Feb 1, 2012

Best glasses to savor single malt and other whiskeys

Single Malt and other fine whiskey fans know that the shape of a glass can maximize enjoyment of its contents. Part of this has to do with aesthetics—the simple pleasure of holding and admiring a beautifully-designed glass. But equally important is that a glass with the right size and shape enhances aromatics, and thus taste.

Back in 1992, in a quest to develop the ultimate whiskey glass, famed Austrian glassmaker Riedel brought together a panel of Scotch whiskey experts to test nineteen different glass shapes. Later, with the help of master distillers in Scotland, the company continued making refinements.

The result? The perfect glass for any fine whiskey. Shaped like an elongated thistle on a truncated stem, the Riedel whiskey glass possesses a slightly outturned lip. This long glass, warmed by the  hand, permits the release of aromatics perceived by the nose in a slowly-unfolding, multi-layered sequence of discovery. And that’s even before the shaped lip directs the whiskey to the tip of the tongue, from where it expands into the mouth for that first velvet feel.

Experts consider Riedel’s line of glasses to be the finest for wines and sprits. Robert Parker, writing in The Wine Advocate, stated that “the finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel.”

Riedel makes two versions of its whiskey glass. I don’t recommend the expensive, hand-blown Riedel Sommeliers Series Single Malt Whiskey Glass, which cost about $55 each. They’re extremely thin and--a major drawback for me!--they break easily.

However, the machine-made, reasonably-priced Riedel Vinum Single Malt Whiskey Glasses offer beauty, utility, and value: a set of two costs $47. The glasses are beautiful and thin (but not so thin that they break if you look at them the wrong way). They possess no “machine” seams, and the Riedel name is etched on the base. They stand 4.5” high and hold 7 ounces. Although they’re dishwasher-safe, hand-washing is recommended.

And if you want to learn more about single malt scotch, you can't do better than British writer Michael Jackson's classic Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch. It's the 2015 updated edition.

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