The Glass Every Whisk(e)y Lover Should Own

The Glencairn Whisky Glass is a must-have for scotch and beyond

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Glencairn glass

Spruce Eats / Dylan Ettinger

This post is part of our 'This Is Fire' series, where our editors and writers tell you about the products they can't live without in the kitchen.

Choice of glassware can make or break a drink. The perfect glass should accentuate and complement its contents and provide the best drinking experience possible. For certain beverages like wine, it’s hard to imagine enjoying it in anything other than a stemmed wine glass. The same goes for the martini and its namesake glass. When it comes to whisky, the stout, cylindrical rocks glass tends to be the most visible option for glassware. But whether I’m visiting a distillery for a guided tasting, or sipping a single malt at home, there’s only one glass I’m reaching for: the Glencairn.

Glencairn Whiskey Glasses

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glencairn-glass

Courtesy of Glencairn

What we like
  • Perfect size for 1-2 oz. pours

  • Designed to maximize aroma

What we don’t like
  • Limited application outside of intended use

The Glencairn whisky glass was designed by Raymond Davidson for the Glencairn Crystal company in the 1980s when he set out to create the perfect vessel to use for tasting and assessing a whisky. The design sat on the shelf for some years until Davidson’s sons came across them and realized they had something special on their hands. They met with whisky experts and distillers and refined the design based on expert feedback. The Glencairn whisky glass made its official debut in 2001 and quickly became a favorite of whisky lovers across Scotland. Today, it’s the gold standard for discerning tipplers who truly value the spirit-sipping experience.

Glencairn Glass Review

The Spruce Eats / Dylan Ettinger

So why does the Glencairn work so well for tasting spirits? Short answer: the design. There are three primary criteria by which spirits are assessed: color, aroma (or the nose,) and taste (palate.) With its bulbous bottom that tapers into a narrow opening, the Glencairn was designed to maximize each experience in order to fully appreciate whichever spirit it contains.

The glass is sturdy, yet crystal-clear, making it perfect for holding up in the light and getting a sense of the color of the liquid it contains. The shape of the glass also allows the spirit to be gently swirled around without spilling, making it easier to get an idea of the viscosity. 

The Glencairn is the perfect size for one or two-ounce pours of neat whisky, and the empty space in the top of the glass actually serves a purpose.

The shape of the Glencairn also helps to concentrate the scent of the spirit. The rounder base with a narrow opening traps some of the aromas evaporating off of the spirit within the glass, concentrating the scent of the alcohol. This higher concentration of aromas makes it easier to smell the spirit before sipping, but it also intensifies the scent while sipping, adding complexity and depth to the experience.

Glencairn Glass Review

The Spruce Eats / Dylan Ettinger

The size and shape of the glass are also perfectly tailored to sipping a smaller amount of liquid. Rocks glasses are designed to contain ice as well as the spirit or cocktail of choice, so they are wide in order to accommodate ice along with a three to four-ounce drink. A neat pour of whisky in a rocks glass just looks a bit underwhelming—there’s too much negative space in the glass. The Glencairn, however, is the perfect size for one or two-ounce pours of neat whisky, and the empty space in the top of the glass actually serves a purpose.

For someone who wants to savor their spirit of choice and fully experience the flavor of what they’re drinking, the Scottish-made Glencairn is the best available piece of glassware. I regularly sample new spirits at home and whether I’m sipping mezcal, rum or bourbon, the only glass I reach for is the Glencairn. There’s just no better way to experience finely crafted liquor.

Glencairn Glass Review

The Spruce Eats / Dylan Ettinger

Material: Glass Capacity: 6 oz. Dimensions: 4.5 inches H x 2.6 inches W Dishwasher Safe: Yes

Why Trust Spruce Eats

Dylan Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based writer who specializes in spirits, cocktails, and coffee with hands-on experience visiting distilleries and bars all through the US, Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean. He is also a long-time hospitality professional with experience tending bar, opening cafes, and working in specialty coffee.