A comparison of various tasting glasses

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Count Silvio
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Sun Aug 17, 2008 10:08 am

Thanks to spirit sippers for providing me with a free rum tasting glass. I shall do another comparison once I get some Riedel tasting glasses. See the comparison and review on the frontpage.
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Mon Aug 18, 2008 12:55 am

Flare Glass by Spirit Sippers (link)

ImageImage

I was recently in contact with the good folks at Spirit Sippers, who in the best of spirits made a gracious gift of a couple of their new rum tasting glasses to Sue Sea and moi for the express purpose of having them tested and reviewed.

A act of bravery deserving our utmost respect. And a free plug:
The Flare

The Flare is ideal for Rum, particularly premium aged varieties which benefit from generous breathing room. The Flare’s body curves inward before bending outward at the top, allowing the aromas of a good rum to drift up gently, while alcohol fumes escape unnoticed. The flared rim also enables the spirit to glide effortlessly over the tongue. The shape of this glass fits the sensuality of rum and provides for a super-easy sipping experience. The Flare is lead-free and handmade in the United States.

Volume: 5.0 oz
Height: 4 7/16 inches
Diameter: 2 7/16 inches

$35.00
(Set of 4)
All distillers, importers and distributors of fine rum take note. I can be bought!

As some of you may know I am an afficianado of rum tasting glasses and completed an extensive review of the popular and/or respected glass shapes of the world including the tulip, thistle, Reidel Rum, Eisch, Reidel Malt Whisky, SMWS, sherry copita, ISO Standard, Glenmorangie, small and large snifters, IKEA Optimol et al.

I even tested Preacher Ed's mug (also useful for hydrating livestock).

These were covered in Chapter Three: Tasting and Glasses (link) over at the The Rum Project main site. The article I published is quite extensive and includes pictures of all the glasses, comments from some of the web's best known rum tasters and their personal preferences. My favorite tasting glass to date, bar none, is the IKEA Optimol (see article).

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Flare by Spirit Sippers: "A Lover, not a Fighter"

Sue Sea and I are mad for tasting glasses. We take our tasting and reviewing very seriously and with the notion that our reviews need to be as accurate and as accessible as possible. Since it is true that glasses make a HUGE difference in tasting (see link to my Chapter Three, "Tasting and Glasses", above) we are always searching for a better glass, one that will fully exposes all the aromas and which will lead to the most complete tasting experience possible.

Let's first hear from Sue Sea:

Sue Sea:
In rum tasting, I want a glass that doesn't get in the way, that exposes all the aromas in a way that I can get at them from high to low aromas. I don't wish to be sheltered from the rum. If it's awful I want to know it.

Now about the Flare by Spirit Sippers. It is a sturdy glass, lead-free (a good thing as far as I'm concerned) and attractive, with a feminine shape. But it is not at all easy to hold and is confusing. The "waist" leads you to hold it there - but then there is the lower chamber - and some may be tempted to hold it by the base. Honestly I found it awkward, and found my grip constantly changing. Rum tasting is a total experience - from the bottle label and design, the pouring aromas, and the first viewing and spin of the rum, noting its lustrousness (or lack), legs and the like.

The Flare makes this difficult if not impossible and pretty much forces you to hold the "waist" or bowl leaving it covered with fingerprints. Or to risk holding it by the base. It really needs a longer stem, perhaps another 3/4 inch or so. Enough so that a proper viewing is possible and an important part of the experience is preserved.

Now for access.

The Flare forced me to be "in the glass" to pick up aromas. Now of course the flare makes this easy, but this too is an issue. I found that I was adding my breath to the rum, further diffusing the already diffused aromas (next). It's the equivalent of adding a few drops of water to a rum, and honestly, some rums can't stand up to this diffusion.

Light rums especially get lost in this glass. Last is the Flare's overall effect.

I believe the purpose and best use of this glass is as a diffuser. The exaggerated bowl shape and long, tall flare seem to conspire to trap the aromas. This made them relatively inaccessible and forced me to really have to work - hard - to get at them.

So with all due respect to the wonderful people at Spirit Sippers who were so very kind to send us this glass - thank you so very much - I have to be honest and say, that for me, this is not an effective tasting glass. However, the Flare's main disadvantage for tasting - diffusion - may well be an advantage for sipping for enjoyment.

I'll let Jim cover that. Again, my sincere thanks and appreciation to Spirit Sippers.
Me:

Both Sue Sea and I were very excited to receive and test the Flare by Spirit Sippers. I'll try not to be repetitive. It is quite a striking glass, and I do like the feminine shape (which is as close to other women as Sue Sea will tolerate, lol). But I could not agree more with Sue Sea and others who find the lack of a decent stem a problem. Rum tasting is indeed a total experience, and the lack of stem is a significant shortcoming.

But not fatal. This might have been forgiven to a point if the glass was superior in all other regards. It wasn't. And I found one other issue - when the rum does make it out of the lower bowl, there is a tendency for larger quantities to escape than intended. The "Flare" does spread the entry though.

Because this was a gift - and in the interest of both accuracy and fairness - we took substantial extra time to verify our impressions. We started the test using one of our top rated rums - Mount Gay Extra Old - because it is both complex and challenging. For a fair comparison we of course brought out our personal IKEA Optimol tasting glasses - a glass we have come to favor and respect, and with which we are very familiar. We poured exactly 3/4 oz. of MGXO in both and allowed it to air a bit.

Our first impression, honest, was close to "Is there really rum in there?". The difference in the Optimol and Flare was dramatic. I concur with all of Sue Sea's impressions, above. Now of course there was rum in there and yes, aromas were evident in the flare, but much lighter, somewhat higher and diffused as so well put by SS.

It was at this point we started bringing out our entire collection of glasses, and doing side-by-sides to establish a pecking order of glasses. These were roughly divided into three groups.

Group One

Image

From #1 to #3, left to right, the Optimol, the Reko (also by IKEA) and a small, wide mouth snifter. The Optimol has the perfect combination of both access and holding aroma, allows high to low examination, is dramatic, allows a lovely (and safe) swirl, may be tipped almost horizontal without spilling, releases rum carefully and in controlled amounts. The perfect taster. The Reko is very close, traps a tiny bit less, cannot be tipped as far. The wide mouth snifter does a wonderful job of holding and exposing the aromas with only slightly less access for deep examination.

I believe that snifters are given short shrift by rum drinkers.

Group Two:

Image

Left to right: #4, #5 and a tie for #6. On the left the Reidel cognac (which is very, very close to their rum design once produced for Zacapa). Aromas close to group one but almost no access. Next is an amazing little cheapo glass we found at a Turkish food store for about $10 for 6. This little glass does very well with tasting amounts, and the short flare allows good access and decent exposure of aroma.

The two glasses on the right are the Flare and a small angled tumbler my father once won in a sales contest. These two were a noticeable step below #4 and #5. Aromas were diffused, with the small tumbler giving better access.

Group Three

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The bottom of the barrel. Left to right: #7, a Preacher Ed style tumbler; #8 a Reidel Malt Whiskey tasting glass and #9 being a shorter champagne flute (taller/thinner than a sherry copita). Tasting amounts are simply lost in Preacher Ed's livestock waterer. The Reidel, while found favorable by a very few tasters of powerful whiskeys, may be said to be a Reidel failure. It garners very little respect. I believe the combination of the high straight sides simply does not work for rums.

I have to say that the sherry copita - a shorter, wider version of the flute shown - is used by a number of tasters, particularly as they approach the SMWS glass (again, see Chapter Three, link above). But I have yet to obtain this glass, but I will tell you the champagne flute is simply awful.

Back to the Flare.

As discussed the Flare falls in the bottom of the middle group of glasses for tasting. And it took us some time to place it there. At first, the side-by-sides led us to place the Flare in the bottom group. But we persisted trying a good light rum - Cuban formula San Pablo - and a pungent Jamaican style - Appleton Extra.

As we did so, we began to get onto the subtlety of the Flare and we finally moved it to it's final position, above. At a point we were tasting Appleton Extra from this glass and I made an interesting discovery. Extra is a great rum, but not an easy one to appreciate by many new rum drinkers. Jamaican rums are quite pungent, have a dunder component that may be challenging for newer rummies.

The Flare softened and lightened it nicely. The very features - an aroma trapping bowl with remote high access - that make the Flare a lower rated tasting glass make it a pleasant drinking glass. More pungent rums are softened and diffused, eg the Appleton Extra was both softened and sweetened by this glass.

