Upon arrival I was also treated to fine page of additional info which highlights the "NEAT" glass as being brand new to the U.K. and Irish market, hand blown and describes it as "the ultimate whisky tasting glass". A pretty high claim if you ask me.
The secret, apparently, is in the shape. The word "NEAT" stands for "Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology" and refers to the patented shape that is suggested to contribute to the "new whisky nosing experience."
The science behind this claim is that the neck of the glass concentrates the whisky whilst the flares disperse the ethanol over the rim thus eliminating the alcoholic burn in the centre of the "sweet spot". The diagram below, taken from the "NEAT" glass website illustrates this beautifully.
The "NEAT" glass has won numerous awards including the Editor's Pick Award of Excellence 2013 in the Beverage Industry News Awards whilst also being the official glass for many competitions including the SIP Awards International Spirits Competition.
In order to examine this glass appropriately I felt it only fair to compare it directly with the one glass that it possibly trying to replace...The Glencairn.
Furthermore I also decided that it would only be right to compare the glasses over different styles of whisky so for this test I decided to compare the two glasses, firstly, over a cask strength (55% ABV), bourbon cask matured, whisky that I find to be particularly hot with alcohol, and, secondly, over a heavily sherried whisky bottled at 43% ABV.
Now for the results:
CASK STRENGTH WHISKY IN GLENCAIRN - An intense flavour profile and in honesty now that I'm comparing the two I can get a sense of the alcoholic burn in the middle of the nose which is a tad unpleasant when inhaled at any length, but in fairness a cask strength whisky would obviously be treated with more respect when being nosed by itself. The flavours are bold and last forever in the glass.
CASK STRENGTH WHISKY IN "NEAT" GLASS - First thing to say is that the glass is a delight to hold, but holding at length might warm the whisky as your palm holds right around the base where the liquid is held. It is also important to note that it is perfectly fine to drink from and quite obviously does not alter the taste in any way, but of course this is about the nosing. In that respect; to get the full experience you really need to get your nose right into the glass. They are perfectly correct in their claim that the alcoholic burn is taken out of the nose, there is simply no sting whatsoever. The flavours are light and subtle, and you could argue that this allows you to discover the finer points of the whisky, but initially this made it difficult to distinguish definitive flavours but with a little practice, and adjustment of inhalation, you can get the hang of it.
VERDICT - While, undoubtably, it does exactly what it says on the tin, by eliminating the alcoholic burn, I'm left wondering if we're losing some of the spirit character, and with that some flavour, with the ethanol that is being dispersed over the rim. I am of course no chemist and am unsure of exactly how much flavour, or character, is contained within the ethanol itself and with a lot of searching on the internet I'm still none the wiser. Please feel free to respond if anyone knows the exact answer on this matter.
With the result decidedly ambiguous it was time to move onto the heavily sherried whisky bottled at 43% ABV.
SHERRIED WHISKY IN GLENCAIRN - Fresh and potent with the initial emphasis on fresh fruits before eventually moving onto the deep sherried notes after time. Again is this the spirit showing through first? With the Glencairn you can certainly take your time as the whisky seems to evolve a lot slower in the glass but yet again the extra alcohol is noticeable on the nose when compared to it sitting in the "NEAT" glass.
SHERRIED WHISKY IN "NEAT" GLASS - For me this is where this glass really comes into it's own. With the dispersed ethanol we can immediately get into the sumptuous sherried notes. Masses of dark fruit and Xmas spices, it's deep and inviting...everything a sherried whisky should be. With the shape of the glass, and the lack of alcohol, you can really get into the whisky in the nosing sense. Initially I felt that this was lacking in the fresh fruit that was noticeable in the Glencairn but to my great surprise, just as the Glencairn was easing on the freshness and alcohol, the whisky in the "NEAT" glass started to become fresh with fruit. Completely unexpected but brilliant.
VERDICT - With this particular whisky the "NEAT" glass is an absolute triumph. To allow you access the whisky in so much detail but then bringing out the fresher notes towards the end goes against anything I was expecting. All the flavours on show in the Glencairn were here in the "NEAT" glass in abundance but without any sting on the nostrils. Fantastic stuff.
OVERALL VERDICT - First and foremost I feel it's important to state that you should all drink your whisky in whatever you find enjoyable. The most vital thing is that you enjoy the whisky that you've chosen to spend your time with. That said, I also believe that it is important that we push ourselves to experience our whisky in new ways and this is certainly a new way.
Whether the "NEAT" glass establishes itself as a major player in the U.K. and Irish whisky market will remain to be seen but one things for sure, it's worth the try.
I'm not going to sit here and say I've covered all the bases as it would take a serious amount of comparison to get to the bottom of how good the glass is but from what I've seen, especially with the sherried whisky, the "NEAT" glass has a place in the whisky world.
Obviously if the "NEAT" glass can replicate that experience with all forms of whisky, old and young, including, heavily peated and blends, then we are all going to have to sit up and take notice.
I for one will not be abandoning my beloved Glencairn but I will also most definitely not be abandoning my "NEAT" glass and I can only look forward to trying a lot of my future whiskies in each glass and bringing some of the results to you.
All that's left to say is a huge thanks to "Beaumont PPS" for sending me the "NEAT" glass and I highly recommend you all check out the website, I've linked below, where you can find an absolute wealth of further information explaining the science behind the glass in more detail than I could ever imagine to cover.
Until next time,
The "NEAT" Glass UK website - http://www.theneatglass.uk
The "NEAT" Glass UK Twitter - https://twitter.com/theneatglassuk