Award-Giving Glasses

The Best Whiskeys in the World Are Judged Using These Dirt Cheap Glasses

December 11, 2019 Home By Photo by Chandler Bondurant

Last month at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC), more than 40 judges named Henry McKenna Single Barrell the best whiskey in the world over hundreds of Irish, Japanese and Scotch offerings. The win was considered a major upset (it’s only the second bourbon to win the award) in whiskey circles, with some questioning how it won at all.

Lurking in the background of the spirit world’s biggest event was a honey pot-shaped glass — the only glass SFWSC judges can use when judging for the competition. Available on Amazon for $22 (set of two), it’s nothing like a traditional whiskey snifter.

Called the Neat Glass, the short, fat cup was designed with a singular premise: smell is everything. The Neat Glass site spells it out plainly: “Humans detect over 10,000 aromas but only five tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami). You don’t taste raspberries, you smell raspberries and taste sweet. Add mouth feel (oily, dry, temperature, texture, minty, hot) to get total flavor. Flavor = Aroma + Taste + Mouth Feel. Flavor is 90% aroma.”

The Neat Glass runs opposite the traditional Glencairn, where a narrow top opening flushes the nose of a whiskey more directly to you; the Neat Glass, on the other hand, uses an outward-flaring rim. This is to fight off ethanol, the enemy of accurate spirit analysis, which numbs the nose and shrouds aromas; it’s why blenders, distillers and spirits competition judges water their whiskey down before drinking. And it’s the reason the glass looks like a cocktail glass ran into a Belgian beer glass.

The pitch goes like this: the wide bowl allows more surface area for swirling the juice, which agitates the liquid and forces it to evaporate from the glass, and the wide rim allows for ethanol diffusion, thereby creating a clearer nose and — if you buy the aroma-over-everything premise — a clearer idea of what you’re drinking.

Is it all talk? You be the judge.

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Will Price

Will Price is Gear Patrol's home and drinks editor. He's from Atlanta and lives in Brooklyn. He's interested in bourbon, houseplants, cheap Japanese pens, and cast-iron skillets — maybe a little too much.

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