Guide to Drinking Whiskey - Harvey Ltd

Guide to Drinking Whiskey

What Kind of Glass Should I Use to Drink Whisky?

Nosing and tasting start with the choice of the perfect drinking vessel. The well-known broad tumbler glass makes drinking easy and is the suitable type of glass for whisky on the rocks. If you like mixing whisky with ginger ale, cola, or soda water, you may prefer a tall glass. But if you’re looking for the finer nuances in flavor and aroma, you may want to try a special tasting glass: tapered on the top, rounded at the bottom. In this type of glass, sometimes referred to as tulip or copita, whisky can be well swirled, and the narrow opening prevents aromas from escaping too quickly. Such tasting glasses can be found in different shapes and sizes, with or without a stem. Some even have glass lids for further aroma preservation. Pour about an ounce into the glass, swirl the whisky slowly, and take the time to enjoy its color.

Nosing Whiskey

Smell the whisky by keeping your nose about half an inch to an inch above the glass. Note the difference between nosing with your mouth closed and open. Take little sniffs like a rabbit, and breathe out through your mouth. A thorough sniff with your nose deep in the glass will cause the alcohol to anesthetize your olfactory receptors and you won’t taste or smell much for the next ten to fifteen minutes.

Tasting Whiskey

Observing, nosing, tasting, and experiencing the mouthfeel gives us a range of ways to experience and enhance the enjoyment of whisky. Tasting is an important part of this appreciation and deserves to be done slowly. Have a tiny sip. Don’t swallow the liquid immediately but allow it to wash over each corner of your mouth. You will recognize sweet, salty, bitter, and sour flavors, not all of the same intensity. When you are not accustomed to strong liquor containing 40 percent ABV or more, you may want to take a sip of water first, then a sip of whisky—you’ll detect flavors and aromas but avoid the burn of the alcohol.

Shot Glass

The shot glass was made popular by many a Western movie. Its name first appears in a book from 1913, written by a Dr. Jehu Z. Powell, titled History of Cass County Indiana: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. A full whiskey barrel on a railway platform in New Waverly, Indiana, was ready to be picked up by a saloon owner. A fanatical proponent of total abstinence from drinking shot a hole in the barrel to empty the contents. The amber-red liquid poured out of the hole, and all the publican got was an empty barrel. Since then, the customers would ask for “a shot of red eye.” Those who prefer to down a whiskey in one go will want to use this type of glass.

Highball Glass

The highball is a tall glass used mostly for cocktails. Its name has become synonymous with mixed drinks. Its origins, however, are not entirely clear: one source mentions the railroads, where the word highball was used for a signal that meant “clear track ahead.”


A tumbler is a wide, heavy glass shorter than a highball. The original design sported a pointy bottom, so the glass couldn’t stand upright on its own and had to be emptied before it was put down. Many contemporary tumblers have a flat bottom but try the following: place an empty tumbler on its side. If it rolls back into an upright position, it is the genuine product. This is the glass loved by those who prefer to drink their whisky on the rocks. During the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival cocktail gala, each distiller gives its signature tumbler to the attendees. You get an empty goody bag to carry all the tumblers you collect.

Nosing Glass or Snifter

Originally the nosing glass, or snifter, was a wide glass on a stem with a round tapered body, meant for the enjoyment of brandy or cognac. Its special design allows the liquid to breathe while the aromas assemble in the upper part of the glass. Various versions are available; the one used most often for whisky is the Glencairn glass, developed in 2001. The British manufacturing company that pioneered it received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2006. It is a sturdy type of glass, beloved among festival organizations and distillers alike, some of whom may choose to have their logo etched on. Distillery shops usually sell them for under $10.


Quaichs are Scottish shallow drinking cups or bowls with two flat handles. They come in wood, earthenware, glass, pewter, and silver, sometimes with a logo etched on the inside. Traditionally the quaich is used for ceremonial purposes.

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