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My favorite glass for Scotch: The Riedel “O” Chardonnay Tumbler

I’ve tasted Scotch whisky from many types of glasses, including several designed specifically for Scotch. But my favorite is a casual wine glass from Riedel’s “O” series of stemless tumblers. The model I like is intended for Chardonnay.

Scotch whisky – when served neat, with water, or on the rocks – often comes in a “rocks glass”, sort of a low straight-edged tumbler. This serving style is fine with me, though it lacks pizazz. Some argue that rocks glasses give short shrift to the whisky’s aroma, too.

The recent crop of glasses designed specifically for Scotch, including Riedel’s (introduced in 1992), tend to be tulip-shaped – like what whisky makers use when nosing samples to make blends. The Glencairn Glass (introduced in 2001) and CelticMalts Spirits Glass (introduced in 2003) also follow this design.

Riedel’s “O” Chardonnay glass is more of a snifter. Somehow it makes drinking Scotch feel elegant but not pretentious. The glass is thin enough to put the focus on the liquid inside, but not so fragile that you feel like you can crush it with your hand (something I’ve done to Riedel’s more costly Vinum Whiskey Glass). I suspect some people would argue that the bowl and opening of this glass are too large to properly focus the aromas of the whisky – those folks might look at some of the narrower “O” series glasses, including the new Spirits Glass in the line. I personally find all but the dedicated Chardonnay glass too closed at the top, hard to get a good solid drink from. This warning goes for the one they call Viognier-Chardonnay “O” glass, so be careful what you order – I like that one, but I much prefer the bigger, rounder Chardonnay-specific glass.

Note that I have not tried this glass for mixed drinks. I suspect you’re better off sticking with traditional shapes for cocktails. And I don’t like the O Chardonnay glass for bourbon. Not sure why, but somehow bourbon tastes better to me out of a thicker tumbler.

As of this writing, it seems Riedel’s O Chardonnay Glass is generally sold in boxes of two for $24.95. Not cheap, but still good value for the quality you get.

(I owe a debt of a gratitude to the “real” whisky Ethan - Ethan Kelley, the founding Spirit Sommelier of New York’s wonderful Brandy Library. Ethan chose this glass as the Brandy Library’s standard for serving Scotch. He introduced me to it when they opened in 2004, and as of April 2010  it remains the standard at this peerless whisky bar.)

Pros of the Riedel “O” Chardonnay tumbler:

  • Easy to find in stores
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Not so costly you’ll cringe when one breaks
  • Nicely thin but not fragile


  • Shows fingerprints easily
  • Not inexpensive ($10-15 each)
  • Suitable for home only – don’t take it camping or to the beach!

One Comment

  1. This is a great glass looks fantastic and from the sound of things delivers one the nosing and tasting front too. I have tried many different nosing glasses in my time, but am stuck on the Glencairn Whisky Glass at the moment.

    Great post thanks, Stu

    Posted on 03-May-11 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

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