We’re not complete numpties, obviously we’ve heard of Riedel glasses but we always thought they were a gimmick. And an expensive one at that. Seriously, just how much can the construction of a glass affect the taste of your drink? Quite a lot as it turns out. We would never have believed how dramatically different spirits perform in vessels designed with their unique characteristics in mind. Just as well we were invited to a special event to try them out for ourselves…
Who better than Maximilian Riedel to inform and enlighten us on the merits of the glassware in the Riedel Bar collection? As 11th generation of the Austrian family-owned dynasty established in 1756 he knows more than most about the hows and whys of these lead crystal glasses designed to elevate the aroma, flavour and balance of neat spirits.
He had his work cut out guiding non-believers like us through a very detailed tasting session for three specific vessels from the collection: one for tequila, one for Cognac and another for single malt whisky. Each was distinctly different from the other – well, they had to be didn’t they, otherwise they wouldn’t need 12 glasses in this particular range alone.
We focused on one spirit at a time, dividing each between the three specialist designs. First, we were invited to sip from the glass conceived to enhance the traits of a specific beverage, then we had to try the same drink from the other two. Well, you could have knocked us down with a cocktail umbrella if there wasn’t a huge difference in the way the drinks behaved and tasted. While the unique aromatics of tequila, Cognac and whisky were round and harmonious in their specially configured Riedel glass, when sipped from their counterparts, the alcohol lost all of its finesse, resulting in an aggressive acidic bite hitting the nose and the palate with the subtlety of a hammer.
Maximilian Riedel explained how size, shape and rim diameter all play an important role in the overall performance of each glass which is tried, tested and re-tested for performance by the most renowned spirit experts in the world.
The session was a revelation to us and while we won’t be rushing out to re-stock our cabinet in the next few weeks (alas, these glasses are not designed for mixed drinks), we may well add a couple to our collection over time. However, if you enjoy neat spirits – particularly expensive ones – you’ll really get the most out of them when savoured from these exceptional vessels.
Riedel Bar, available from all good department store, prices from £20 for two glasses. riedel.co.uk.