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Fred Noe, Beam Family 7th Generation Master Distiller, puts it pretty simply: “I always say you can drink bourbon any way you want to, and that goes for the glass. There are no set rules, but I like to enjoy mine in a nice rocks glass with a few cubes of ice or with a little water, too.”
Mr. Noe is right. The whiskey glass you choose comes down to personal taste. Pouring some fine Scotch or bourbon at the end of the day is a tiny but satisfying ceremony for a whiskey drinker, and the glass should add a touch of joy to the ritual. Whether you prefer a glass that feels substantial in the hand, one that helps you better enjoy the aromas, or a glass that just looks cool, here are the best whiskey glasses to elevate the drinking experience.
Best Overall: Riedel Tumbler Spey Whisky, Set of 2
Riedel Crystal has been designing some of the world’s most exquisite glassware since 1756. The company is older than America. And those 300 years have led to the craftsmanship that can be seen in the brand's Spey Whisky Tumblers.
This glass offers a rare combination of quality and style at an affordable price. Taking its name from Scotland’s River Spey, an area that is renowned for producing fine whisky, the glass features a chic design full of diamond and wedge cuts. The style is inspired by the Art Nouveau period. Even when you’re not drinking, these glasses, which come in a set of two, are so stunning that they work as a showpiece in your den, kitchen, or dining room.
The Spey Tumblers are also heavily weighted at the bottom, guaranteeing a sturdy, measured sip every time. They're dishwasher-safe, hold up to 10 ounces, and, the best part, come at an unbeatable price.
It's spelled "whiskey" when it's made in America or Ireland and "whisky" when made anywhere else.
Best Gift: Well Told Urban Map Glass
Need a cool gift for a whiskey drinker? Consider these Urban Map glasses from the Boston-based Well Told design shop. The vessels themselves are made in Ohio and then etched in New Hampshire. Each detailed design flows around the glass. From Atlanta to Los Angeles and Miami to Pittsburgh, there are a large number of cities from which to choose, whether your recipient left his heart in San Francisco or she calls Chicago home sweet home. The glasses are 11 ounces, so they are big enough to hold a sizable drink; they're also dishwasher safe, so no special care is required.
Best for Single Malt: Glencairn Whiskey Glasses
If you’ve been to a legit whiskey tasting, odds you have sampled the wares from a Glencairn glass. The tulip-like design funnels aromas to the nose to better help you appreciate the nuanced notes of your bourbon, malt, or rye. Glencairns are also easy to hold and swirl. Plus they’re affordable, so it won’t cost a fortune to keep a good number on hand for you and some friends to sample a few varieties of whiskey. Made from lead-free crystal, the glasses are dishwasher safe.
Best for Bourbon: Libbey Signature Kentucky Bourbon Trail Whiskey Glasses
These are the official glasses of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which is probably all that needs to be said. While they look like the Glencairn’s little brother, they are a bit different. Made from ClearFire glass, they are thin but hearty and feature a wide bowl so you can swirl while you sip. The shape also tapers toward the top to help you soak in aromas. These 8-ounce bourbon glasses come in a set of four, so you can easily pour yourself a flight. Plus they are dishwasher safe and stackable for easy cleanup and minimal storage.
Best Double Wall: Norlan Whisky Glass
The Norlan whisky glass is all the rage with double-wall enthusiasts. The company takes two molded pieces of borosilicate glass and fuses the two together by spinning it across a linear flame. The result reflects the hue of the whiskey back up through the rim, giving it the shimmering appearance of gold paint. While the Norlan holds 6.9 ounces, you won’t want to fill it up or add aroma-killing ice to allow your senses to take full advantage of the glass’s design. Sold in pairs, the company does not recommend putting them in the dishwasher.
Best Crystal: Lorren Home Trends Opera RCR 11 Oz. Crystal Whiskey Glass
A classic double old-fashioned glass is a must for every home bar, and nothing feels quite like crystal when you’re sipping whiskey. The weight of the glass makes even a dull dram feel more substantial. This handsome set of six RCR crystal glasses from Lorren Home Trends is a great value, and since their 11-ounce capacity makes them excellent for cocktails as well as whiskey, they're also versatile. While they are dishwasher-safe and lead-free, washing by hand is recommended to preserve the glasses’ sparkle and translucence.
Best Design: NEAT Glass Official Competition Judging Glass
If you are serious about enjoying the nose of your whiskey and want to get the most out of the bottles you buy, you might want to try the NEAT glass. Particularly great for Japanese whisky, this is a vessel made with love—development lasted nine years and took 52 design revisions. Made from Slovakian finest lead-free, dishwasher-safe crystalline, the glass features a wide bowl that holds a 1.5-ounce pour at the apex. NEAT recommends swirling and placing your nose at the center of the rim so you can smell the whiskey without exposing your beak to unwanted alcohol burn, which can impair your ability to pick up on aromas.
Best Personalized: Home Wet Bar On the Rocks 12 oz. Whiskey Glass
For some traditionalists, having monogrammed glasses is an imperative. Home Wet Bar's 12oz version comes in a set of four get etched to your specifications, which might give a few friends a chance to learn your middle name. But remember, when requesting your initials to go first name, last name, then the middle, so your family name ends up bigger than the others. The glass is BPA free and dishwasher safe, but the company recommends handwashing.
