Some time ago, I was contacted and asked if I’d care to review a glass designed for sipping rum. As usual when I’m contacted like this, I warned the person that I would give an honest review to the best of my abilities, and would not show favoritism towards any product. I also told them that I’d be comparing it against similar products, and I generally name a couple that I think would make for a fair comparison. This usually scares off about half of the folks, which is great because I don’t have to drink any swill or feel like I owe the company anything because I got something for free.
None of this bothered Jay from Spirit Sippers, and he sent me one of the rum glasses, The Flare.
As I promised Jay, I compared the Flare to several other glasses – a Riedel tequila glass, a wide-mouth glass of the type that Ed Hamilton recommends, and a simple plastic cup that I use when I do rum tastings and can’t possibly wash 150 glasses.
The Riedel glass is designed for tequila, and looks like a wine glass though much smaller and more delicate. It has a relatively tall stem with a 3oz bowl on top, and the top is slightly narrower than the bowl in order to concentrate the smells from the spirit. I purchased this set some time ago, and soon regretted it since the design isn’t well suited for rum. The small bowl isn’t large enough to let the rum breathe, and rum does not benefit from the narrower opening. I never use it to drink rums, but have occasionally used it to sample other spirits.
The wide-mouth glass is a small old-fashioned glass with the sides slightly tapered outwards. It’s about 3 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide at the top. There’s ample room for the rum to breathe – but perhaps too much. The wide opening at the top makes up for this a bit, as it allows one to tilt the glass and detect separate smells between the “high” side and the “low” side. This method does allow one to detect individual aromas coming from the rum. I almost always sip from a wide-mouth glass, generally following Ed’s methods described in the link above.
The plastic cup is a 3oz Dixie cup. It’s cheap and easy when dealing with a 12-rum tasting with 15 people. I’ve always known that it wasn’t an ideal glass to use, but since I don’t make a profit doing a tasting I tried to save a few bucks by using these small, cheap cups. But I’ve learned – now that I’ve done this comparison – that it is unbelievably utterly wrong for rum. I won’t use them again.
The Flare from Spirit Sippers is easily the classiest glass of the bunch. (Yes, Riedel certainly makes some fancy glasses, but the tequila glass that I have is fairly simple.) The Flare is about 4.5 inches tall and 2.5 inches in diameter, with a short thick stem. This makes for a generous bowl that holds an ideal amount of rum with room to breathe. It curves inwards a bit to form the bowl and then gently flares out to the rim. The glass at the rim is somewhat thin – not thin enough to seem fragile, yet it’s thin enough to allow the rum to gently flow into your mouth without splashing.
The Comparison Method
I poured a measure of El Dorado 15-year-old into each glass. This is a fantastic rum, with many smells and tastes that would allow each glass to show off its strengths and weaknesses. I let this breathe for a few minutes, something that benefits this rum and allows many of the more subtle aromas to develop. It’s a rum I know well, and enjoy immensely.
I tested the glasses in an order that I believed would go from worst to best – the plastic cup, the Riedel, the wide-mouth, and finally the Flare. I sniffed first, going through the above order twice, then testing glasses against each other in order to bring out the best and worst of each. By this time, the rum had been breathing for a while, and the aromas were driving me crazy, so I started sipping. I followed the same order twice, and then randomly compared glasses while sipping. Finally, I let a tiny bit of rum sit in each glass for about 15 minutes and returned to them for a quick sniff and taste.
The plastic cup, as you might have guessed by my remarks earlier, proved to be a colossal mistake and waste of fine rum. Any time I returned to this glass I thought I was sampling a rum that was different from the rum in the other glasses. It’s not large enough to allow the rum to breathe, it’s too small to detect many aromas, and when sipping the mouthfeel is, well, plastic. Gripping the cup was a nuisance since it’s so small. All in all, using this cup for rum was A Big Mistake.
The Riedel, while quite possibly a fine glass for tequila, is simply not suited to rum. It was also too small to allow the rum to breathe, and the inwards taper concentrated the smells – and alcohol – in a way that is not suited to rum. It did hold a lot of flavor for the final 15-minute test, though. When sipping, the mouthfeel was quite nice – though again the inwards taper caused me to tilt my head back as if I was downing a shooter. Gripping this glass is a bit unwieldy for me, with my short thick fingers. The relatively tall stem and small bowl didn’t really allow for a comfortable hold.
The wide-mouth old-fashioned glass was excellent for the aromas. Ed Hamilton’s methodology of smelling the high side and the low side is a great way to detect many smells. As a result of this design, the wide-mouth crushed the plastic cup and Riedel in this test, and beat the Flare noticeably. Alas, the thick walls of this glass lost the mouthfeel part of the test when sipping – big and thick and clunky, it caused the rum to practically splash into my mouth as it rolled over the edge. Gripping the glass is easy and comfortable – though I found that I tended to hold it like a beer can. Finally, the large amount of air space in this glass meant that most of the smells and flavors got lost after the 15-minute test.
The Flare did very well in the aroma test, losing only because of the wide-mouth’s larger volume, which helped separate the aromas. Though the Flare can certainly be tilted, the constriction in the center of the glass seemed to concentrate the aromas a bit, and the mouth is narrower than the wide-mouth. Even with his slight drawback, the Flare was certainly a hell of a lot better than the other two glasses.
The Flare was absolutely outstanding when sipping the rum. It’s just about the perfect size, though someone with a large nose might find it a bit small. The flared edge and thin glass at the rim made for a wonderful feel on the lips, and let the rum flow into my mouth and across my tongue. My nose was fully inside the glass, allowing the aromas and tastes to hit simultaneously, and the result is a perfect blast to the senses. This is the way rum was meant to be sipped.
The Flare also beat the competition handily on the 15-minute test. The bowl allowed the rum to breathe quite well, while the constriction above the bowl didn’t let to much evaporate and cause the rum to go dull. The Riedel had a very similar effect, though it’s smaller and didn’t breathe as well. The wide-mouth glass was the worst at this test, closely followed by the plastic cup. Both are poorly designed for this test, as they do nothing to hold in the aromas.
A few members over on The Ministry Of Rum commented about the short stem of the Flare, wishing it were longer. While I certainly would not mind a longer stem, I felt comfortable enough with the grip. I’m sure that it will feel very natural in a week or two.
I’d say that the Flare is an absolute winner. The Riedel and plastic cup were no-shows in this event, and I’ve wasted too much of your time on them already. Though the wide-mouth did perform better during the aroma test, the Flare beat it every other time, particularly during the sipping test. It’s a joy to sip from.