As a teenager, I developed a rather unfortunate habit of drinking warm whiskey straight from the bottle. I wasn’t an alcoholic; I was just lazy. Over time, as I began to appreciate whiskey for more than its alcohol content, I had to drink it neat. I didn’t get the same satisfaction from adding water or ice and, quite frankly, whiskey and coke made me gag.
Many whiskey drinkers would agree. They believe that adding water changes the drink completely and therefore ruins the experience. I wouldn’t quite go that far; as far as I’m concerned, if you pay over $100 for a premium whiskey, then you’re entitled to do as you please with it.
You can add water, ice, or a bag of
Skittles if you want
You can add water, ice, or a bag of Skittles if you want, others believe that a little water or ice helps bring out the complex flavors while also reducing the alcohol burn, which would otherwise make it difficult to truly enjoy the aroma and flavor of the drink.
This is the “Xbox versus PlayStation” of the whiskey world. You pick a side, make your allegiances, and fight to the death. But this war of words has a new tool and one that could change the way we enjoy whiskey. That tool is the NEAT Glass.
The NEAT Glass
NEAT stands for “Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology,” but the acronym is not just a happy accident. The glass was given its name because it was designed to help you enjoy whiskey neat. The shape of the glass directs the intense alcohol burn away from the nose, allowing you to inhale the aroma without the astringency. In other words, you don’t need ice or water. You don’t need to taint your drink with anything other than what the distiller intended.
This glass is designed as much for the casual drinker as it is for tasting bars and whiskey enthusiasts
This glass is currently being shipped all over the world and costs just £12.99 each. NEAT’s European distributor is Beaumont PPS Ltd., based in Glasgow, and they sent me a couple. I expected something flimsy, much like your average snifter. But what I got was a solid glass. I personally hate drinking from snifters — they are too dainty, too breakable. But the NEAT glass felt more like a tumbler, which was a pleasant surprise.
And it worked. You really do feel like you’re getting more from the whiskey. I even tested it on a friend and fellow whiskey lover. I poured the same drink — a 12-year-old Macallan — into two glasses: a NEAT glass and a snifter glass. After several minutes of sniffing, sipping, and deliberating (which was basically his way of stalling so that he could drink all my whiskey), he concluded that the NEAT glass contained the higher quality whiskey.
It’s not exactly the most scientific approach, but this glass is designed as much for the casual drinker as it is for tasting bars and whiskey enthusiasts. And as this product gathers momentum and gains followers, it seems like the experts appreciate it as much as casual drinkers.
Interview with the Creators
So, how did this glass come into being? What was the process behind it?
I sat down with the inventors, George Manska and Christine Crnek, to discuss their creative process and learn about the impact their new drinking vessel is having.
You described the invention of the NEAT glass as a “glass blowing mistake.” How long before you realized that you might have, inadvertently, created something special?
I brought the oddly flared glass from the glassblowing class home and placed it in a curio cabinet in the living room. About two months later I came home with a bottle of cask strength Macallan scotch and realized my regular scotch glasses were in the dishwasher. As I closed the door and turned around, the flared glass met my eye and seemed to be calling to me “use me, use me.” I did, and it changed my life forever, taking Christine and I on a ten-year quest to find the perfect, scientifically designed shape for a spirit glass.
As I closed the door and turned around, the flared glass met my eye and seemed to be calling to me “use me, use me”
It has taken a long time for the industry to move away from snifters. Why do you think this is?
Snifters utilize a huge bowl to allow more air to mix with the evaporating aromas. The problem with snifters is that more air volume just gives more room for alcohol to fill the air space. If the concentration of alcohol in the spirit is 40 percent, you can bet the concentration in the snifter is much higher, since the alcohol evaporates easiest and quickest. Since the snifter rim is much smaller than the maximum bowl diameter, you have collected all the alcohol right at your nose, and a couple of sniffs will take most of the olfactory sensors out of action, ruining your sense of smell and judgment.
If you refer to the tulip-shaped glasses, they originated from the copita, a glass borrowed over two centuries ago from the sherry producers of Spain, as Great Britain began to dominate world trade and brought Spanish sherry to England. There are three main reasons they have stuck around so long.
One, lack of forward thinking. No one ever believed it was possible to separate the alcohol aroma from the spirits’ other characteristic aromas, and it was easier just to devise ways to get around it: adding water, wafting, breathing through the mouth and nose simultaneously, etc.
Two, it was always assumed that collecting all aromas together in a tight little opening under the nose would ensure that none could escape detection, in spite of the fact that it also concentrates the nose burn.
Three, add to those [a] reluctance to change, and you can understand the tremendous inertia which contributed to the long life of copita and chimney-style glassware.
There are only three products in the NEAT range right now. Do you have plans to launch anymore?
Those three are all actually the same design, and the “Experience” glass is a limited handcrafted, mouth-blown edition, which will be discontinued when stock runs out. The “Artisan” glass is made of European crystalline and is our mainstay for the collector and true aficionado, and the “Ultimate” glass is our bar- and restaurant-grade glass. We have already begun to insert our patented science into the next evolution of beer and wine glasses. Our science is a game changer.
What is the perfect way to enjoy spirits using the NEAT glass?
If you use the same methods you have been using with the copita-style glassware you will completely miss the point of the NEAT glass. The best way is to swirl, hold glass level, and sniff at the center of the rim plane (through the nose only, mouth closed), sip, and savor. Do not add water, ice, or mixers (hence the name NEAT). The heavier character aromas can be detected without alcohol interference in the center, and you can pick up the lighter aromas as you move the nose closer to the rim. Alcohol flows over the rim, so right at the rim edge is the best place to evaluate light aromas.
The glass will tell you the quality of any spirit
if used properly
Is NEAT available all over the world? If not, do you have plans to launch it globally?
We are truly excited about the reception of the glass all over the world. Not only are we selling to restaurants, bars, and their suppliers, but also to the major spirits competitions who use it exclusively as their official judging glass. NEAT works for all spirits, because it’s all about handling high alcohol content. It makes no difference if you love whiskey, scotch, tequila, rum, gin, cognac, or after dinner drinks: NEAT will greatly enhance your personal enjoyment. We have distribution in the UK, Denmark, Taiwan, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, and the Caribbean, and are actively searching for capable experienced distributors in other countries, including Europe and Japan.
What has been your biggest market for the NEAT glass?
The rum and tequila markets love the NEAT glass, and we are also the official glass of the Irish Whiskey Awards. Craft distillers of all spirits in the United States are using our glass in their tasting rooms and selling them in their gift shops. Much of the distribution is done online, and you only have to read the comments to see what a fantastic success we have achieved.
Are you working on any other products?
In addition, we are developing beer and wine glasses to round out our product line. All our products are based on science to coax out the best display of aromas for proper evaluation of the beverage and maximize the enjoyment of drinking like never before.
What’s your favorite tipple to enjoy in the NEAT glass?
George: It depends on my mood. Sometimes I love to sit by the fireplace and savor a great cognac, and on other days, I enjoy a great Speyside scotch or delicate Genever. I drink all spirits NEAT, slightly cooler than room temperature, and the NEAT glass lets me savor the changes that occur as spirit opens up.
Christine: In the winter I lean toward a smoky Islay or a nutty sherry, in the summer I love a Speyside, like Macallan, or a barrel strength bourbon.
You can learn more about the NEAT Glass by visiting the official website at TheNEATGlass.com or TheNEATGlass.uk.
*With thanks to George Manska, Christina Crnek, and Gustavo Gonzalez at Beaumont PPS Ltd.