Which glass is best for serious whiskey drinkers? It’s complicated, so we’ve segmented the story; Part 1, Rise of the Tulip, Part 2 Ethanol Effects on Sensory Perception, and Part 3, Modern Science Changes the Way the World Drinks.
Part 3: Modern Science Changes the Way the World Drinks
Glass shape controls olfactory perception and may affect social attitudes. At least 20 years of sensory science is still being ignored by the spirits industry. Application of sensory, physical, and chemical sciences definitely improves spirits drinking enjoyment, consumer perception, and has potential to improve quality.
Science Addresses Problems Using Tulips: The tulip has required much adaptation in drinking procedures (see Part 1) to avoid pungent, nose-numbing ethanol. These procedures are taught by industry executives, brand ambassadors, expert credential certification courses and hospitality college curriculum courses. Procedure is followed by scientific rebuttal:
- Don’t swirl. Swirling is the “engine” that powers evaporation. Swirling breaks surface tension and releases aromas, that’s exactly why wine drinkers swirl. Narrow bowls restrict swirling, narrow rims restrict larger mass molecules from reaching the rim for detection. Wide rims, short height, and fat bowls means better swirling.
- Breathe through mouth and nose simultaneously. Mouth intake is air only, no spirit aromas; the nose detects aromas. Lower inhale velocities result in lower ethanol on the nose, but also fewer aromas. If ethanol wasn’t present, inhaling through nose only with (mouth closed) maximizes olfactory aroma exposure. Close the mouth, use a glass which does not concentrate ethanol at the nose to get the best experience.
- Add a little water. Most common spirits are 40% ABV (ethanol alcohol by volume). Water and character molecules make up 60% of the spirit volume. Ethanol is the most volatile component and evaporates the quickest. Water has a higher surface tension and shuts down all aroma evaporation, giving the false impression that it “opened up” the spirit because pungency is gone. Further complicating the issue, blenders add a lot of water (more than 1oz water to 1oz of spirit) to prevent nose numbing and avoid distracting pungency – that high ratio changes the spirit’s aroma profile. All because no one will search for a better glass.
- Don’t smell ortho-nasally. Although many avoid ortho-nasal to escape pungency with tulips, it does alleviate anxiety by confirming the sample is safe to ingest, and also sets expectations for the palate tasting.
- Repeatedly waft aromas toward nose as glass approaches nose to acclimate. Wafting or “shaking hands” gradual introduction may acclimate to pungency, butoes not decrease ethanol olfactory effects, and sense of smell stealthily continues to degrade with every sniff from tulips without warning.
These “Crutches” to avoid ethanol pungency would never exist had tulip suitability been questioned early-on, but what were the alternatives? Worse than tulips, snifters are the ideal glass for “huffing” ethanol for a quick “high.” The centuries old open-rim Scottish quaich (pronounced quake), and the Oaxaca gourd cuppa dissipated ethanol well, as do martini and cocktail glasses. Within traditional glass shapes a large, wide mouth tumbler is best, and swirls well. The only shape ever scientifically engineered is NEAT, specifically designed to divert ethanol and enhance aroma detection, identification, and discrimination.
NEAT (Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology) Science: NEAT employs Graham’s Law of Gaseous Diffusion to separate pungent, low mass ethanol from high mass character flavor aromas. Passing the aromas through an orifice (neck) increases ethanol separation and dispersion. Flare controls dispersion rate. Yellow (ethanol) is bad on the nose, Orange (character aromas) is good. Other benefits include:
- Wide bowl, engineered to produce better swirling and aroma release
- Rim size places nostrils at rim plane center with lips on rim, avoiding ethanol. No more tiny rim/nose bumps.
- Short height gets nose closer to source of evaporation.
- Orifice “neck” forces aroma closer together to create dispersal and separation.
- Large, flared rim controls ethanol dissipation to the rim, greatly reducing pungency, displaying more intense, ethanol-free flavor/character aromas for critical evaluation and identification. No more pungency or nose-burn.
- Blenders no longer have to alter the aroma profile to avoid pungency.
- Elite version includes heavy base heat sink for improved temperature control and handling.
The necessary “hump” in the glass coupled with the wide rim flare can dribble if not mastered (similar to martini glass), a small price to pay for the greater benefit of enjoying neat spirits without pungent, nose-numbing ethanol. Spirits buyers seldom detect subtle differences in tulip glasses. With NEAT, aged, rare, and cask strength spirits are at their best. NEAT is the Official Judging Glass of over 45+ International spirits judging competitions annually. Since 2013, 200,000+ spirits judged, 80,000+ quality medals awarded.
Summary: Industry and consumer benefits are positive and meaningful as NEAT (1) embraces social responsibility by dispelling unhealthy attitudes long reinforced by tulips which concentrate ethanol, (2) addresses gender equity, (3) contributes to quality improvement, and (4) raises consumers’ product perception level by unmasking what hides behind ethanol. Time for a cool change. Being a club member has its advantages, and serious whiskey drinkers need the best diagnostic glass. Serious whiskey drinkers can be both.
George F Manska, CR&D, Arsilica, Inc. Engineer, inventor of the NEAT glass, sensory science researcher, entrepreneur.
Mission: Replace myth and misinformation with scientific truth through consumer education.