The introduction of the NEAT glass in 2012 created a major controversy among spirits lovers, evaluators, and critics. How could this squatty little glass create so much havoc? The answer lies in the way we approach a problem.
Well over 200 years ago English traders searching for products to import so ships would not return empty, discovered Spanish sherry (stronger than wine, 17-22% ABV, alcohol by volume), along with sherry barrels for the aging whisky, and the traditional sherry drinking glass, called the copita (second from the left), at some point came along for the ride.
The copita and chimney, and their proliferation of similar shaped spawn has become the standard for whisky drinkers. Small, and easy to hold, it seemed just the right size for blenders to use when constructing a concoction of whiskeys into a product worthy of achieving high market share.
The single detriment to using copitas or chimneys with 40% + ABV (normal)spirits is the collection of nose numbing alcohol at its tall, narrow, convergent rim, which overpowers subtler distilled aromas much sought after by spirits drinkers. Olfactory fatigue from high alcohol concentrations sets in quickly, ending the ability to smell anything at all.
Decades ago, blenders began diluting spirits to 20-30% ABV with water using copita style glassware to arrive at their final blends without the problem of olfactory fatigue. This essentially returned the copita to its intended use, for drinking lower strength ABV beverages. Today, the practice of dilution is the widespread rule, and not an exception, but most drinkers simply assume blenders always work at full strength because that is how they, as consumers, drink it.
When Scotch distillers probed the American market in the ‘60s, they found that Americans had been drinking poorly made liquor at least since (and perhaps because of) prohibition and had become disposed to mixing spirits with sodas or fruit juice to disguise foul aromas and tastes. To educate Americans away from cocktails to the true appreciation of straight scotch, distillers advised, “Don’t swirl”, and “Add a little water”. Well said! Scotch sales surged, along with the long protracted, deeply embedded myth that water opens up a spirit.
Increased popularity of drinking straight spirits has given rise to spirits clubs, publications, websites, and new critics continually searching for the best, including the “perfect” glass. Many designs exist, but all share the same design flaws of high alcohol concentrations or rim heights too tall to detect key aromas. In this case, the adage “It must be good, the pros use it”, completely ignores blenders’ reliance on the copita due to it’s a perfect size and shape for diluted spirits. Many drinkers now actually prefer full strength spirits from a glass originally designed for lower strengths, believing it to be the correct glass for the job only because the blenders use it, with no regard as to why.
Discovering that glass shape can redirect strong alcohol away from the nose, coupled with years of development to find that perfect shape, Arsilica, Inc. released the patented NEAT glass in February 2012 (far right in picture). NEAT dissipates alcohol so drinkers can detect and enjoy the subtler aromas of distilled spirits without nose burn.
With NEAT, one does not have to be a trained expert to find the attributes or flaws which hide behind overabundant nose-numbing alcohol in convergent rim glasses. The secret is in NEAT’s patented interactive function of neck and flared rim, and its low profile design, which display the more elusive aromas for easy detection.
NEAT promotes swirling (the enemy of the copita user) to power aroma evaporation, and its low profile places the nose closer to characteristic aromas lurking lower in the glass. The science has always been there, it just needed application.
NEAT (1) doesn’t need water, dissipating alcohol aroma on its own, without shutting down evaporation of other aromas (2) is not specific about spirit type, and belongs to all spirits, including cask strengths, and (3) is responsible for the increase in popularity of spirits among the ladies, who have far more sensitive noses than their male counterparts.
Less than 13% of drinkers believe strong alcohol is necessary to spirit aroma, and initially refuse to adopt the NEAT method, but growth in conversions to NEAT among these traditionalists is phenomenal. Die-hards will never smell many aromas that define the true character of their favorite spirit. Who ever said we absolutely had to have the smell of alcohol? The only reason alcohol aroma is present, is because no one could figure out how to eliminate it until NEAT came along. We all know the smell, and very few beyond the hopelessly addicted consider it pleasant.
Perhaps blenders should use a glass designed for drinking spirits full strength, the way consumers choose to drink. It would certainly make their job easier to nail an identifiable product profile that could be a hit with the consumer.
NEAT is already the official glass of most spirits competitions, and just as sure as cars replaced horses and cell phones replaced land lines, NEAT will likely replace any functionless glassware which destroys drinking enjoyment. Science built a better glass. More at http://www.theneatglass.com