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Spirits: I'll tumble 4 ya

I’ve dipped my toe into debates about glassware before. And by that I mean I’ve ranted against the proliferation of 12-ounce “martini” glasses, 10-ounce “double” old-fashioned glasses, a 16-ounce “highball” glass and the like.

The Glencairn whiskey glass.

It’s not a fussy thing. Cocktails in those huge glasses result in overpriced cocktails that get warm before you finish them — not to mention that it makes it very difficult to gauge how much you’ve been boozing. There’s a reason why nearly every recipe in every cocktail guide bases its measurements on a 4.5-ounce cocktail (not “martini”) glass, a 6-to-8-ounce old-fashioned glass, or a 10-ounce highball glass. Anyway, my ranting had little effect against the fishbowl-sized glasses most bars serve and that most “drinkware” retailers sell, so I’ve hesitated to re-enter into more glassware debates.

But then this week I went to the American Distillers Institute conference in Louisville, where I tasted a lot of excellent whiskey from craft microdistillers across the United States (more to come on that in an upcoming column). While in Louisville, I met Andrew Davidson, a young man whose family owns Glencairn Crystal Studio in Scotland. In 2001, Davidson’s father invented the Glencairn whiskey glass — with its tapering, tulip shape — after he tired of having his expensive scotch served in “rocks” tumblers. For tasting fine spirits, the tumbler’s mouth is too wide, diffusing aromas.

Davidson reasoned that his design, based on traditional the Spanish sherry copita, better focused and concentrated the scents and flavors. A number of Master Blenders at major scotch distilleries agreed with Davidson, and in the past decade, the Glencairn glass has become a standard for tasters within the industry.

When you attend a WhiskyFest, for instance, this is the glass they give you to taste with.

Obviously, you don’t need to run out and order a Glencairn glass if you’re simply drinking bottom-shelf booze on ice. But if you’re someone who has invested $35 or $60 or $100 or more on a single-malt scotch, pure pot still Irish whiskey, aged bourbon or other premium whiskey, I can tell you that it makes a difference.

What do other whiskey (or whisky) drinkers think?

-- Jason Wilson (Follow me on Twitter.)

By The Food Section  |  May 7, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  Spirits  | Tags: Jason Wilson, Spirits, WhiskeyFest  
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