The appreciation and enjoyment of savouring a good single malt whisky has become increasingly popular over the past few decades. Previously, whisky drinkers were mainly concerned with the blended variety, while malts were the reserve of only a few devotees. This has all changed since the 1990s, and a significant growth in the interest of malt whisky can be seen. This has, in turn, resulted in a wide range of different glassware being produced, and the choice of which engraved whisky glass is best has also been subject to much debate among connoisseurs.
The water of life
Whisky lovers may agree that the enjoyment of a good whisky relies heavily on four important receptacles: the cask (where the whisky develops its character and age), the bottle (where the style and design can add anticipation), the glass (which carries the liquid and releases its flavours), and the palate (probably the most important of all). Taking a sip of a good malt whisky, it’s easy to see why it’s called the ‘water of life’, with each whisky individual in flavour, taste, and aroma.
A Gaelic word meaning ‘cup’, the quaich was the first known drinking vessel for whisky. Resembling a shallow bowl with handles or ‘lugs’ on each side, the quaich is believed to have made its first appearance in the 1500s. Originally wooden, it was found that by using wood staves of different varieties, patterns could be created from the various light and dark hues of the wood.
By the late 1600s, quaichs were being embellished with silver mounts and lugs, until eventually they evolved into wholly silver vessels. Engraving staves onto the silver became very popular and designs grew into intricate patterns.
By the 1800s, glass manufacturing had become a successful commercial enterprise and glassware production had taken off. The quaich lost its monopoly as the tumbler became the vessel of choice.
Whisky lovers can now choose from a large range of tumblers and whisky glasses, and for around the last 25 years, the choice has grown as the importance of a good tasting glass has become increasingly important for whisky experts and aficionados everywhere.
A comprehensive experience
Whisky tasting has become such a popular pastime that it is usually considered to have the most knowledgable fan-base of all spirits. Tasting notes analyse every aspect and nuance of flavour, deconstructing it and exploring every constituent part to discover how the liquid’s characteristics mature during production. Whiskies are tasted with and without water to compare how the whisky performs. The same can now be said about the drinking glass itself, as varying shapes and sizes are said to have an impact on flavour and aroma. Taste tests are now made on the same whisky but sipped from different glasses to see how taste varies.
In the future, we may see an engraved whisky glass bearing not just suggestions on whether to add water, but the age, tasting notes or specific peaty flavour of a particular malt whisky for which the glass is designed. Until then, whisky lovers everywhere can have fun tasting and comparing whiskies for themselves.