April 16, 2020
Left: Aficionado Glass, Right: Glencairn
Glassware is an integral part of the whiskey experience. If you truly want to smell your whiskey, you have to bring the right tool for the “job” (and what I really mean is the enjoyable not job of smelling and tasting whiskey); and many choose tapered glasses such as Glencairns, Norlan glasses, or snifters as their tool of choice. Prestige Decanters, a Kentucky-based glassware company, has its own version of the tapered whiskey glass, called the Aficionado Whiskey Glass, and was kind enough to send me a set of two for my own exploration. This then brought up the burning question, how different is it from my usual whiskey glass: the Glencairn? Whiskey nerds investigate!
To dive into this topic a little deeper, I picked Potomac Wine and Spirit’s selection of Barrell 9 Year Single Barrel Bourbon because it has such potent scents that should make easy to smell. Also, if I’m going to spend a lot of time smelling something, I should pick something that smells fantastic. To keep this as scientific as possible, I cleaned both glasses, let them dry, poured the same amount of whiskey in each, and let them breathe for 25 minutes. With all that set up, I’m very curious as to what I’ll discover in this Prestige Decanter Aficionado vs Glencairn whiskey glass comparison.
An intense sniffing session with these two glasses
First off, Prestige Decanter’s Aficionado whiskey glass and the Glencairn look and feel very different. The Glencairn is thin and tall while the Aficionado glass is squat and wide, has a wider mouth and wider base, and is missing the nub at the bottom that I know some don’t like. The Aficionado glass’ dimensions may make it better for those with larger hands, but it all comes down to personal preference. It does look great and appears to be sturdily made, feeling weighty and thick.
In fact, the Aficionado glass’ larger size, a hybrid between a Glencairn and a tumbler, makes it better for adding ice, whiskey rocks, or other ingredients, giving it functionality that the Glencairn does not. It’s also so bottom heavy that if you put it on its side (empty of course), it almost always rolls back to an upright position. It’s quite entertaining to play with it and reinforces that this is a stable glass that isn’t easily tipped over. I may or may not have knocked over a Glencairn or two in my time.
Now onto how the Barrell 9 Year single barrel smells in each glass. I thought that they would be the same, but long story short, I actually perceive subtle differences from each glass. For whatever reason, the Barrell 9 Year Single Barrel for the most part smells just a little more defined, rich, dark, and concentrated in the Glencairn. The slightly extra toasted sugars and oak presence in the Glencairn are especially interesting. For whatever reason, the Aficionado glass tends to give off a little more alcohol.
To be clear, these subtle differences sum up to a small but still noticeable difference for me, at least as I quietly and geekily smell in my own residence. Honestly, since it has similar dimensions to the Glencairn Canadian Whisky Glass, it may actually end up being more appropriate for that type of whiskey, not this bourbon I’m smelling.
Some of these differences may come down to how I interact with the glasses. Maybe it’s the way I stick my nose into the glass that influences the distance and angle between the whiskey and my nostrils. Maybe it’s the taper or the size of the glass’ mouth that affects how the scents dissipate from inside the glass.
Since I wear glasses, the Aficionado glass’ larger mouth also sometimes get in the way of my eyeglasses whereas the Glencairn does not. I can’t imagine that most people will notice this, but it’s something I quickly discovered as I dove nose-first to sniff. It’s not a dealbreaker for me, but something to think about.
Aficionado glass with a larger mouth
I like Prestige Decanter’s Aficionado Glass a lot. It’s a substantive, sturdy, and beautiful glass that functions well as a sniffing glass and provides extra utility, while the Glencairn is fairly one-dimensional given its proportions. As much as I hate to say it, for consistency’s sake I have to stick with the Glencairn for whiskey reviews and comparisons. Even though reviewing whiskey is subjective, I want to control as many variables as possible (e.g., glassware, whiskey breathing time) so that my end ratings are somewhat consistent over time.
Now if you’re a little less concerned about publishing, the Prestige Decanter’s Aficionado Whiskey Glass should work great for you, especially if you dislike the Glencairn’s knobby bottom or smaller size, or want to add extra things into your glass and not sacrifice the ability to smell what’s in your glass (as is the case with tumblers). So while I may not use Prestige Decanter’s Aficionado glass for whiskey reviews, it’s something I can definitely use for rum or brandy reviews (and I did), as well as for everyday drinking and appreciation.