What to Look for in a Whiskey Glass
By Nicholas McClelland
Most barware is made from glass. While some makers produce various metal vessels, plastic versions, and even wooden cups, we prefer glass to more opaque vessels because it allows the drinker to appreciate the nuanced colors of different whiskies and won’t impart any flavor to the spirit the way some metals and wood can. Humans have been using glass cups for millennia; it’s inexpensive, durable, and typically easy to clean.
A bit fancier, crystal is a type of glass that adds a bit of sparkle to any drink, and the material allows the maker to craft more intricate designs. Of course, it’s typically handwash-only and can be rather expensive. While crystal has traditionally been made with lead oxide because it makes the glass more refractive, we recommend searching out lead-free versions because of lead's health risks—wines and spirits can leach lead over time—and the fact that lead can impart some unwanted flavors. However, according to the FDA, the occasional drink taken from a leaded crystal glass shouldn’t pose too much of an issue, unless you’re pregnant or plan on becoming so.
Other materials like plastic, wood, metal, and even ceramic can make good, attractive whiskey glasses, but you’ll want to think about what best serves your lifestyle and aesthetic and go from there.
How many glasses you should buy really depends on how often you entertain, your storage capacity, and how often you want to wash them. Typically, glasses are sold in packs of four. You may be able to get away with a single set, but even a modest gathering will require a few more. We like to keep eight to 12 Glencairn-style glasses for sipping, a dozen or more stackable, highly versatile tumblers, and at least eight coupes, since our usual guests love to start an evening off with a Manhattan.
There is no shortage of designs for whiskey glasses. You can find barware in nearly every shape and size, double-walled, adorned with etchings, monograms, bejeweled, patterned crystal, or even colorful glass. The world, in terms of aesthetics, is truly your oyster. But keep in mind that crystal, Murano glass, or anything with a metallic rim likely won’t be as easy to care for types of whiskey glasses that are a little less precious.
You can certainly find a whiskey glass for less than the price of a Big Mac; Target typically has tumblers that cost a dollar or two. Or you could shell out a tidy sum for a single piece of handmade crystal from Ireland or France; the cost of a set can reach four figures. Prices vary widely depending on what you want, but a set of four handsome glasses that you’ll enjoy in your hand and will fetch compliments from guests can easily be had for under $50.
Types of Whiskey Glasses
For sipping, we recommend something akin to the Glencairn or the NEAT, which are essentially whiskey-specific snifters that are much smaller than the brandy version. Glasses from this style are frequently used at serious whiskey tastings and competitions. Similar to a tulip glass, though stemless with a heavier base and generally featuring a wider bowl, the floral shape helps funnel aromas to your olfactory receptors so you’re better able to appreciate the nuances of your whiskey. It's also easy to eyeball a full dram pour, and the heavy base feels nice in the hand.
Classic tumbler-style or rocks-style glasses work for sipping neat as well, but are particularly great for a drinker who takes their bourbon, Scotch, or rye with a cube or two. The large mouth makes it easy to add ice and top with whiskey. While you can find an incredible number of handsome designs, you’ll want a set that isn’t too thinly blown with a good, stable base.
For whiskey soda aficionados, highball glasses are a solid addition to any bar. Long and tall, these glasses will hold a stack of ice, a few ounces of liquor, and a healthy portion of soda on top. Also, holding a big, ice-cold highball glass on a hot summer day is remarkably refreshing.
A large number of folks prefer their brown spirits mixed in a cocktail. While rocks glasses are great for an Old Fashioned or a Vieux Carré, we think a drink served "up" requires something a little more delicate, like a stemmed coupé glass that doesn’t slosh quite as much as a martini glass.
Don’t bother with these unless you hate the taste of whiskey and just want to chase it with beer. No connoisseur would simply throw their expensive expression down the hatch in one big gulp. Sure, you could sip from a shot glass, but why would you? Its small size makes it hard to handle and too easy to spill your precious dram.
Originally created in the early 2000s, the Glencairn quickly became the first choice of many distilleries and bars across Scotland and Ireland. Its distinctive glasses have become standard issue at whiskey tastings across the globe. Glencairn makes its glasses from lead-free crystal in a design that funnels all the amazing whiskey smells to the nose, informing the way you appreciate the drink's flavor.
Founded in Massachusetts as the New England Glass Company in 1818, Libbey later relocated to Toledo, Ohio, and at the beginning of the 20th century became the first firm to make machine-blown glass. It currently produces an incredible number of barware designs that are widely available at numerous retailers everywhere.
New on the scene, Norlan is an international brand that has quickly become known for its stunning, narrative-driven Sruli Recht designs. While the firm only produces a precious few products, all from lead-free crystal, it offers unique and highly conversational accoutrements to the whiskey-drinking experience.
Maintenance and Storage
Handwashing large numbers of crystal or delicate glassware can be tedious and annoying. For everyday use and large parties, consider finding versatile whiskey glasses that are dishwasher-safe for no-fuss, no-muss cleanup. If you do choose crystal or a more delicate material, be sure to check the care label before you order. But generally, for all handwash-only glass and barware, you’ll want to use a soft sponge and non-abrasive soap. Never use steel wool, because you risk scratching or even severely damaging your piece.
As for storage, if you want to keep a large number of glasses available for gatherings, consider those that are stackable. Barware can eat up cabinet space rather quickly. Also, leave some distance between glasses or stacks so they aren’t touching to help prevent accidental breakage.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Nicholas McClelland is a passionate whisk(e)y drinker who has written about spirits for Men’s Journal, Fatherly, and Inside Hook. His bar is deep with rare single malts, hard-to-find bourbons, and ryes, but he doesn't believe there's anything too precious to share with friends.