Whiskey and bourbon glasses with ice

Are Whiskey & Bourbon Glasses The Same? Drawing The Fine Line

Whiskey and bourbon glasses with ice

Once you've fallen into the hobby of collecting top-of-the-line whiskey, only time will tell when your taste in spirits will tug on your pocket strings. This could also mean investing in finding the right glassware for your drinks. Since drinking whiskey has a lot to do with the experience than just the flavor, it's essential to differentiate a whiskey glass from a bourbon glass, and figure out if the right glass truly matters when drinking hard liquor.

Technically, bourbon glasses and whiskey glasses are the same. But according to glass manufacturers, there's a particular structure and several other components that best complement each drink's quality and contribute to a different sensory experience for every drinker.

Things to Remember When Choosing the Right Glass for Your Whiskey

It's important to note that finding the right glass can play a massive role in the way you drink your bourbon or scotch. Here are the things you should consider when finding the right whiskey glass that works best for you.

It's in the proof

One that every connoisseur-in-the-making should know is that "all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon". Whiskey is produced in several parts of the world, with quite a few styles that have become a global standard in drinking whiskey. Some of which include Scotch, Irish whiskey, and American whiskey, also known as bourbon. So technically bourbon is a whiskey, but scotch whiskey is not bourbon.

Whiskey tasters nosing whiskey during a whiskey tasting tour

Bourbon in itself is a unique liquor since Americans from Kentucky found a way to make corn (51% of it) an ideal element in their liquor. American distilleries have made it "bourbon law" that bourbon must be stored in new charred oak barrels, distilled to no more than 160 proof, then placed into the barret at 125. In contrast, the whiskey must be placed in oak barrels but doesn't have to be new or charred. Meanwhile, distilling whisky should not be more than 190 proof. 

All the curves and edges count for something

Since whiskey is a complex and yet refined type of liquor that's gone through several processes, drinking it from just any type of glass is not the best way. The right glass to drink it from makes a huge difference, at least from the eyes of the master distillers.

Luxurious whiskey glass with a thick base and intricate details.

Whiskey glasses and bourbon glasses rely on structure and its rims to help the drink’s five-star quality come out. The structure of the glass has a thick bottom and helps the alcohol in some breathing room. The swirling of the whiskey in the glass has an impact when it comes to controlling the liquid's aromatics. This step helps increase the sensory experience, which is excellent for those who are just getting into the wonders of whiskey drinking. 

Let your senses lead the way

The way a bourbon glass feels in your hand can affect the whiskey experience. Unique bourbon glasses appeal more to a drinker's personality and style. It's no surprise that whiskey is a fancy beverage and can do a lot for a drinker's senses. Experts say the Glencairn glass is the gold standard choice for bourbon simply because its classic exterior and enhancing interiors have the power to boost a particular fragrance that is best delivered by the glass's shape.

A rocks whiskey glass with a thick base for bourbon.

However, if you're the type of person who determines hard liquor's power through the smoothness, then a shot glass for your bourbon may be a better preference. Since bourbon is a very straight forward drink, placing it in a shot glass would have the aroma go straight to your nose because the alcohol vapors would have no direct transmitter.

Heat transfer matters

Heat affects the taste and flavor of your whiskey. Aside from knowing how to store a bottle of whiskey, consider the body heat being transmitted through the different types of whiskey glasses, such as between a rocks glass and a Glencairn glass. The latter has less heat transferred as it's commonly held with two fingers, while the rocks glass requires support from the corners of your palm, thus passing on more heat to the glass.

Variants of Whiskey Glasses

A rule of thumb in whiskey drinking is knowing that the glasses are made with delicate hands and with pure intention in mind. There are many kinds of whiskey glasses, and although one may suit specific cocktails or liquors, each has been made differently to support the senses. Let's take a look at a few popular variants.

Whiskey Tasting Glass

The go-to glass for whiskey tastings aims to establish an interactive drinking experience through sipping, particularly for beginners. Its form resembles a balloon but is slightly curved to a narrow tulip-like opening. This aids in directing the aroma outward and aerating the whiskey. 

Whiskey served on a classic Glencairn whiskey glass.

Whiskey tasting glasses like Snifter glass and the Glencairn glass boast a low sip volume since they're both best for public events and gatherings. The difference lies in their weight and the drinks best served in them. Snifter glasses are a bit lighter compared to the Glencairn glass. French liquors like brandy and cognac are best served in a Snifter, while American whiskey, also known as bourbon, is the most ideal in a Glencairn glass.

Rocks Glass 

Also known as the Old Fashioned Glass, this whiskey glass is the usual choice for serving whiskey. It can hold 7 to 12 oz. and is ideal for whiskey cocktails, whiskey neat, or on the rocks. With its wide brim, mixing ingredients or adding ice can be done with ease. It also makes it faster for you to finish your whiskey, thanks to the transparent shine the glass has, making every drink visually appealing.

A tastefully designed rocks glass with premium whiskey and ice, served with fruits on the side. 

Another advantage of the rocks glass is how it passes the ice ball test. When placing food-safe ice balls in the rock glass, the glass's shape will guide the ice ball around the bottom, unlocking the more complex aromatics of the whiskey. A cool and smooth concoction gives you whiskey on the rocks without the typical dilution.

Shot Glass

This one's for the brave who can take small amounts of whiskey on their feet and quick on the dot. This type of glass cannot hold ice, so in high-volume bars, this would be a great tool to serve those who aren't planning to stay long while also saving some expensive liquor. Shot glasses also come in two variants, the shooter glass and the cordial glass.

Four chilled shotglass

Shooter glasses are comfortable to hold since it's light and is ideal for creative whiskey shots that require a garnish. Cordial glasses are best for tough spirits and have a more fancy design than their small stem and base.

Highball Glass 

With the right height, a solid base, and straight sides, this tall glass can hold ice and 8 to 12 oz of whiskey cocktail like a 7 and 7. The height of the highball glass plays a part in preventing spillage and increasing balance. You’ll be sipping from this glass more frequently since it's a casual drink best enjoyed when sitting at the bar. Apart from the sugary addition, this glass's height tends to remind you of a glass of water, triggering you to stay hydrated as often as you can.

A refreshing whiskey cocktail served in a highball glass with ice and mint

The Glassware Matters 

The minutiae of a good spirit are of prime importance. Every whiskey is made differently, which means each kind is blended at a certain level of intricacy. The same applies to the glassware that holds these pristine spirits. Finding the right kind of whiskey glass only bodes well for your sensory experience. 

Leave us a comment below if you have other questions about the whiskey glass and bourbon glass you’ve been eyeing on.



  • I appreciate you informing us that all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon since bourbon is an American type of whiskey. My friend enjoys having a glass of whiskey now and then, so I was thinking of inviting him to a bourbon tour as a birthday present. I’ll be sure to look into any bourbon trails available for us to go to. https://www.centralkentuckytours.com/


    Anna Collins

  • What about clay as medium rather than glass I’m looking for shapes that work clay can be the bomb!!


    Lynn Warnicke

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