If there’s one alcoholic beverage that’s known around the world and enjoyed by almost everyone, it has to be whiskey. The rich and distinctive taste that comes from whiskey and the lovely warm feeling it brings after a few sips are just some of the reasons for its immense popularity.
Like many other types of alcohol, the experience of sipping it isn’t just about getting drunk, as there’s so much more than that to enjoy. Those who truly appreciate a good whiskey will understand that just like choosing the right bottle to drink, you need the perfect glass in order to enjoy it.
Whiskey glasses have been used traditionally by just about any type of glass whether it’s a tumbler or a shot, and the many styles are just as vast as the types of whiskey available.
This is one part of whiskey drinking that has a rich history and an even more promising future, as manufacturers are still managing to improve these glasses and make our favorite drink more enjoyable than we ever thought possible.
There are so many benefits to be found from choosing the best whiskey glass and not just relying on any old tumbler to hold your prized beverage, and if you’ve never taken the time to drink out of one then you’re surely missing out.
For a drink that’s as special as whiskey is, the process and tools used to drink it are equally important as the drink itself, and it’s important to be educated on what makes these glasses so special.
The Word Whiskey
Before we can dive into the history of whiskey or how these special glasses came to be, it’s important to understand the word itself. What was originally a classical Gaelic word for water was then Anglicized to bring the word whiskey.
Distilled alcohol like whiskey was first known as ‘water of life’ when translated from Latin, which translated then to ‘usice beatha’ in traditional Irish. Although there are different translations of the word and questions about where it first came from, the taste and flavors in a sip of whiskey are the same no matter how you choose to pronounce it or spell it.
There are two different spellings common for the word, either whiskey or whisky. Traditionally, Ireland and the US are the two places that use the ’whiskey’ spelling, but all other countries that produce the drink use ‘whisky’. It’s usually a matter of the regional dialect, however, no one way is right or wrong.
Where a lot of the confusion comes from with whiskey is about its origins, with both Scotland and Ireland claiming to have invented the drink. Both are still major producers of it today and considered to be the best in the world, so for those who love it as their favorite beverage, it’s hard to choose a clear winner.
Whiskey can also be used to describe other types of drinks as there are many different categories it can fall into. Single malt whiskey, or scotch whiskey which is commonly referred to as just ‘scotch’ and even bourbon whiskey all fall into this category.
Some believe that each type deserves its own special glass, and depending on how seriously you take your love for the drink, you might agree.
The History Of Whiskey
People don’t often know about the history of their favorite alcoholic beverage, but in order to appreciate it, even more, it’s essential to learn some background. With both Scotland and Ireland claiming to have invented it, there’s no telling who exactly was right, however, we do know that the making of liquor dates all the way to around 800 AD.
An Arab chemist names Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan was experimenting with distillation methods, which is how you purify something that has been made using fermentation. Wine was already a common alcoholic beverage around the world and they had begun testing out beer as well, which is how whiskey came to be.
Where it gets murky is that a family of physicians who were translating the Arab texts from the chemist worked for both Scottish and Irish families, so we’re unsure who really got hold of it first. Whiskey’s history in America is something entirely different, and fascinating to recount.
In 1920, the country began a reign of prohibition where the distribution, production, and sale of alcohol was banned completely in all states. However, doctors were able to prescribe liquor still for medical purposes and it’s believed that $40 million in whiskey prescriptions was made from 1921 to 1930.
Another fascinating time in American history where whiskey played a huge role was the Whiskey Rebellion that began in 1791. This tax applied to all distilled spirits with American whiskey being the most popular in the country and required that people pay a tax on the drink. It was the first ever tax made on a domestic product, and people were enraged.
As whiskey was often used as a form of currency during this time of the revolution, it made sense to the government to tax it. However, for those farmers who used their surplus materials like wheat, barley, and rye to distill and make the alcohol, there was a lot of resistance.
Eventually, the Whiskey Tax was repealed in the 1800s when George Jefferson became president although there had been hundreds of evaders of the law when it was in place.
How Is Whiskey Made?
Whether you’re looking at old whiskey making practices or the ways of today, the process still remains pretty much the same. Although today a lot of these processes are made easier with technology and machinery, you’ll still get the amazing and distinctive taste that whiskey is known for.
The three main ingredients are water, barley, and yeast, and the quality of these will have a huge impact on the brewing process and the final result. Here are the common steps taken to make whiskey for drinking.
The first stage involves getting the starch out of the barley and convenient it into soluble sugars. The barley is first soaked for a few days in warm water and then spread out on a flat surface called a malting floor. The barley is turned constantly to keep it even and in larger productions is sometimes done in a large automatic drum.
Once the malt has been ground down it’s then referred to as ‘grist’. The grist is added to warm water again and it extracts the soluble sugars. Because this requires a lot of natural and clean water, many distilleries are located right next to a lake or rivers. The quality of the water is crucial to the final taste of the whiskey so it’s essential to get it right.
The water and malt combined are called ‘mash’ and it then needs to be turned for a few hours to ensure it’s mixed. As the sugars melt into the water they are then drawn out the bottom of the mash tun which then creates “wort” with the resulting liquid.
Once the wort has cooled it is then passed through a wooden or stainless steel device called washbacks, which is another word for a large tank. Yeast is added to begin the fermentation process which means the sugars in the wort is then turned into alcohol. This process takes around 48 hours and the final result is low in alcoholic strength.
This low strength alcohol is then sent to the distiller machines with two still usually working together. The first takes the wash and heats it as it enters which vaporizes it. They are then passed onto the second, smaller still and separated into three parts – foreshots, heart, and feints. The heart must be carefully collected and this is then used in the next stage.
The heart is then put into oak casks, and at this stage has an alcoholic strength of 65-70% ABV. The minimum amount of time it must sit in these casks is three years, otherwise, it won’t be known as whiskey, and the flavors of the wood then impart into the spirit to help give it its final flavor.
What Are Whiskey Glasses?
After learning the process of making whiskey, you can now understand why it’s so important to use the right glass in order to drink this spirit. Although there’s no official description of what a whiskey glass must be, there are some guidelines that you can follow to see if it’s right for your favorite tipple.
Most importantly, these need to be made of glass, regardless of what type. Drinking whiskey from a plastic tumbler is considered a faux pas and does little for the flavor or aroma of the drink. The shape is also important, but it depends on how you’ll be drinking it, as some like it straight up and others prefer it mixed into a cocktail.
Unlike other types of alcohol that come with their own style of glass, the whiskey glass is still a gray area for some. There’s no official whiskey glass but simply variations that make them more comfortable or suitable for some drinkers, with other people having completely separate specifications for what they look for.
Why Do You Need A Special Whiskey Glass?
Of course, there is nothing stopping anyone from drinking their whiskey out of anything they like, but for those who are drinking to appreciate the taste and enjoy the sophistication that comes with it, you need the proper glass. Choosing a special whiskey glass means you have one for life that you use, and for many, it’s part of their drinking ritual.
Whiskey is a unique taste and a spirit that is savored a lot more than other distilled ones. People like to not only sip whiskey but mix it into cocktails and drink it on ice, so it’s certainly multifaceted. The best way to do this is with a quality glass that will bring the natural flavors out and not take anything away from its taste.
Another reason why people invest in whiskey glasses is for others, as it shows that you know a thing or two about whiskey. Whether you have a home bar or just invite a friend over for a drink, serving them up a nice batch of whiskey in a dedicated whiskey glass will give you an instant boost in confidence and help you establish yourself as a sophisticated individual.
The Importance Of Choosing Whiskey
Whiskey is one of the more special types of alcohol that can be enjoyed on a deeper level than just drinking it. Whiskey tasting comes down to a few different parts which is part of its bigger ritual and what makes it one of the world’s most loved beverages.
