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  • Gemma D.

Glencairn, Norlan, Tumblers and more

Updated: Feb 28, 2021

Just because my blog is called What's in my Tumbler, doesn't mean I only drink my whiskies from a tumbler. I have a growing collection of different whisky glasses (some of which I brought with me from places like Indonesia and Curacao), and I literally use all of them.

There are so many different styles of whisky glasses out there and I will give you a word of warning, I am a little biased when it comes to a certain kind of glass. However, I decided to collect many of the different kind of glasses that are out there in one blog post, so you can make up your own mind.


The quiach (derived from ‘cuach’, meaning cup in Gaelic), was created somewhere in the 16th century. Straightforward, simple and functional, a quaich is a wooden, shallow bowl with a handle on either side. But as whisky developed, so did the quaich, ranging from delicately carved wooden cups, decorated with or made completely from silver to show off wealth, at times making it more of a status symbol.

Not exactly practical when drinking in a bar, those looking to get back to the olden days, can find a large collection of wooden, pewter, crystal or silver quaichs online, to fulfil their dram-dreams. Or for a special occasion of course. I even spotted one made from a cow's horn.


The tumbler is thought to have made its first appearance just after the mid-17th century. The two most commonly accepted explanations of the name both have to do with the original bottom of the glass being round. One explanation claims that, when the glass is put down while still holding liquid, it would tumble and spill its contents. The other explanation is that the bottom of the glass was weighted, so that when it tumbled, it would automatically shift itself back upright. Much like a weeble.

A modern day tumbler (sometimes called a low-ball) is basically a short cylinder with a thick, flat bottom which are of course not only used for whisky but even for cocktails, juices and water. Because of the wide rim, this glass is not preferred when nosing a whisky.


Feeling a little patriotic here, tulips.. so Dutch! Oh, wait.. Tulip

s originally came from Persia... Anyways, different topic for a different blog, back to whisky! Tulip glasses are sometimes called sherry glasses or even scooners, and look very much like the original copita (or catavino) glass used to taste sherry on the docks, when ships came to deliver their cargo in the late 18th century. The sherry would be tasted 'dock-side' and only after approval, payment would be made.

A Tuilp glass can be recognized by its unique shape, like an elongated egg, and narrow taper, that is especially designed to bring together all the aromas of the drink when you swirl and sniff. (btw did you know the official Scotch Malt Whisky Society glass is a tulip glass? Engraved with the official logo)

The Glencairn glass is actually, compared to the quaich and the tumbler, a very "young" glass, inspired by the traditional nosing copitas. I've drunk whiskies that are older than the design of the Glencairn as it was initially created by Raymond Davidson back in the mid 70's. Getting the glass to market however, would take another 25 years, when in 2001 Glencairn Crystal Ltd. started production of the glass that is now used by pretty much every Scottish and Irish whisky company out there.

The iconic shape of the glass, with its round bottom resting on a glass pedestal, its slender waist and narrow rim allows you to swirl your whisky and open up the aromas, before nosing and tasting your drink. It's the go-to glass for almost any whisky tasting I've been to.

This glass actually started as a Kickstarter project back in 2015 and I remember, together with almost ten of my colleagues, pledging to this project, hoping for once it would make it. Thank goodness it did because it is one of my favorite glasses in the collection. This was one of the first times I came across a company that actually changed the shape of the whisky glass... on the inside. The protrusions inside the glass form a standing wave shape when the whisky is swirled, which allows for the surface to air ratio and rate of oxidization to increase. Simply put: the ethanol starts to evaporate, leaving you only the best aromas of your whisky.

I love the fact that the glass is double-walled and on the inside still sort of looks like a Glencairn, even though the rim is turned outwards. The whole glass is light-weight and is about 9.5 cm high.

This hand-crafted glass originates all the way from Australia and derives its name from Cradle Mountain, where the owners of the Cradle Mountain Whisky distillery were in need of a new glass that would help them develop their business. The glass itself sits easily in the palm of your hand and that's exactly the point. The warmth of your hand 'wakes-up' your dram and entices its aromas to start moving. The wide pout of the glass allows for the whisky vapors to go outwards and like we've seen with several other glasses, the shape of the bottom and the neck allow for better aeration of the whisky and evaporation of the ethanol. It's a uniquely shaped glass and definitely on my list to get my hands on to try it out!

The Riedel Vinum Single Malt Glass reminds me mostly of a copita with a short stem and as opposed to a narrow taper, its lip turns outwards to allow for the whisky to flow easily into the mouth and onto the tip of the tongue - the sweet spot.

The design was created by 9th generation Claus J. Riedel in 1958. Thin-blown and unadorned, it adheres to the Bauhaus design principle of form follows function, and for the growing population of whisky lovers, they created a Single Malt Whisky glass.

There are actually two versions of this glass though. One as part of the Riedel Bar Collection, designed in 1991, which is 11.3 cm high and machine-made. The second is part of the Sommeliers Collection, was designed in 1992, is 11.5 cm high and is completely handmade.

Whisky meets science... and I'm loving this glass. Not many of us will try to blow our own glass but George Manska decided that this was exactly what he was going to do, inspired by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. The result was not what he had hoped for but man, that whisky tasted incredible. So off George went, with his glass, and struck up a deal with the University of Nevada, which is where the NEAT Glass was born. In case you wanted to know... NEAT stands for Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology.

The most important features of this glass are the fact that it is a relatively low glass, decreasing the distance to the nose, its wide flared rim, to dissipate the smell of alcohol, and its curved sides, which enhances the evaporation and unlocks the aromas.

Happy Dram Drinking everyone!

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