Let’s say you just purchased a new bottle of The Glenlivet 14 Year Old. Before you even nose the liquid or take a sip, many factors will come into play to influence the experience of whisky tasting; from the box to the bottle to the vessel you drink it from. There’s even the choice of whether to add ice or water to your whisky. These factors affect The Glenlivet 14 Year Old, The Glenlivet 18 Year Old, and so on. In fact, you can have a different experience with any whisky.
For now, let’s focus on the different vessels you can enjoy your whisky out of.
WHISKY, WOOD, AND TIN
Back in the early days of whisky, the most common drinking vessel was a wooden quaich. The quaich (pronounced “quake”) is unique to Scotland and is a wide, shallow bowl with two flat handles. Originally made from wood, some early examples had staves and hoops, just like tiny whisky casks. Later, they were made from metals such as pewter and silver.
Meanwhile, miners everywhere from Scotland to Cornwall and even Gold Rush America needed something more durable to drink their whisky from. Rough-hewn, but easily transportable, tin cups were the vessel of choice, their resilience outweighing the ‘tinny’ flavor they imparted.
ADVANCEMENTS IN GLASS
It was only in the 18th century, after the invention of lead crystal, that scotch glasses as we know them today could even be made. With further advancements in glass manufacture in the 1890s, such scotch glasses could finally become widely available and affordable. The tumbler was born.
Tumblers got their name because early incarnations had a curved bottom. Legend has it that the design was so tavern customers couldn’t set them down and were therefore encouraged to finish their drink quicker. Modern whisky tumblers are often flat-bottomed and straight-sided, usually with a faux cut or engraved pattern. This type is often referred to as an Old-Fashioned glass. A tumbler is great for scotch cocktails and is the receptacle of choice for many whisky drinkers.
If you want to experience The Glenlivet in an elevated way, may we suggest trying the tulip, a favorite of ours and many other whisky drinkers that helps us fully appreciate both the aromas and flavors of a single malt whisky.
The gently curved tulip shape is a modern innovation, combining a tumbler with elements of a stem glass. Stem glasses, such as snifters, have wide bottoms, narrow tops, and a short stem. The shape traps the aromas at the bottom of the glass before releasing them into the small area at the top. The stable stem base allows the liquid to be swirled, further enhancing both smell and taste.
There are also several types of glass that have been exclusively developed for whiskies based on the traditional nosing copitas (the traditional Spanish drinking vessel used to sample sherry) used by distillers.
Whatever you choose to drink The Glenlivet from more aesthetically appealing scotch glasses or something more unique, the shape, weight, and texture can all add to the experience and the feelings that whisky drinking evokes. Is it all in the mind? Perhaps. Maybe there is something to be said for wood and tin after all. But we will let you be the judge of that.