The Best Glass For Drinking Whiskey Neat Is A Glencairn. Here's Why

You're starting to flesh out your whiskey collection and it's looking great. You've got some daily sippers, a couple of bottles for special occasions, and a handful you can pull out at a party and not feel bad if they're gone before the night is through. At this point, you're likely looking at the ceramic mugs you've been serving whiskey in and wondering if it's time to upgrade the glassware.

There are plenty of options to choose from and each design choice excels at some aspects while falling short in other ways. But if you enjoy drinking your whiskey neat, there's a clear winner — the Glencairn. You've likely seen one before even if you aren't familiar with the name. Glencairns are a little like a slimmer version of a snifter or a modern tulip glass. They have a sturdy, stemless base, a slightly bulbous body, and a tapered mouth.

All of these design choices create the perfect vessel for appreciating a whiskey's features. The stemless base may not be the most important aspect, but it's not irrelevant. It avoids the fragile aesthetic of a brittle stem and influences how you hold the glass, preventing you from heating the whiskey with your hands. The wide body helps the whiskey breathe as it sits and helps trap the aromas which are then funneled directly into your nostrils thanks to the narrow size of the rim.

The undisputed king

At this point, almost everyone familiar with whiskey knows about the Glencairn. Although it is a relatively new glass (having only been released in 2001), it has quickly become an industry staple favored by the vast majority of distillers, blenders, and connoisseurs alike. It probably helps that its design was actively influenced by several of Scotland's premier master distillers with the hopes that their input would elevate the product from passable to legendary — something they succeeded in doing, we might add.

The company behind the Glencairn, the Scottish glassware company Glencairn Crystal, had the design for the glass sitting on the shelf for 20 years before it ever saw the light of production. It wasn't until the designer's son saw the prototype on the shelf and convinced his father to revive the old project that the glass came to be.

Of course, people will have their preferences and the Glencairn is not the only glass capable of serving whiskey neat. Some of these rivals are passive competitors that have a fan base, while others are more targeted in their opposition. Take the NEAT glass, for example. NEAT is an acronym for "naturally engineered aroma technology" and the designers have set out to create the ultimate glass to serve whiskey in neat — a true Glencairn-killer. The origin story behind NEAT glasses is certainly unique, but it has yet to live up to its lofty ambitions of dethroning the top dog.