Some of you you may have already noticed a few bloggers recently reviewing Villeroy & Boch whisky glasses. This is no coincidence as the US branch of this German company also approched me and asked if I was interested in reviewing their whisky glassware. I accepted the offer and a week later two sets of two glasses were delivered to Dramming Towers.
My workhorse glass for tasting notes is the Classic Malt glass, but I also have Glencairn and Bugatti nosing glasses in my cupboard, so I decided to take the opportunity to compare them all in big head to head nosing session. I awarded up to ten points for “look and feel”, initial nose and persistence of the nose for seven different whiskies.
A rather well-known nosing glass made by Rastal. It is 16 cm in height with a comparatively high stem, a small and narrow bell and a lip with a slight outward tip. It is promoted by a range of distilleries including Glenlivet. At a price of €4 per piece it is quite affordable.
This glass became famous by its promotion through Diageo’s Classic Malts range, but is not exclusive to the company. With 15.5 cm it is slighly shorter than the Bugatti but the stem is shorter and its slightly tapered bell is significantly bigger. The price is comparable to the Bugatti.
A glass that seeks to combine the shape of a nosing glass with the sturdiness of a whisky tumbler. For this reason the glass has become quite popular in recent years, especially on whisky festivals. It is 11.5 cm high, the bell is rounded but has a straight lip. It costs abut 50% more than the Bugatti and Classic Malt glasses.
Its shape is similar to the Classic Malt glass but with a height of 20.3 cm and a diameter of 8 cm its volume is massive compared to the other three glasses. In fact it resembles a white wine glass more than a whisky glass. The tapering of the lip is rather pronounced. With €17 per piece it is the most expensive glass in this comparison.
With a bell sized and shaped very similarly to the V&B single malt glass, this tumbler looks very impressive. The glass is 13.5 cm high. Its bell is less rounded but visibly tapered. Because of the solid bottom it weighs more than the other glasses, but is not so much heavier than the Glencairn nevertheless. The price is €16 per glass.
Look and Feel
Bugatti – The proportions of bell and stem look a bit out of shape, the weight is concentrated on the stem. Handling is easy but feels a bit uncomfortable – 4 points
Classic Malt – A well-propotioned shape and a good balance in the hand. The glass of the bell feels a wee bit too thick, tough. – 7 points
Glencairn – The design is very unique but also very practical. The short sturdy stem gives the glass the stability of a tumbler while you are not forced to hold the glass by the bell. – 8 points
V&B Single Malt – The sheer size of the glass already gives it a luxurious aura. The proportions look fine but the weight is concentrated on the bell, so the glass should be handled with care. – 8 points
V&B Single Grain – This tumbler has a nice design and looks rather elegant due to the tapered shape. It weighs less than you would expect from a glass of such a size and it rests comfortably in your hand. But you need to hold it where the whisky is. – 7 points
I compared the nosing properties of these five glasses with 2 cl drams of seven different whiskies
- Simple Scotch blend – Johnnie Walker Red Label
- Light single malt – Glenfiddch 12 yo
- Rich bourbon cask malt – Whiskies of Scotland 20 yo silent still vatting
- Single grain – North British 1962 48 yo Whisky Agency
- Sherried single malt – Strathisla 30 yo
- Bourbon – Eagle Rare 10 yo
- Peated single malt – Laphroaig Quarter Cask
1. Simple Scotch Blend
Bugatti – Initial 3 – Persistent 3 - Total 6
Classic Malt – Initial 2 – Persistent 4 – Total 6
Glencairn – Initial 4 – Persistent 4 – Total 8
V&B Single Malt – Initial 4 – Persistent 3 – Total 7
V&B Single Grain – Initial 3 – Persistent 3 – Total 6
2. Light Single Malt
Bugatti – Initial 4 – Persistent 4 - Total 8 (emphasis on caramel)
Classic Malt – Initial 6 – Persistent 6 - Total 12 (emphasis on apple)
Glencairn – Initial 5 – Persistent 6 - Total 11
V&B Single Malt – Initial 5 – Persistent 6 - Total 11
V&B Single Grain – Initial 4 – Persistent 5 - Total 9 (emphasis on lemon)
3. Rich Bourbon Cask Malt
Bugatti – Initial 5 – Persistent 4 - Total 9 (emphasis on caramel)
Classic Malt – Initial 4 – Persistent 6 - Total 10 (emphasis on banana)
Glencairn – Initial 5 – Persistent 5 - Total 10 (emphasis on nuts)
V&B Single Malt – Initial 4 – Persistent 7 - Total 11 (emphasis on orange)
V&B Single Grain – Initial 4 – Persistent 7 - Total 11 (emphasis on orange)
4. Single Grain
Bugatti – Initial 6 – Persistent 6 - Total 12
Classic Malt – Initial 7 – Persistent 7 - Total 14
Glencairn – Initial 6 – Persistent 7 - Total 13 (emphasis on caramel)
V&B Single Malt – Initial 5 – Persistent 8 - Total 13 (emphasis on orange)
V&B Single Grain – Initial 6 – Persistent 9 - Total 15 (emphasis on grapefruit)
