BOURBON GLASSES 101:
A COMPLETE GUIDE
Today is a "bourbon" day. With that said, it's not only important to choose a premium bourbon you'll enjoy - but equally important to choose glassware that helps it be as satisfying of a sensory experience as possible. If you're new to drinking bourbon, choosing the right glasses for your drink may feel overwhelming. Fortunately, by learning the basics of bourbon glasses, you can make it easy to find the right one for your next tasting...
Why Your Glassware Matters
While you may think of enjoying a drink as a single-sense experience, the way your bourbon interacts with you is actually more complex than that, and the glass you choose can impact the way your senses interact with your bourbon. Key considerations when choosing your bourbon glassware include:
- Taste: The most obvious way that the bourbon glasses you choose can alter the way you experience your bourbon is in the way each drink tastes. Different materials may have a unique flavor to them, which can subtly affect the way bourbon tastes when you drink it. Understanding the different materials can help you find the option that fits your preferences.
- Smell: The next most critical consideration when choosing your glassware for a bourbon drink is the way it affects your smell. Because your sense of smell and sense of taste are closely related, altering how you smell your bourbon can also change the way it tastes when you drink it.
- Sight: Although the way your bourbon looks in the glasses may not change how you experience it in the mouth, it can still be an important consideration when preparing a bourbon drink. This can be important when creating a drink designed to catch attention, whether that means pouring a traditional bourbon glass on the rocks or creating an appealing cocktail.
- Touch: Different glassware shapes require different methods of gripping your bourbon glass. This can range from a gentle grip of a stem to a fuller clasp around the body of a stemless glass, and you may choose to select a glass that feels good in your hand.
Bourbon Glasses: Materials
The first consideration when choosing which glasses to choose for drinking bourbon is the material used in its manufacturing. Different bourbon glassware materials present unique characteristics, and each has its own positives and negatives. The most common options for bourbon glasses are:
- Crystal: The premium glassware option for drinking bourbon, crystal glasses are often attractive to look at and provide you with a clean drinking experience to enjoy your bourbon purely. Crystal is commonly the most expensive option when shopping for bourbon glasses and can be quite fragile, so it's important to treat your crystal glassware with care to maintain it .
- Glass: Simple glass is the most commonly used material for manufacturing most bourbon drinking glasses. While less expensive than crystal, it still provides an attractive, clear appearance and is commonly more durable than crystal options as well, making it an excellent choice for a bourbon drinker with a moderate budget and premium taste.
- Metal: Choosing a metal set of glassware, such as stainless steel or pewter, offers a drinking option without the risk of breakage. Pricing on metallic glassware can vary based on the type of material and manufacturer, so you can shop for the best option within your budget.
Bourbon Glasses: Styles
The second key element of bourbon glassware is the shape you choose to pour your drink into. As with choosing your preferred bourbon glassware materials, different shapes can carry their own perks and potential drawbacks. The most common shapes for bourbon glasses are:
- Shot glasses: A shot glass is the smallest option among the traditional bourbon glasses, and it also provides a unique drinking experience. First, shot glasses generally serve as single drink vessels as opposed to sipping like you may with other glass types. Second, because of the small size of a shot glass, the involvement of your sense of smell is minimized, as your nose remains outside of the glass when drinking, providing a more taste-focused experience.
- Rocks bourbon glasses: One of the most traditional forms of glass for drinking bourbon are rocks glasses, which features straight walls large enough to bring your bourbon's smell into consideration. Also known as a tumbler glass, a rocks glass allows you to drink your bourbon straight or to prepare many traditional bourbon cocktails over ice or whiskey stones.
- Wine glasses: Wine glasses don't only have to be for drinking wine. The same attributes which make a wine glass an excellent way to taste a premium vintage can be beneficial for enjoying a high-quality, premium bourbon as well. The stem on the glass makes it easy to swirl your drink and release pleasant aromas to improve your bourbon tasting experience.
- Glencairn bourbon glasses: These glasses are designed specifically for bourbon drinking, the Glencairn is an excellent choice for sipping. The bulbous shape, evoking the look of a tulip, provides ample space for swirling within the glass, while the tapering at the top keeps your bourbon in the glass and directs the aromas of the bourbon up to your nose for a full-flavored drink.
- Neat bourbon glass: Similar to a Glencairn glass that someone squashed down and made squatter, resulting in more drastic curves, the neat glass can help to guide the harsher vapors of the alcohol in your bourbon away from the nose, allowing the subtler tastes to shine through. This can make it a popular choice for new bourbon drinkers, as it offers a gentler entry into bourbon drinking.
- Snifter bourbon glass: Also known as a brandy bowl or balloon glass, the snifter resembles a wine glass only with a shorter stem and a more extreme taper. The snifter is a traditional glass for bourbon and other dark spirits, however, it can produce strong aromas which may be off-putting if you're just starting to drink bourbon.
With this information on the basics of bourbon glasses, you're now educated and empowered to make the most of your next bourbon tasting and sensory experience. Choose the glass that best suits your wants and needs for your next drink and enjoy your bourbon at its best.