Why The Size Of The Rim Of Your Bourbon Glasses Actually Matters

glencairn whiskey glass
glencairn whiskey glass - 5PH/Shutterstock

To the casual drinker, fussing about what glass you drink bourbon out of can feel like overkill. It comes down to personal preference but, if we're being honest, the shape of your bourbon glass has a huge impact on how the bourbon tastes and smells. You may be perfectly comfortable with shot glasses or rocks glasses, but if you're dropping a pretty penny on a bottle of something nice you may want to consider going the extra mile to enjoy the spirit at its best.

If you lined up all the different glasses people drink bourbon out of, you'll likely notice that the shape of the glass is what differentiates them more than anything else. Each style of glass excels at something. For example, a Glencairn is known to be good for sipping whiskey neat, whereas a rocks glass is good for cocktails and mixed drinks.

An important design element in bourbon drinkware is the rim of the glass, sometimes referred to as the mouth. Some glasses have narrow rims, some wide, and others will flare with the glass condensing towards the top but then widening out again at the last minute. The size and shape of the rim affect the smell of the bourbon; a narrower rim condenses the scents together, whereas a wider rim will disperse, creating a milder nose.

Read more: The 27 Best Bourbon Brands, Ranked

Why Choose One Over The Other?

pouring whiskey glass
pouring whiskey glass - Simonkr/Getty Images

As you might imagine, glasses with more narrow rims are preferred when you're drinking bourbon neat. The reason for drinking whiskey neat is so that you can taste the drink for what it is, instead of being watered down or covered over by something citrusy or sugary. Because the goal is to highlight the whiskey itself, it makes sense that people would prefer a glass that is designed to bring all of the rich toffee and oak notes directly into their nostrils.

Some people complain that it also condenses the harsher smell of ethanol but, if you're drinking high-quality whiskey, the smell shouldn't be offensive. Harsh, maybe, but you are drinking liquor so the smell of alcohol will be present. There are some newer glass designs, such as the NEAT whiskey glass, which are flared in an attempt to concentrate the desired scents while minimizing the harshness of the ethanol.

If you're making a cocktail or mixed drink, a wider rim is going to be a better option. The smell of the drink doesn't need to be concentrated the same way and the shape of a wide-rim glass is often a better container for the increased liquid volume. If you're serving a large crowd of people and aren't planning on giving everyone a glass of your finest spirit, you can also hide a lower-quality whiskey's poor characteristics with a wide-rim glass since it will mute the scent.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.