but less ideal for actually drinking, as the awkward shape and flared lip makes you feel like you're drinking from a fishbowl. During my tests, the flared lip caused whiskey to spill all over.
How We Tested
Our tester and writer Irvin Lin sifted through dozens of highly-rated pour-over whiskey-tasting glasses, closely looking at consumer reviews and available manufacturer information, to choose his top picks. We then purchased these products for Irvin so he could put them to the test in his home kitchen. After taking notes on the different designs, he had a few whiskey-loving friends over to sniff and sip from each one.
After testing, Irvin submitted feedback about what he liked and didn’t like about each product and rated each one on the following features: Design, Durability, Quality, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What To Look For in a Whiskey Glass
Look for a whiskey glass made of glass or crystal that feels comfortable in your hand and allows you to enjoy the drink. Straight-sided rock glasses are a great choice for most folks who just want an everyday glass of whiskey. Curved tulip-shaped glasses like the Glencairn or the larger Denver and Liely allow you to nose, taste, and admire the whiskey, which is important if you want to spend more time enjoying all the nuances and notes of your prized bottles. Depending on your lifestyle, you may want to choose one that is handcrafted and elevates the drinking experience or you may want to pick one that is less precious and dishwasher safe.
"Personally, I think the best whiskey glass is the one in your hand! I believe whatever glass you enjoy, is the one you should use," says Carter Collins. "Outside of work, I prefer a traditional rocks glass, some of my favorites include crystal that has been passed down over time. I remember my grandfather drinking whiskey from these same glasses used daily at our home bar. Whiskey is timeless, and every bottle of whiskey is unique with a story to tell, so use your favorite readers and enjoy the story."
As with other small glassware, most whiskey tasting glasses should be hand-washed in warm, soapy water and dried with a cotton cloth. Many claim to be dishwasher safe, though if the glasses are crystal or thin glass, one wrong bump could cause cracks. If your glassware is hand wash only, it's best to not stack it during storage. You can only be truly carefree with Tritan or molded glasses.
Should you chill your whiskey glass beforehand?
Chilling your glass isn’t a necessary step when enjoying whiskey. But some whiskey is better chilled, while other whiskeys are better enjoyed straight. Most experts will recommend whiskey served at a cool 60 to 65 degrees. This slightly cooler temperature allows the aromatics to come through.
If you find your whiskey seems “harsh” or has too much of a kick, cooling the whiskey down may tone down some of the initial alcohol. You can also dilute the whiskey with a splash or even a few drops of water. This can open up the whiskey and make the aroma notes more prominent.
Keep in mind how you taste and drink your whiskey is a personal preference. If you live in a warm environment, you may also want to place your whiskey glass in the refrigerator for a little bit, to help cool down the whiskey or use a cube of ice. Large ice cubes are often used because they melt slower and won’t dilute the whiskey as fast. But there’s no right or wrong way to drink whiskey.
Should you use whiskey glasses for bourbon?
Bourbon is an American-style of whiskey, where the grain used to has to be at least 51% corn and stored in a new container of charred oak. Like all forms of whiskey, you should enjoy bourbon from a whiskey glass of your choice.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
This article is written by Irvin Lin, a cookbook author of "Marbled, Swirled, and Layered" and an ongoing contributor to Simply Recipes. He runs his own blog Eat the Love, is a professional recipe developer and writer. His husband and circle of friends often enjoy a glass of bourbon or whiskey together and have many very strong opinions about both the type of whiskey they drink, and what it should be served in.
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