The Real Reason Whiskey Glasses Are Shaped Like Tulips

Variety is the spice of life. That's why every imbiber over the age of 21 should keep company that not only appreciates the humble satisfaction of a round of shots at a dim dive, but also the indulgent pleasure of a fine spirit sipped — in a perfect world — beside a crackling fire. As we hurdle toward the colder months, whiskey and Scotch drinkers across the land will be the first to secure bottles of amber-hued liquor with which to warm their bones. 

Some may be content to pour a thumb or two of Jameson on the rocks, but many others will head to distilleries or uncork heritage bottles reserved for special occasions — and they won't be reaching for a standard lowball glass. Instead, you may be swirling spirits around in a glass whose gently tapered hourglass shape resembles that of a tulip. There's actually a reason why these glasses are the superior vessel for your next sip of whiskey.

Release the nose

Not every Glencairn glass (which is a special version of a copita glass) is exactly alike, but they all share the same tulip-like shape. According to experts polled by Kate Dingwall of, Glencairn glasses are perfect for bringing out the flavors and aromas of whiskey and Scotch. Nicole Ross, the head bartender of The Chester restaurant in New York City, tells Dingwall that her favorite whiskey vessel is a Glencairn. "It really lets you fully appreciate the notes you get on the nose and the layering of the flavors," she says. 

Toronto bar owner Robin Goodfellow agrees that the Glencairn is the ideal whiskey glass, telling Dingwall that the tapered mouth "concentrates the smell when you nose it," while the stem "removes any unintentional heat to the spirit." If your favorite part of whiskey is the aroma, the Glencairn will give you the best sipping experience. A purveyor of the Glencairn Whisky Glass suggests using it for single malt whisky, Irish whiskey, and single barrel bourbon alike. 

Tulips for every spirit

At the end of the day, you can drink your beverage of choice out of whatever glass, cup, or carton best suits your lifestyle. But if you want to earn points with all the beer, wine, and spirit purists out there, you might find it useful to know the scientifically ideal vessels for your favorite drinks. Oddly enough, whiskey, Scotch, and bourbon aren't the only tipples that shine as their most aromatic selves in a tulip-shaped glass. 

According to Comité Champagne, a tulip glass optimizes the scent and carbonation of bubbly. A non-tapered tall flute also prolongs the lifespan of the bubbles in champagne or sparkling wine, whereas a saucer-shaped coupe glass invented by a Benedictine monk in 17th century England, takes the "bubbly" out of bubbly, says Chic & Tonic.

In a roundup of top beer glasses, the tulip-shaped glass was lauded as the best vessel for craft brews for the way it shows off the scents and flavors of the beverage. We're noticing a pattern here: Tulip-shaped glasses seem to showcase the subtleties of pretty much every alcoholic beverage. If you don't drink alcohol, we imagine zero-proof drinks like kombucha and sparkling cider would benefit from a tulip vessel for the same reasons.