Sunday 14 February 2016



Champagne, Cognac, Wine . . . each type of liquor has its own glass. Yet Whisky, the world’s most complex spirit can be found served in anything from highball tumblers to Paris goblets to Tequila shot glasses. 

Only the connoisseur of Malt Whisky and the sybarite know that Scotch Malt Whisky is composed of FIVE elements: The Colour, the Nose, the Serpent waiting to be released, the Palate and the Finish. It was when Malt Whiskies came into the limelight some 25 years ago that sellers realised that they had been sleeping, since most malts were used to glamorise the Scotch Whisky Blends market. Single Malt drinkers out of tumblers, wine and shot glasses were immediately picked out as the nouveau riche, moneyed persons with no class! And certainly No Taste!!  

The Glencairn Whisky Glass is a revolutionary whisky glass that really lets one savour the taste and complexity of fine whisky. These are the ONLY GLASSES for Single Malt Whiskies. With the tapered mouth, you are able to really sniff all nuances the whisky has to offer. Any malt advocate will love this glass! Why then, do some so-called whisky ‘connoisseurs’ spend thousands on the most complex, rewarding, pleasure-giving liquids yet contrived by humanity, and then drink them from tumblers? “Philistines!” says Andy Davidson. “Tumblers are useless when it comes to focussing or enhancing the taste experience of whisky. They were originally used to prevent you from smelling bad whisky.

He should know. In 1976, his father, Raymond Davidson, saw this lacuna and designed a glass, but imperfect, as he called it. He then personally went to the top ‘noses’ or blenders of the Scotch Whisky industry with his design and asked them for their opinions. Meeting failure after failure as the so called cognoscenti stuck to tumblers, it took 25 years and one generation of Malt Whisky enthusiasts to realise its true value. After extensive interaction and experiments, Andy Davidson’s Glencairn Crystal solved the problem of identifying the ideal glass for whisky Andy came out of the design phase and, with the blessings of the top five blenders of Scotch Whisky, went to market in 2001.  

The Glencairn Glass
Today the Glencairn Glass can be found at every distillery in Scotland, Ireland, Wales as well as most in the USA. In 2006 the glass won the Queen's Award for innovation. The shape of the Glencairn whisky glass is derived from the traditional nosing copitas used in whisky labs around Scotland, a style lovingly developed by Glencairn Crystal Ltd, Scotland for drinking whisky. The problem with the copitas were that they were unstable long-stemmed glasses and would break frequently. The Glencairn glass has no such slim and fragile stem, but a comfy and compact solid crystal base, which prevents the glass from toppling and breaking and which fits snugly in your fingers. This is clearly visible in the photographs of the Glencairn glass in this post.

The capacity of a typical Glencairn whisky glass is approximately 175 ml, and is intended to hold approximately 50 ml of liquid, 1/14th of the capacity of 700 ml bottles of Scotch Whisky in the EU and 1/15th that of an American or Indian 750 ml bottle.

The 175 ml glass is 115 mm (4.5 in) in height and is available in two versions: 24% lead crystal and lead-free crystal glass. The vast majority of glasses in circulation are of the lead-free crystal variety. The Glencairn glass was originally designed for pub/bar use so it is a sturdy little glass. The bottom is heavy so it's not easily tipped over and is easily grasped. It feels good in the hand. My six Glencairn glasses are crafted from lead-free crystal.
A Copita

The Glencairn glass is the ONLY glass on the market that is designed specifically for drinking whisky and endorsed as such by the Scotch Whisky Association; it is used by every whisky company in Scotland and Ireland and many in the USA for their Bourbons. 

The traditional style of whisky glass is a cut crystal Old Fashioned whisky tumbler, the most commonly used type of whisky glass. However, a tumbler does not hold and focus the aromas as much for the experience of the drinker as the Glencairn, which curve inwards towards the top of the glass. Inward-curved glasses are the preferred choice of connoisseurs who consider the aroma especially important to the experience of a whisky.

If you fancy yourself a SMSW lover, you’d best have a small stock of Glencairn glasses at hand. Six would be about right. Do please remember that these are nosing and tasting glasses. While they can certainly be used as glasses for drinking SMSW, you could also use filigreed balloon glasses, like those used for Cognac and wine. The overriding factor is that they should, like the Glencairn glass, be arcing inward towards the human nose.

