Since presenting my case for various Scotch glassware, I have settled into a boring but comfortable diet of Glencairn, with a bit of Riedel to spice things up occasionally. Does the world need another spirits glass beyond these conventions? Have the folks at Riedel and Glencairn been resting on their laurels while a spirited newcomer with better technology is poised to take their spot? Or is the expanding world of premium spirits becoming a trap for marketing gimmicks like the wine accessory world? When you first set your eyes on the NEAT glass, it will catch your attention as something worth investigating. It looks totally different from popular spirits glassware with its stout stature and wide open mouth. Yet it doesn’t appear at all gimmicky. Holding one feels even weirder at first. Like a cigar smoker trying to hold a cigarette, your fingers will stumble awkwardly as you unlearn the habits from years of holding a Glencairn glass. You can hold it by the bowl or by the neck to warm or cool your spirit, just like other glasses, although there’s not much of a base if you’re used to holding the glass that way. When you pour something into and let it loose, that’s when things get really interesting.
First of all, it takes about 5 seconds to realize that the NEAT glass drastically changes the actual tasting experience, from nosing right through sipping. Whiskies that you’ve known for years will suddenly change completely. The science behind NEAT is aimed at solving an age-old problem with whiskey: the strong burn of alcohol in your nostrils when you get too close to the glass, especially with cask strength examples. The wide rim allows alcohol vapors to escape quickly from the glass while leaving a “sweet spot” of the remaining aromas. I tried many whiskeys, rums, and tequilas in this glass, and the glass certainly does deliver on its promise. There is a learning curve to find the sweet spot, just like there is with a Glencairn. In this case, you won’t get nostril burn if you miss the spot, but the nose of the whiskey will vanish completely when off-center. Once you find it, you will find that the aromas that come through are not necessarily the same. Strong, bold aromas like the sweeter smells from sherried whiskey or the peat reek of an Islay get toned way down. As in, almost disappearing completely. Surprisingly, the softer, more subtle characters are just as strong as they were before, but now they are unmolested by the more aggressive aromas.
This doesn’t always equate to a better drinking experience in my opinion. Not all whiskey is at cask strength, and I personally don’t find even 46% to cause too strong of a nostril burn in a Glencairn, even when I’m not careful. Speaking of not careful, the NEAT has a rounded, not cut, lip and an extremely wide rim. You will likely spill a sip or two on your face while tipping the glass back a couple of times while getting used to the glass. Part of this is because the glass tends to make you sip larger amounts then you are likely used to, which ironically will make whiskey taste stronger, even if it noses weaker.
There’s no doubt that the NEAT glass has some hurdles to overcome and won’t be loved by everyone. The strange tasting characteristics aside, the slightly less elegant, candle-holderesque appearance and lack of a cut rim may turn some tasters off immediately. The inevitable splash of spirit down the side of your face doesn’t help either. The marketing presentation, which seems to only be missing an appearance by Vince Offer, is a bit low-brow and therefore not in tune with most luxury-based marketing in the spirits world today. Perhaps the minutia of the science behind NEAT can be presented differently. That said, it isn’t only for serious glassware collectors or “the whiskey guy who has everything.” I still test every new spirit that comes my way in this glass out of sheer curiosity and am rarely disappointed. I usually prefer my older glassware, but the NEAT glass always teaches me a lesson.
You can get NEAT glasses from Amazon.