Image of a Glencairn Whisky Glass with Ardmore 6 Year

Nosing the Glencairn Glass

April 25, 2017Brad LumleyHistory, Reviews, , , Standard

Does the glass really matter?

If there’s one thing whisky aficionados have over beer snobs and wine spitters, it’s that our glassware is simple. Dump a dram in a highball glass and slide it down the rail, barman. Who’s Glencairn and why would I use his glass?


Maybe not. After all, after we appreciate the liquor’s appearance, don’t we give it a big whiff first? Even when we’re in a hurry, the fumes from a good single malt or bourbon fill our nostrils before it ever touches our lips. And it turns out, our whisky really does deserve the same treatment as a craft beer or crafted wine.

Enter the Glencairn Whisky GlassImage of a Glencairn Whisky Glass with Ardmore 6 Year

The Glencairn whisky glass was developed by Glencairn Crystal, Ltd. in Scotland –so its pedigree is well in place. It’s so popular in Scotland and Ireland in fact, “The whisky glass is now used by all Scottish and Irish distilleries.”( And with good reason: it really is the perfect glass for drinking scotch.

As Rodney Brazil explains in his excellent article, “The Glencairn Glass – Whiskey Innovation Four Millennia in the Making,” the most important features of the glass are the bulb, the tulip shape, and the opening. The bulb, at the bottom of the glass, creates the perfect vessel to critically evaluate the color and clarity of the dram. The tulip shape focuses the aromas from the bulb culminating in a perfectly-sized opening that accommodates nearly any nose. Additionally, the solid foot at the bottom limits skin contact with glass that would warm the whisky.

My daily drinker

Image of the bottom etching on The Glencairn GlassI love my Glencairn set so much, I use it for every whisk(e)y I drink. Single malts, bourbons, even the occasional Irish whiskey are all appreciated from a Glencairn. I’ve found that a point halfway up the bulb equals exactly an ounce and a half –the perfect dram to enjoy casually or mull over for an hour or so.
Materials for the Glencairn whisky glass run the gamut. From leaded crystal to soda-lime, most will be able to find a set that falls in their price range. I picked up a set of four in lead-free crystal from Amazon for less than $20. At that price, I feel OK with tossing them in the dishwasher and replacing them if they break or get too hazy. I recommend this set.


Brad Lumley on Email
Brad Lumley
Brad is a BJCP Certified Beer Judge-gone whisk(e)y aficionado. Between drams, he's a husband, father of two, and avid CrossFitter.



This is such a gorgeous glass! Not being a connoisseur of whisky or wine, I am not familiar with the types of glasses they use. However, this one is truly exceptional. I can really appreciate the tulip, big belly shape to the glass. And, the little details that are built into it, make all the difference. For instance, how it limits heat from the skin reaching the beverage. Such a dramatic gift this would be for any father on Fathers day!

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