So, you want to experience your spirit in a quality tasting glass but you’re not sure about dropping major bank on something like a Norlan Glass? Perhaps you’ve been spying those Glencairn Crystal Whiskey glasses and you’re working on a final decision. Pull up a chair, let’s talk about sipping spirits.
I’ve been a huge fan of Glencairn glassware since the day I started discovering the complexity of tequila. Most of our early reviews where done in glencairn tasting glasses, so I’ve got no beef with them. They beat most of the basic snifter glassware because they really helping split the ethanol from its rich aromas. Then, a few years ago one of our community members sent me two Norlan glasses in the mail. Why? Because he wanted us to test them out on our Youtube show. Imagine that, he sent us Norlan glasses to try before he bought his own. So nice (for us!)
The Cost. Let’s start with the big question, how much? A pair of Norlan glasses will run you about USD $50. That is about double the price of a set of glencairn glasses (a set of four is going to cost you $40). Yikes!
The Design. Glencairn have a magically pretty design while the Norlan glasses design is cool, albeit a bit hollow (literally) so the foot is a bit more delicate than that of the Glenciarn competitor, giving it a “I paid $50 for these?” feeling. Put them down on a solid surface and you may wince a bit. They seem to hold up, but still…a bit scary when you drop $50 on a couple glasses.
The Taste. The Norlan Glassware goal was to apply science to the design in new ways to create a better tasting experience than all the rest. Guess what? They pulled it off. Turns out, that glass design was more the centerpiece of well executed science than simple style points. There is no doubt the designers went for practical needs vs. simple beauty.
How Does It Impacts Taste? While I love science you can learn more about it right on Norlan’s website. Forget science when you’re talking about the taste of your spirit. Norlan’s glass design mutes down the higher potent ethanol which rises from your glass as you nose it and take a sip. In most glassware the ethanol hits your nose like a train and overshadows some of the lovely aromas of your spirit. But, we’re talking about taste right? Well, the sensation of taste is very much centered around the aroma. Yep, taste is mostly smell, now there is some science for you!
The Norlan glassware focuses the aroma of your spirit (and thus its taste) by filtering away (by science) the harsher ethanol aroma. Most importantly, it’s easy to see it happen in side-by-side tastings with a Norlan Glass and any beautiful spirit. Science aside, my senses are telling me “yes”, it works and I trust them more than a laminated slick saying “we’re awesome, buy us.” The bottom line is simple: the Norlan glass removes the more intense ethanol leaving behind the beautiful aromas of the base spirit and that’s a win. Glencairn does this effectively, but Norlan does it masterfully.
We taste tested a $120 bottle of Alma Extra Anejo with the Norlan glass and compared it to the Glencairn (see below) and that was the last day we used those old whiskey tasting glasses on our show. The biggest downfall being that all your spirit tastings must be done with the Norlan glass as it changes the profile so much. Comparing one spirit in Norlan against a different spirit brand in the same category using a Glencairn is going throw off your taste analysis.
Norlan keeps your sipping pure and gets rid of the distracting ethanol. However, if you are tasting or sipping on high proof spirits there is no doubt you’ll still get the impact on the tongue from the spirit as it evaporates quickly and leaves a tickling burning sensation. However, the Norlan glassware gives you a mechanism to appreciate its more subtle aromas such as molasses, clove, vanilla or whatever other crazy flavors the intense spirit is supposed to present to your mouth. Try it in a tasting with gin, whiskey or tequila. Try breaking down the flavors of Mezcal too!
Blind Tasting with Norlan Glassware?
If you are performing a blind tasting analysis for truly unbiased opinions, we noticed Norlan has a new Norlan Whiskey Glass VAILD which is coated in a matte black exterior. A must have for blind tastings!
Of course, the downfall to the VAILD series of glassware is the cost: USD $58 for a pair of Norlan glasses. But, if this is your profession it’s worth the investment. For the rest of us, it’s your standard Norlan Glassware for the win.