The NEAT glass, not Neat, NEAT. Got it? Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology. I guess N.E.A.T. isn’t as punny. Thanks to the kind folks at Big Earl’s Beverage Co. in Nicholasville, I had the chance to try this glass side by side with my trusty Glencairn.
My first formal introduction to the glass was when I was forwarded an e-mail that came when Big Earl’s placed an order. Herein were detailed instructions on how to open the package that the glass comes in once you get it. Ok, really? Does this thing come in some sort of hermetically sealed Otterbox with booby traps? No, turns out it comes in a tube that most toddlers could figure out if they’ve ever ordered anything from Amazon (I hate clamshell packaging).
When you finally do open the package, assuming you are capable, you are greeted with detailed instructions on how to use the glass. In case you are interested, here they are:
It’s time | How to use your NEAT glass, a quick recap
- Fill to widest bowl diameter (about 1½ oz)
- Do not add water before evaluating aromas
- Hold at neck to avoid warming, or in your palm to warm (not too warm, now)
- Hold glass level, swirl, and place your nose over the “sweet spot” (see above diagram)
- Close mouth, inhale, ponder, evaluate
- Swallow, inhale slightly to detect finish aromas, evaluate
A little more complicated then BOTB’s patented instructions for a Glencairn:
- Pour bourbon into glass, however much you want, it probably doesn’t matter, just not all the way full, because no one likes spilled bourbon.
- Add water if you want. Or not, I’m not your mother.
- Hold glass however it fits your hand. I have no idea if your hands are ‘too warm’ or not, so hold it with caution. On second thought do you have a straw just in case?
- Smell the bourbon, probably somewhere near the glass.
- Maybe close your mouth if you’ve been sitting around with it agape for the last 10 minutes. See if you like the way it smells. The bourbon, not your mouth.
- Where some people will tell you to swallow without having drank anything (see above), we suggest you put some bourbon in your mouth in order to taste it.
- Contemplate this picture of the creators of the NEAT glass while you sip, and watch out for the guy on the right, he looks shifty.
Yes this is actually a picture from their website and not just a young Einstein.
The theory behind the glass is that it reduces the amount of alcohol reaching your nose, thus allowing you to smell the other properties of the drink better. As they put it, “Inhaling deeply, you immediately recoil from strong,painful nose burn and numbness.” Personally, I’ve never smelt a bourbon and felt like I just ate straight wasabi, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. There are two pages on their site dedicated to the science behind why the flared rim allows the alcohol out the sides and the other flavors up through the middle. The one called “The Science” is fairly short and simple if you want to take a look. Alternatively, the one called “Geek Science” is a massive diatribe telling you all about how you drink whiskey incorrectly and using lots of big words. Herein they also tell you that you should always have an infrared thermometer to test the temperature of your bourbon and that the optimal temperature is “as low as 750 and rarely, up to 900F”. As soon as I can find a kiln, I’m going to try this, though I’m not sure how I’ll be able to get it out and into my mouth without it instantly evaporating. They even give you a pretty picture that shows how their glass stacks up to others:
Look at all this science! Do you see how high their glass is on the WOW! scale. That’s like maximum wow! And look at that WordArt, so professional!
At this point I would like to point out the careful verbiage used throughout the site which states studies were conducted “at UNLV laboratories”. It never says anything was “performed by” or “tested by UNLV scientists”. There are no references or actual study results given anywhere on their site, but they took the glass to a lab so it’s totally legit. Also, the site clearly states that the glass’ shape was created by “an accident in a glass blowing class in 2003″. Very scientific.
OK, so, now having detailed instructions on how to open the package, how to use the glass, and being armed with the knowledge that I have been drinking incorrectly for years, I was ready to taste. For this comparison we used Old Forester 1870 and Larceny, in case you want to play along at home. In nosing the two glasses, I definitely did get more alcohol from the Glencairn. The ethanol smell I’m used to was, in fact, nearly completely missing once I got my nose in the “sweet spot” of the NEAT glass. Kudos to that, the accident worked. However, once I completed my second customary step of nosing in a Glencairn, which is to either let it sit a minute or gently blow into the glass to get rid of some of the ethanol, the difference was much less striking. Though definitely there, to be clear.
As far as tasting, I noticed little to no difference between the two glasses. I will say that on the Old Forester 1870 I was able to pick up some different notes on the nose from the NEAT glass (mainly a nice honey scent) that I didn’t get in the Glencairn that made me enjoy the subsequent sips more from both glasses. And to be honest, I did really enjoy drinking out of a comical spittoon shaped glass that requires you to put your head directly over it to get the “sweet spot”. But I like looking ridiculous, maybe you don’t.
So, the verdict? If you either frequently notice you’re smelling too much alcohol on the noses of your bourbons and don’t enjoy it, or just want to experience some of your favorites in a new way, I’d say give it a shot. It makes a great talking point and entertained me for a solid hour. I don’t think I will be buying one for myself, but would consider it for a tasting party. It does what it says, and I’m all for innovation. However, I did feel obligated to spend a great deal of this post pointing out the ridiculousness of their marketing and ‘science’. You’re not foolin’ us NEAT. Now go get your infrared thermometers, spend the next 30 minutes reading about how you’re supposed to drink bourbon, then heat it up to 900F and enjoy! Cheers!
The NEAT glass can be purchased here for $14.95. Or you can get two of them in a velvet lined lunchbox for $94.99, what a deal!