5. Sherried Single Malt
Bugatti – Initial 6 – Persistent 7 - Total 13
Classic Malt – Initial 6 – Persistent 7 - Total 13 (emphasis on toffee)
Glencairn – Initial 7 – Persistent 8 - Total 15
V&B Single Malt – Initial 5 – Persistent 9 - Total 14 (emphasis on orange)
V&B Single Grain – Initial 5 – Persistent 7 - Total 12 (emphasis on orange)
Bugatti – Initial 7 – Persistent 6 - Total 13 (emphasis on caramel)
Classic Malt – Initial 7 – Persistent 8 - Total 15
Glencairn – Initial 7 – Persistent 7 - Total 14
V&B Single Malt – Initial 6 – Persistent 7 - Total 13
V&B Single Grain – Initial 6 – Persistent 9 - Total 15
7. Peated Single Malt
Bugatti – Initial 6 – Persistent 6 - Total 12 (emphasis on caramel)
Classic Malt – Initial 6 – Persistent 7 - Total 13 (emphasis on liquorice)
Glencairn – Initial 7 – Persistent 8 - Total 15 (emphasis on cloves)
V&B Single Malt – Initial 5 – Persistent 6 - Total 11 (emphasis on lemon zest)
V&B Single Grain – Initial 4 – Persistent 5 - Total 9
I would like to publish two different overall rankings.
The Best Glasses For Nosing Whisky
This ranking is based on the “Persistent” scores only because this is what ultimatley a nosing glass is for, to deliver the best possible nose for your whisky. You don’t usually knock back your drams, so the initial performance becomes less important in favour of the ability of the glass to sustain the nose of a whisky over a longer period of time.
Villeroy & Boch Single Malt- 46 points
Villeroy & Boch Single Grain- 45 points
Glencairn – 45 points
Classic Malt – 45 points
Bugatti – 36 points
The Best Overall Scoring Whisky Glasses
When taking into account the “look and feel” and the initial performance of the nose, things look a bit different:
Glencairn – 94 points
Classic Malt – 90 points
Villeroy & Boch Single Malt- 88 points
Villeroy & Boch Single Grain- 84 points
Bugatti – 77 points
1. Glasses are specialized
The first ranking may look as if there is not much of a difference between the glasses apart from the Bugatti. But the results for the different types of whisky show remarkable differences. The Villeroy & Boch single malt glass is at its best with richly flavoured older and unpeated whiskies while it is not really worth the extra money for peated malts. To be honest I have no explanation for the medicore peformance with peated malts.
I was quite amazed of the overall performance of the Villeroy & Boch tumbler. It really shows its strength with a single grain. The good bourbon performance may well be related to this. Bourbon would classify under Scottish law as a single grain because it is made mostly from unmalted grains. But also for the other unpeated whisky types, the tumber does surprisingly well.
Glencairn and Classic Malt glasses live up to their reputations. Some whiskies perform better in the Glencairn, others do better in the Classic Malt. It may look like the Glencairn has a slight edge on peated malts, but this has to be examined in more detail.
2. Glasses have aroma preferences
On some whisky/glass combinations an emphasis on a distinctive aroma can be made out. The Villeroy & Boch glasses tend to enhance the citrus notes, especially orange. I have not checked it out yet, but whiskies known for their orange flavours (Dalmore?, Hazelburn?) may taste particularly good from these glasses.
The Glencairn glass seems to favour nutty and spicy notes, while the Bugatti is stronger on caramel. The Classic Malt glass seems to be a mixed bag in this respect with a tendency towards fruit.
3. Size does matter
With most types of whisky used for this comparison, the Bugatti glass performed a the bottom of the list. The volume seems to be just too small to build up a strong nose. It is not really doing badly, but there are better alternatives that are quite as affordable as well.
The Villeroy & Boch glasses did not do too well in the initial phase of the nose. Because of their big volume they need a few minutes until the nose has fully built up. But then they manage to sustain a strong nose over a long period of time.
The Glencairn and Classic Malt Glasses are perfect for everyday dramming. Neither has real weaknesses, and both are quite affordable. The Glencairn has a plus in being very sturdy, but if you prefer stemmed glasses, the Classic Malt glasses are not too fragile either.
The Villeroy & Boch Single Grain / Lowlands tumbler is very hard to beat for single grains and bourbon but does quite well for other unpeated whiskies too. If you prefer the “handfeel” of a tumbler to the fragility of a nosing glass but don’t want to miss out on nosing pleasure, this glass is a real alternative.
The Villeroy & Boch Single Malt glass finally is the perfect choice for quietly relaxing with those “special occasion” malts that want to be sipped by the drop. For larger tastings where you need many glasses they are just too expensive and fragile.
Buy the Villeroy & Boch glasses at their US Shop: