The week of the Kentucky Bourbon Affair was a week of receiving several pieces of glassware from different events. I thought I would take time and compare each glass and examine the qualities of each piece with Bourbon to determine their best use for drinking whiskey. I am going to pour an equal shot of Van Winkle Special Reserve in each glass to nose and taste each of the pour and review the results. I will start with the smallest glass and work my way up in size. The shape of the glass does make a difference in the tasting experience.

Shot Glass

The first glass is a shot glass that Rosemary got at Wilderness Trail Distillery at The Science of Bourbon program. It is a typical shot glass with the distillery name printed in black on the glass.

Nose: It is hard to nose a full glass without getting whiskey up your nose. The nose is light with only the caramel coming out.

Taste: Caramel and oak with a hint of fruit and spice.

Notes: This glass is best used a measuring glass. The other use is when doing quick shots of spirits. Not the glass of choice for doing serious tasting experiences.

Small Tasting Glass

The second glass is a tasting glass given to me while on the Heaven Hill Bourbon Terroir program visiting different warehouses owned by Heaven Hill. Of course the visits included tasting from a barrel and thus the glassware.

Nose: Much better nose with this glass. Caramel and apples with baking spice and oak.

Taste: Rich caramel and apples with baking spices. The flavor seems richer than the shot glass.

Notes: This is a very good tasting glass. It looks very durable and has a nice funnel shape to concentrate the aromas. It is a bit small but very functional.

Stemmed Tasting Glass

The third glass is the stemmed tasting glass given to attendees at Whiskey Live.

Nose: Very good nose. Rich caramel and apples with baking spices and oak.

Taste: Rich caramel and apples with some baking spice. About the same nose and taste as the Heaven Hill glass.

Notes: Another good tasting glass. My only problem with it is that it has a stem and will probably break after several uses unless treated gingerly.


The fourth glass is a Glencairn tasting glass given to me at the Michter’s Speakeasy event at the Frazier Museum.

Nose: The same as the last two glasses. They all have the same basic funnel shape channeling the aromas under the nose. Caramel apples and baking spices.

Taste: The same as with the last two glasses.

Notes: A very good tasting glass with a nice shape for nosing and a bit larger bowl for the times you want a hefty pour. I also like the sturdy nature of the glass. I have been using Glencairns for over a decade and only broken two glasses.

KDA Kentucky Bourbon Tasting Glass

The fifth glass is the new KDA Bourbon Tasting glass designed by the KDA just for Bourbon. It was given to me at the Golden Ticket reception at Bardstown Bourbon Company.

Nose: The nose is lighter but richer in caramel. The bigger bowl gives more surface area for the whiskey but the bigger mouth does not concentrate the aromas very well.

Taste: The Bourbon tastes lighter in this glass. The flavors are not as intense.

Notes: The larger mouth allows for larger ice cubes at a sacrifice of concentration of aroma. It also has what I call a “dribble lip”. The lip folds outward slightly. It is not as bad as the Neat glass which is almost impossible to drink from without it running down your chin, but it is there and I find it annoying. I guess the glass would work well as an old fashioned cocktail glass, given you a better nose than a normal glass but not what I would use for serious tastings.

Old Fashioned Glass, Curved

The sixth glass is an old fashioned glass with a slightly bowl shape given to us by Four Roses and signed by Al Young to celebrate his Fiftieth Anniversary.

Nose: Very light nose. Some caramel but the huge mouth allows the aromas to dissipate away from the nose.

Taste: Not intense. Just some sweet caramel and spice. About the same as the KDA Bourbon Glass.

Notes: This glass is made for cocktails and not the serious study of straight whiskey.

Old Fashioned Glass, Straight

The last glass is an old fashioned glass given to Rosemary at Brown-Forman at the Meet the Brown Family event at their headquarters in Louisville. The sides of this glass are straight and the mouth large.

Nose: What nose? It is apparent that this is a cocktail glass. The straight sides and large mouth do not allow the aromas to concentrate at all and a little sweetness is all I get from the nose.

Taste: About the same as the Four Roses and KDA glass. Light and sweet.

Notes: This is designed to be a cocktail glass like the Four Roses glass.

We received a wide range of glassware during the Kentucky Bourbon Affair. All of the glasses are of fine quality and serve a purpose. Not all were given to be used as a glass for a serious examination of whiskey. Of the glass received the Heaven Hill, the Whiskey Live and the Michter’s glasses are what I would use for a serious tasting experience of whiskey, neat. They are not designed for large cubes of ice so if you want to drink over the rocks, use the KDA glass. The other glasses I would use for serving cocktails, particularly with ice.

Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach