To fully optimize your bourbon drinking experience, you need the correct glass. Much thought and scientific reasoning have gone into the various bourbon glasses to help people enjoy the bourbon to its maximum potential... 

 best bourbon glass

To fully optimize your bourbon drinking experience, you need the correct glass. Much thought and scientific reasoning have gone into the various bourbon glasses to help people enjoy the bourbon to its maximum potential. Several prevailing theories exist about what makes the best vessel for imbibing bourbon, leading to a myriad of shapes, sizes, and names that can be confusing. What is the best bourbon glass? Here's a complete guide to the different types and why they're designed a certain way.

Components of a Bourbon Glass

Let's start the guide by discussing the three main components of a bourbon glass. While these aren't unique to a bourbon glass, they're the parts that will define what a bourbon glass is.


The rim is the edge of the glass. The diameter of the rim makes a difference in perceiving the smells of a bourbon. The aromas remain concentrated and flow toward your nose if the rim diameter is smaller. In contrast, a large diameter glass allows the alcohol smell to dissipate and other aromas to come through. 


The body is the main part of the glass that holds the bourbon. If the body is bowl-shaped, the aromas will flow toward the rim as you swirl the glass. 


This is the bottom part of the glass that serves as a handle. The stem thickness can vary from glass to glass, and some glasses lack them altogether.

Bourbon Glass Types

There are several types, or shapes, of bourbon glasses. Here are some of the most common that every bourbon connoisseur should become knowledgeable about: 


A rocks glass goes by other names, including tumbler, lowball, or old-fashioned, and is probably the most common bourbon glass you'll come across. It usually holds between 7 ounces and 12 ounces and is best used for cocktails or, appropriately enough, over ice, hence the name rocks. You can also opt for its taller sibling, the highball glass.

Dock Glass

A variant of the copita glass used to taste test sherry, the dock glass is a popular choice among master distillers, blenders, and other whiskey aficionados all over the globe. The dock name came from the fact that merchants used it to nose and taste spirits and wines on the shipping docks. The longer stem prevents any aroma from the drinker's hand from affecting the nose and keeps the hand from the bowl so it doesn't warm the bourbon. However, if you wish to warm the juice, you can easily cradle the glass.


The Glencairn is often considered the top glass for drinking bourbon or any other whiskey, making it the gold standard for bourbon drinking glasses. This glass has a tulip-like shape, with a small rim and a bowl-like base, to keep the aroma flowing as you swirl and funnel it to the nose.


You may have also heard of this type of glass called a cognac glass, brandy bowl, or balloon. A snifter is a large-bodied glass that directs the drink's aromas to the nose. It's a classy glass that also serves well for cocktails and tasting.


Most folks know what a shot glass is. This small glass usually holds about 1.5 ounces of liquor that's swallowed in a single swig.


Yes, this is precisely what you think it is, a glass you'd use to drink wine. But wine glasses also serve well as a vessel for bourbon, with their smaller rim and a bowl-like shape that works well for swirling and smelling.


NEAT is an acronym for Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology. The NEAT glass is the product of an oddly shaped glass error in a glass blowing factory that someone noticed was well suited to dissipate harsher alcohol fumes, allowing more subtle, subdued aromas to come to the forefront. It dissipates the lighter ethanol molecules through the uniquely shaped opening while keeping the heavier, more enticing molecules within the glass. While serving as an attractive choice to appreciate a good bourbon, it also helps newbies acclimate to bourbon, as it diminishes the harsher aromas.

Bourbon Glass Materials

As with other drinkware, glasses aren't always glass. Bourbon glasses are typically made from four different materials, each with its own advantages:


They are called glasses primarily because glass is the most common material used to make them. It allows for a multitude of shapes and is relatively inexpensive.


Crystal makes the most expensive drinking vessel and provides stylish designs with luster and impeccable clarity. Along with being the most expensive, they're also the most fragile.

Tritan Plastic

While lacking the panache of crystal or even glass, Tritan plastic is still worth considering, as it's very affordable as well as durable. It's glass-like in luster and appearance but scratches easily, much easier than glass or crystal.

Stainless Steel

The lack of transparency does turn some bourbon aficionados off since the visual is part of the experience. However, stainless steel cups don't rust, don't break, and are good at keeping the bourbon at the right temperature, significantly reducing ice melting.

Best Uses for Each Glass Type

Whether you wish to enjoy bourbon in a cocktail, at room temperature, chilled then strained, with a splash of water, or on the rocks, the best bourbon glass depends on the method you choose. Going with straight, neat, or with water, the snifter and Glencairn will be excellent choices, as they release and funnel aromas to the nose. Go with the NEAT glass to truly unlock all aromas within your bourbon.

If you want to make a cocktail, such as an Old-Fashioned, or even just enjoy your bourbon on the rocks, the rocks glass or tumbler is the way to go. It provides a pleasant aesthetic along with room to mix some ingredients and ice.

There's no one correct answer to what the best bourbon glass is. It comes down to personal preference and how you intend to enjoy your bourbon. With the information above, you can make an informed decision on what vessel to use that will suit your needs and your personal preferences.

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