Glencairn Versus Old Fashioned Glass Header

Glencairn Glass vs Old Fashioned Glass

In Gear by 3 Comments

Whether it’s different types of wine, beer or a classic cocktail, there is a style and shape of glass for everything.

For years, however, when drinking whiskey you either shot it or drank it from an old fashioned or rocks glass. Of course, that all changed several years ago when the Glencairn Glass was introduced. Originally designed for single malt Scotch, it seems every whiskey distiller, regardless of style, has come to embrace this one glass for tasting and enjoying whiskey neat.

But old habits die hard, and I was one of the many who questioned whether the shape of the glass could really affect the smell, taste and enjoyment of whiskey. Leave it to a friend of mine to introduce me to the ways of the Glencairn.

My friend had me do a side by side comparison of the same whiskey: a shot in a traditional old fashioned glass and a shot in a Glencairn Glass. The differences were astonishing.

However, we were using George T. Stagg as our test whiskey and we wondered if the results would be the same using a less intense, everyday bourbon like Wild Turkey 101. Let’s check it out.

Old Fashioned Glass

  • Nose: strong, boozy; hint of toffee
  • First Sip: heat up front, followed by vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon, with a bit of rye spice
  • Finish: the flavors fade quickly, but the burn lasts a bit longer

 Glencairn Glass

  • Nose: lots of caramelized sugar and toffee, but no boozy smell like in the old fashioned glass
  • First Sip: very little heat; viscous sugar with a bit of rye spiciness
  • Finish: long; the flavors stick around this time, complementing the burn

The conclusion is fairly obvious.  After comparing the 2 glasses the Glencairn Glass actually enhances the aromas and flavors of whiskey. This doesn’t mean I won’t drink from other glasses in the future, but if I have my choice, it’ll be a Glencairn Glass from now on. 

Do you think using a Glencairn glass makes a difference? Let me know in the comments what you think.

And hey, if you don’t own a Glencairn glass yet, I suggest you check out some of our very own custom designs made for just for the bourbon drinker.

About the Author

Jonathan Jones


Being from Louisiana, food and booze aren't just pastimes, they're a way of life. Jonathan considers himself to be a late bloomer to the world of libations, as he didn't have his first drink until he was 25, but he has spent much of his time since then trying to catch up. Since 2011 he has worked in retail alcohol sales, and more recently he has dove head first into the culinary world. When he isn't working, Jonathan enjoys cooking and sitting on the porch with good friends, fine whiskey, and a nice cigar.

  • Jer says:

    Ok, I’m guessing you tried the rock glass 1st then moved onto the glencairn glass for the second taste.

    Problem here is that you should have done two with Rick glass, as the 1st sip dulls your taste and nose for the second, making a smoother or lighter taste the second time around. It also dulls the alcohol scents so you can better nose the whiskey on the second taste.

    Basically, what I’m saying is, I don’t doubt the Glencairn glass concentrates the nose, but flavour can’t possibly be any different from one glass to another unless of course the glasses are made from different materials, like a paper cup vs a stainless steel tumbler. But glass to glass, not likely. And even then, not likely to be noticeable.

  • Jonathan says:

    I have found the shape of a glass can affect the taste of a particular whiskey, much in the same way it can affect the way a wine tastes – hence the reason there is a specific shape of glass for nearly every type of wine made. I’ve been told it has to do more with the nose than the actual taste – but what you smell (or don’t smell) can greatly affect what you taste. Even how you drink something (shot vs sip) can affect what notes in the flavor profile stand out to you. Fred Noe makes a good case for this in his explanation of the Kentucky Chew.

  • […] Click here to check out a great comparison between the Old Fashioned glass and the Glencairn. […]