The color of the whiskey you choose is up to you completely, but there are certain things to look for in terms of its shade. Most come in a gold or yellow hue and there are some that are even brown or caramel, however, these have sometimes been adjusted with artificial coloring.
The smell of whiskey should be done before the taste, serving as a way to understand it before you even get it near your mouth. Be careful not to inhale too deeply as it can singe your nose if it’s too strong, but swirl around the glass to get an idea of its scent.
You might get different hints of oak, leather, spices, herbs, or anything that springs to mind, and there’s no right or wrong answer.
To taste the whiskey, have a small sip at first and give yourself time to appreciate it. The following sips can be diluted with a few drops of water so that you’re not getting too drunk at first while you’re trying to taste it. Slow and steady is important when drinking hard liquor like this, and you want to appreciate the whiskey for what it is.
Types Of Whiskey Glasses
There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy whiskey, and especially when you see how many different glasses there are available. These are just a few of the more popular styles and what they look like compared to the rest.
What To Avoid When Handling Whiskey
Whiskey can be a very expensive drink to purchase and so too can the glasses that go with it. There are some things to be aware of when drinking your whiskey that can ruin its flavors and impact immediately, meaning your favorite drink has gone to waste.
Overfilling The Glass
Depending on the style and size of your whiskey glass, you don’t want to fill it too high. There is the potential that the ice will melt and it will overfill or you’ll simply spill it when you go to take a sip. As a rule, try to keep it under halfway at all times.
When holding your whiskey glass you’re actually warming up the liquid inside, so try to avoid it. Either hold the glass by the base if you have nowhere to place it, or keep it down until you’re ready to take a sip. Warming the whiskey can change the taste significantly and ruin the whole glass, so you’ll just have to tip it out.
Avoid Huge Ice Chunks
The best way to drink ice with whiskey is to use an ice ball as it helps to distribute evenly without diluting the drink too much. If you invest in glasses it makes sense to protect them with these balls that prevent chipping and cracking that traditional cubed ice can cause.
Drink It How You Like
People often think that with something like whiskey you have to drink it neat or nothing else. However, it’s all a matter of personal preference so you can experiment with different things until you find a way that you enjoy.
Even if you’ve found a whiskey that you like and have enjoyed it for years, that doesn’t mean there isn’t more out there to try. If you’re investing in quality whiskey glasses you want to put them to good use, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different batches and flavors.
Whiskey Glass Maintenance
People usually invest a lot of money and time choosing the best whiskey glasses, so they’re something to be taken care of. Here are a few tips to remember when caring for your most prized drinking possession.
The Ultimate Tool For A Whiskey Lover
Anyone who enjoys a sip of whiskey or takes their love for spirits very seriously already knows just how important it is to have the right whiskey glass. For many of us, we have a glass that we prefer to drink our favorite beverage from and one that we feel enhances the flavors even more.
Modern whiskey glasses have been designed to enhance both the flavor and experience further, and they’re more affordable than ever to purchase.
Whether you have your favorite whiskey glass already and are looking to upgrade or just want to invest in something quality for your home bar, there are some great options out there. We’ve compiled a thorough buying guide that can walk you through the features you need in a whiskey glass and show you the ones that we’ve found to be the highest rated.
Even when you’re drinking the cheapest bottle of whiskey you can find, doing so in the right glass can be all that matters. Having a quality set of whiskey glasses on display in your home bar, offering something prestigious to your guests when they come to visit, or even sipping a whiskey alone as a nightcap are all made possible with these affordable but sophisticated glasses.
Whiskey will no doubt always be a favorite drink for Americans and those around the world, and regardless of where its origins truly began it’s something that will only get better with age. Give your favorite drink the vessel it deserves and invest in quality whiskey glasses that have been made specifically to hold it, and you’ll take your enjoyment of the fine spirit to a whole new level.