evolution OF THE SPIRITS GLASS
Ever wonder how spirits glasses got their shape? At the NEAT glass, we are all about science, history and enlightenment. A historic timeline is presented for your education and enjoyment. Science has been ignored forever (until now) as industry supports non-functional glassware.
ANCIENT HISTORY- 1600
The earliest glass known to man is obsidian, formed in the earth under high heat and pressure, blasted to the surface by volcanic eruption. Man puts it to work as crude weaponry and flensing tools. 3500 BCE, Glass beads were found in Mesopotamia, 2000 BCE first known glassblowing in Persia, 1700 BCE early glass vessels found in southern asia, 400 BCE Romans produce glass vessels and tableware, 50 AD Romans begin blow-molding, 1400 AD Italians create Murano glass from rare quartz pebbles found in river beds of northern Italy.
DISCOVERY OF LEADed CRYSTAL - 1674
It’s 1674 in the Savoy district of London. George Ravenscroft experiments with lead oxide added to glass. PbO increases glass working time and long thin stems, handles, spouts, and intricate decoration become inexpensive reality. PbO lowers the melting point, and abundant soft coal replaces expensive imported coal. Dim candlelit dining rooms of European and Russian palaces of royalty, the wealthy, and the aristocracy are flush with expensive Murano crystal, because its coefficient of refraction breaks light into brilliant prismatic rainbows and starburst sparkles. Leaded crystal does the same, and additionally provides longer stems to raise the light show closer to eye level. Stemware becomes desirable, affordable, and preferred for wine and spirits (hand heat is not the reason stems became popular).
copita borrowed from Spanish sherry late 1700’s
In the late 1700’s fleets of trading ships return from Europe laden with hogsheads of Spanish sherry to be bottled, branded and resold worldwide and barrels are repurposed to age scotch. The sherry copita (little cup) is commonly used dockside to verify quality at payment and becomes the preferred scotch glass, holding 1 1/2 ounces, enough for a single serving, with enough headspace to collect aromas. The whisky industry seizes the opportunity, establishes the “dock glass” as their iconic symbol of identity, and copita defines the scotch whisky drinker to the entire world.
scotch whisky invades the usa - 1960’s
Scotch makes a play for American palates. Prohibition and inferior spirits has altered American palates to prefer cocktails, hiding and masking nasty tastes. New world noses are unaccustomed to drinking neat, straight spirits. Scotch experts coach drinkers to “use a copita, don’t swirl, add a little water to lessen alcohol burn.” Drinking scotch from a copita becomes the preference and status symbol of those “upwardly mobiles” who achieve the American dream.
The glencairn glass is born - 2001
Raymond Davidson, enterprising Scottish glass decorator, in collaboration with leading whisky experts, introduces the Glencairn glass, eventual winner of the 2006 Queen’s Award for Innovation. Derived from copita, Glencairn sports a heavy, globular foot replacing a stem and supported by the industry, becomes the iconic glass of scotch whisky, surpassing copita. Through brilliant marketing and an effective business model, Glencairn rules as the favorite scotch glass worldwide even though it lacks scientific function.
pretenders seek the throne 2000-present
Vying to recreate the successes of Glencairn, major glass manufacturers attempt to capture market share with style, but keep the same basic design parameters. Afraid to challenge industry support of copita and Glencairn icons, feeble style changes fail to produce success, and many manufacturers consider discontinuing their spirits glass market entries. All have absurdly tiny rims, tall tulip shape, and small diameter bowls which prevent swirling. Marketing departments invent their own science, distort scientific principles and totally disregard alcohol anesthetic affects which quickly inhibit olfactory senses. Instead of focusing aromas, tulips concentrate alcohol and mask character aromas, similar to stylish, yet non-functional Glencairn.
science arrives - 2012-present
In 2002, a mistake in a glass blowing class inspires the search for the perfect spirits glass. A product engineer and a glass coating specialist with a common love for wine and spirits begin their 10 year search for the perfect glass to present aromas without nose-numbing ethanol. The NEAT glass (Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology) uses physics and true science to create a glass for olfactory evaluation diagnostics, and enhanced drinking enjoyment. Since 2012, NEAT is the official glass of most spirits competitions in the USA, and popularity continues to build abroad as more drinkers find NEAT to be the tool they need to evaluate their favorite spirit. Find out more by reading the MDPI Scientific Journal Paper which discusses spirits glass design and evaluation. https://www.mdpi.com/2306-5710/4/4/93