The Norlan Experiment

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Those of you who aren’t part of the hardcore whisky geek community may have missed a kickstarter campaign that ran last December that claimed to have a revolutionary whisky glass design that would “change whisky”. They were throwing out all sorts of sciency buzzwords like fluid dynamics, biomimicry and standing waves, which anyone with a high school education level of physics would be able to call out as a crock of shit, but I noticed the campaign early enough to get an early bird tier, and figured it’s worth a shot, if anything they looked interesting.

Well yesterday my two glasses arrived (which is quite good for a kickstarter campaign involving manufacturing). So now I’m going to put this to the test alongside my trusty Glencairn and see if it lives up to the hype.

Research Question:

Will the Norlan Whisky Glass change whisky?

Hypothesis:

While it may not necessarily outperform the glencairn it might be a little different. 

Method:

I shall conduct a comparative tasting of the same whisky in a glencairn and the Norlan glass, immediately after pouring, after 20 min resting time and thereafter with the addition of water. I have selected the Arran Quarter Cask Batch 001 as the whisky. It is cask strength so the Norlan’s claimed effect of diffusing the alcohol vapours from the aromas should be tested. The whisky’s character is also bold so flavours should be easily identifiable but it’s still quite light so will test the glasses’ aroma concentration capabilities.

Observations:

After pouring:

  • Glencairn: The aromas are very concentrated here, with the alcohol being slightly overpowering.
  • Norlan: Not much aroma here at all, some very faint whiffs of Arran spirit and bourbon cask. A slight swirl lets of a nose-burning blast of ethanol.

After resting:

  • Glencairn: Still a bit harsh but mellowed down, a really good concentration of aromas and flavours coming through. A slight swirl lets out a lot more of the whisky’s lighter smells.
  • Norlan: Same as before, very weak aromas. At this point I also tilted the glass too far while nosing it and because of the nearly vertical inner glass wall, got cask strength whisky up my nose, not pleasant. I also noticed that the wide mouth and angle one needs to drink at causes whisky to spill out of the sides by the mouth.

With water:

  • Glencairn: More muted now, but some of the lighter notes are more apparent.
  • Norlan: Still very weak. This time though when I swirl it a bit I actually get proper aromas and not just an ethanol blast. This is actually quite pleasant but nowhere near the amount of concentration I get from the glencairn. I still feel like I need to work to enjoy the whisky.

Conclusions:

Well, I disproved my own hypothesis, the Norlan is not different it’s just shoddy. It mutes aromas and really makes one feel like they have to work to get anything out of it. Not to mention the really wide lip of the glass makes drinking difficult. While I do find it nicer to hold a tumbler in my hand while I’m relaxing it just doesn’t really do much else beneficial.

I really, really liked the feel of the whole nosing glass within a tumbler thing though, perhaps if they would tweak the design a little to make the inner glass’ walls curve more inward (like a Canadian Glencairn) and made the lip where the inner and outer glasses connect a bit thinner we’d have a product worth buying, but as is it’s just a gimmick.

 

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