A cost-conscious option
Unsuitable for cocktails or ice
We purchased the Glencairn Whisky Glasses so our reviewer could put them to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.
The Glencairn Whisky Glass has been the default tasting glass for all types of brown spirits for nearly 20 years. Initially designed by Raymond Davidson almost 20 years previous to its launch, the glass is now widely used at distilleries and bars across the United Kingdom and Ireland. The tulip shape aims to help funnel aromas to the olfactory sense and enhance flavors while providing a large bowl to take in the whiskey’s color and sturdy base.
Read on to see how good Glencairns are for drinking whiskey.
Design: Iconic and easy to use
I tested a set of four of the Glencairn Whisky Glasses. The glasses measure 2.5 inches wide, 4.5 inches high, and hold 6.5 ounces of liquid, though I can’t imagine you’d want to fill them to the brim unless you’ve decided to serve martinis instead of whiskey. The shape of the glass sends the aromatic notes to your nose, it features a tapered mouth so it’s easy to sip from, and the hefty base of each glass is engraved with “The Glencairn Glass,” so you know it was fired at the Glencairn Crystal Factory in Scotland.
It's best to wash them before you pour your first dram to rid the vessels of any dust, oil, or debris that they may have encountered during packaging and shipping. Thankfully as they are constructed from lead-free crystal, I popped the set in the dishwasher before getting to the taxing duty of pouring whiskey and evaluating their performance as a drinking glass.
In terms of design, there is one feature that I find absent. They aren’t at all stackable. Most folks aren’t going to acquire a collection quite as large as mine, but even with just a set of four, they take up a bit of cabinet space. For those who live in apartments with small kitchens every inch saved is valuable.
There are a few reasons the Glencairn is my go-to, but the main one is, they work.
Sipping Experience: Simple and effective
A quick confession, I must have at least 20 of these glasses in my bar. I’ve been drinking from them since I became a passionate whiskey enthusiast. I’ve used Glencairns to taste single malts, blended Scotch, bourbon, rye, Irish, Japanese, Taiwanese, and whiskey from Australia. They are, in a word, fantastic.
They are made from lead-free crystal, so go ahead and throw them right on the top rack with whatever other dishes need washing.
I’m not a snob—not every tipple I pour goes into a Glencairn—but when I’m trying something new, contrasting a few different drams, or engaged in a full-on tasting these are my go-to. Over the testing period with the set, I used them to taste several whiskeys including the first Booker’s release of 2021, a Jefferson’s rye finished in Cognac barrels, a 25-year-old Balblair single malt Scotch, and Ardbeg’s Arrrrrrrdbeg, an expression that pays tribute to the retirement of Mickey Head, the Islay stalwart’s long time distillery manager. For the record, this wasn’t one night but about three and a half weeks. Please drink responsibly.
There are a few reasons the Glencairn is my go-to, but the main one is, they work. The shape does make it easier to nose the whiskey, and so much of the flavor you taste actually comes from your olfactory. Like with wine, you want to pour your dram a wee bit ahead of time to let the whiskey breathe and open up a bit, so you can fully engage with the aromas. Aside from the shape, the base of the glass is stable, and the tapered rim makes sipping easy.
There is one feature that I find absent. They aren’t at all stackable.
The look also triggers a sense of seriousness. You pour your whiskey into a Glencairn, and it means attention must be paid to what you’re drinking. It’s still fun but there’s a touch of gravitas. The folks who made your spirit put quite a bit of thought and care into crafting it, so now is the time to appreciate that hard work.
I also love the way the glasses feel in the hand. The design is ergonomic, and the weight is substantial but not excessive. The size of the glass also makes it easier to eyeball the pour. If you’re using an old-fashioned glass, it’s fairly easy to get a bit heavy-handed with the bottle and over-serve yourself. A scant ounce in the Glencairn, on the other hand, looks more substantial.
Ease of Cleaning: Throw them right in the dishwasher
These glasses are dishwasher safe. They are made from lead-free crystal, so go ahead and throw them right on the top rack with whatever other dishes need washing. Some commenters say they find them a bit fragile, but I’ve never had any issue. But as with other barware, just don’t cram them so tight that they are touching.
Price: Quite reasonable
A single glass straight from the manufacturer goes for around $9 before shipping. So, a set of four for around $30 is a nice deal. That’s around what one might pay for a quartet of barware at a bargain store and roughly the cost of an affordable bottle of hooch.
Glencairn Whisky Glasses vs. Riedel Tumbler Collection Spey Whisky
Certainly, there is not a shortage of glasses one could choose to drink their whiskey from, but the Glencairn Whisky Glasses are a great option. The design is brilliant, the experience satisfying, and the price is affordable. They aren't, however, designed for cocktails or ice. If you're looking for another affordable option that lends itself to more than just sipping whiskey neat, the Riedel Tumbler Collection Spey Whisky glasses, which I also tested, are versatile enough for everyday use and large enough for a cocktail.
If you are the kind of drinker who likes to sip their whiskey neat, grab a set for the bar. The Glencairn Whisky Glasses add to the ceremony and truly elevate the experience for anyone who wants to try and taste every note in their Uisge beatha.
- Product Name Whisky Glasses
- Product Brand Glencairn
- MPN GLEN-WSKY-4G
- Price $29.99
- Weight 1.05 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 2.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 in.
- Material Crystal
- Volume 6 oz.