Accordingly it is our opinion that while the Flare does not make a good tasting glass, it IS an interesting drinking/sipping glass. It is sturdy and attractive and would be well used for serving guests and new rum drinkers.
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Capn Jimbo
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Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:51 am

What a delightful review of different glasses Capn! It seems our opinions of the Flare glass agree somewhat although I place it slightly higher. Definitely not for the weaker nosed rums, I'm glad someone else noticed how the aromas can get lost in the glass.

Have you tried any cask strength or overproof rum from the Flare? I'm interested to try and get some and see how it works in this glass.
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Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:28 pm

Have you tried any cask strength or overproof rum from the Flare?
No, but at your request I just did (not to mention we have a hurricane - Fay - coming in and a test of overproof just seemed like the right thing to do. After an extensive and dedicated double-blind, completely random sampling - here's what we (Sue Sea and I) think about overproof.

The rum: Wray & Newphews Overproof.

The glasses: the new "Flare" with our #1 rated IKEA Optimol (was $1.99 by the way).

The result: Again, no comparison. Whatever is there you get and with the Optimol's ability to explore high to low and with sufficient care. No real difference in taste or finish. The Flare, as now expected, diffused and hid most of the aroma, but the taste was the same. Our recommendation:

Be sure to use the Flare when serving overproof to those friends you wish were, well, ex-friends. They will observe soft, gentle, restricted and distant fine aromas and, of course, take a healthy sip. You will have the pure enjoyment of watching their expression change, as their personality virtually changes before your eyes. From loving, kind and gentle to a burning hatred of you and your cheap parlor trick.

It would be a good idea if your seating position is between them and door, so you can get out in a hurry and in smiling safety...
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Tue Aug 19, 2008 5:48 am

I searched the new 2009 IKEA catalogue and the Optimol dessert wine glass is not in it. Maybe, they stopped making it.
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Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:58 pm

Yes, neither the Optimol nor the Reko are available, discontinued. I even called IKEA's customer service who did a computer search of all merchandise, including discontinued items. No way. I now treasure the three remaining Optimols (after breaking three) that I own. They are irreplaceable, though I continue to look for a similar shape and size...
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Wed Aug 20, 2008 1:27 pm

Capn Jimbo wrote:Yes, neither the Optimol nor the Reko are available, discontinued.
I hope some day, the Optimol glass which Capn Jimbo strongly recommends will be available again so we all can enjoy the reviews with the same reference glasses.

Thank you, Count Sylvio and Captn Jimbo, for your reviews of The Flare. All reviewers, here and on other forums, agree the stem is too short; the alcohol fumes are dissipated while the finer rum aromas are slightly more noticeable.
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Sat Aug 30, 2008 4:08 am

The problem with some of my longer winded posts is that some information can get hidden. Let me summarize and clarify. I do not think the "Flare" is a good tasting glass as it diffuses everything! Simply, you can't have your cake and eat it too. The notion that"nasty" alcohol aromas are diffused while the "wonderful" rum aromas are enhanced is not true.

Everything is diffused. You have to work a lot harder to taste and to understand the rum in the "Flare". You can't do the "high/low" technique to examine all the layers of aroma. Remember, heavy aromas are literally lower, lighter are higher. The Flare forces you to put your nose fully in the glass, further diffusing the aromas. Not good. The lack of a stem prevents a real examination of color, lustrousness and legs. The small roundish chamber messes up the legs but good.

Most of the glasses we tested (above) performed better than the Flare. Remember, in rum tasting you want access to all the aromas and to be able to completely examine and appreciate the rum. On the other hand the Flare may be a good sipping glass for newbies, for fun, and when you want to be insulated from the rum
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Junsas
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Tue Sep 16, 2008 6:20 pm

Hi Capn Jimbo and all the others,

i found similar looking and similar named glasses on the german ikea website: http://www.ikea.com/de/de/search/?query ... tegory=all. They're name is OPTIMAL, instead of OPTIMOL. Maybe thats why you didn't find them.

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Tue Sep 16, 2008 7:58 pm

Welcome to the forums Junsas!

Thanks for posting the link, it does look like it is the same glass looking at JImbo's picture and the one on Ikea website. Guess you guys can stock up with those glasses now...
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