I’m hardly enthused or interested by “artsy.” This is especially true when the artist takes such liberties with things that are meant to be practical. In my opinion, in many cases, the object of the artist’s devotion is lifted up and out of its pragmatic dominion, reimagined, retooled, and then set back down again as something useless. Take for example a fine restaurant with designer forks.
Give me a fork with a minimum of three prongs, please. If I wanted to spend the next half hour of my meal laboring to lance each diminutive morsel on my plate like a spear fisherman chasing after blacktail snapper because my fork has been redefined into a trident-like scepter with two unnaturally distant prongs, I would have asked the waiter for a proper javelin…not this stupid, little, atypical utensil that is meant only to be polished and perhaps… perhaps… admired.
As you may have guessed, my aversion to artsy utensils caused me to be a bit skeptical the first time I encountered the Glencairn whisky glass. In fact, the first time I actually used one, with its strangely narrowed gate, my initial thought was that some poor soul whose nose was a little bit too close to his mouth might not even be able to gather a taste without being forced to tip his head back significantly and uncomfortably. It seemed as though it could be logistically cumbersome for some. But I gave it a try. When it comes to “artsy,” this time the dreamer made the utensil better, but by my estimations, in two ways that won’t be lost on the average whisky drinker sipping from a rock glass and unacquainted with the Glencairn means.
To once again confirm the two aforementioned “ways” for myself before writing this particular commentary, I took the opportunity to gather a few favorites and to give them a whirl between glasses. Tiny sips, mind you. No water. Just whisky. The results were as I’d previously concluded.
First of all, the Glencairn improves the nosing experience in that the whisky’s aroma is allowed to gather in the wider bowl and is then condensed and sharpened as it is carried up through the rim by inhalation. A regular rock glass cannot do this. Second, since the Glencairn continues to hold closely to the nose during sipping, the aromas enliven the experience of the palate, causing for quite an exceptional transition from one to the other. Again, while the rock glass doesn’t entirely fail here, it certainly isn’t working with the measure of precision inherent to the Glencairn.
Of course, if you are drinking your whisky from a regular old rock glass, well and good. It works. In truth, I do all of my reviews using the same Waterford crystal rock glass you see in pretty much all of my photos. I rarely use a Glencairn glass. But if your senses are properly honed and you are seeking to experience a whisky rather than simply drink it, reach for the Glencairn. Aside from having your whisky intravenously infused, it’s about as close to becoming one with any given edition as you’ll ever get. It really does make a difference.