Beware of fraud! SCAM artists sell GLENCARIN glasses, ripping off the unknowing customer. They buy these glasses from Alibaba at $0.5-.75 per glass, the wholesale price for a minimum of 200-5000 glasses and then sell them at 1500% profit. 

These glasses sound tinny when tapped with a fork or spoon. They are every bit as good as Glencairn glasses in terms of utility, but lack the class and longevity of the original brand. When washed, they do not appear to shine as crystal glasses should, but need a dedicated rub with flannel.

THE limited-edition black Glencairn Glass

Glencairn has also released a limited-edition black Glencairn Glass. For the first time ever the iconic Glencairn Glass will be available to buy in black –  but only a few thousand are for sale.

These unique glasses will be the first to be officially sold to the public by the award-winning, Scottish family business, Glencairn Crystal.  Never before have black Glencairn Glasses been available to buy so now is a chance to procure a piece of whisky industry history. Available from Friday 29 November and for as long as stocks last, each glass costs £7 and comes in a special edition black box.

The glasses can only be purchased via the Glencairn Crystal online store  where you can also find a 20% discount across all Glencairn Glassware items over the weekend and Monday. The perfect place to find extra special sparkling gifts for Christmas for whisky-loving friends and family.

The Glencairn Glass is endorsed by the Scotch Whisky Association as the official glass for whisky. Glencairn Crystal makes over 3 million per year, across hundreds of brands, distributed to over 90 countries worldwide.

Glencairn has previously won The Queen’s Awards as follows:

  1. The Queens Award for Enterprise 2017 and 2012
  2. The Queens Award for Innovation 2006 (with the Glencairn Whisky Glass)

Using the glass:


Is your whisky pale gold, deep gold, copper or rich amber in colour?

How to use

This indicates the type of cask in which the liquid has been matured.


Which aromas do you recognise when you nose your whisky – is it smoky, fruity, chocolaty…?

How to use

Give it time; the scents change in the glass all the time. Add a drop of water -The amount is up to you (but enough to remove any prickle or burning sensation felt on the nose) – and sniff again. Has the spirit opened up or closed down?


Does your whisky have a light, medium or full body?

How to use

As you swirl the whisky in the glass does it cling to the sides and do the “legs” slide down slowly or quickly? Thick, slow running “legs” indicate a more dense texture; whilst thin fast moving “legs” suggest the opposite. Both are good!


Which characteristics do you notice when you taste the whisky?

How to use

First, sip the whisky without adding water. Identify the balance of ‘primary tastes’ – sweet (on the front of your tongue), salty and acidic (at the sides) and bitter or dry, spicy and smoky (at the back). Then add a little water. This makes it easier to hold the liquid in your mouth for longer and further explore its taste. If you can resist temptation and leave a little liquid in the glass for 20 minutes or so, return to nose and taste to explore how the flavour has developed.


Does the flavour remain for a long time or does it disappear quickly?

How to use

Whiskies from the Glencairn Glass are best enjoyed neat or with a little water. Consider whether the flavours linger, slowly change or disappear quite quickly.



In the 19th century, the sun never set over the British Empire, so vast was its spread. Since the only mode of international cross-continental travel was by sea, the Empire invariably faced logistic and infrastructural problems as sea routes were subject to unpredictable weather conditions enroute. While a great many problems could be resolved by local provisioning, the high and mighty faced problems in supplies which could only be brought from back home, e.g., wine, alcohol and tobacco.

Herbert Musgrave Phipson (1850 – 1936), was a British wine merchant and naturalist who lived in Mumbai, India, from 1878 to 1905. Born in London and educated at Clifton College, Phipson went out to India as a partner in the firm of J. A. Forbes & Co. Bombay. In 1883, he established his own company, Phipson & Co. Wine Merchants, on Apollo Road, Bombay (now Mumbai). The company had outlets all over Asia, in present day Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and more, which required a lot of shuttling to and fro, but wine and alcohol always seemed to be in short supply, mainly because of their sourcing problem. 

In 1883, Phipson had gone to England to acquire all necessary ingredients for his business and set up contracts, particularly with stockists of Red, White and Rose Wines, Port, Sherry, Gin, Brandy and Whisky. Whisky could only be procured from Scotland. He employed employed Walter S. Millard (1864–1952), a 19-year old well educated bachelor fairly knowledgeable about liquor, which could be traced back to his antecedents. Both Millard and Phipson were pure Britishers, with nary a Scottish connection. Phipson was still in England when the Bombay Natural History Society was founded on 15 September 1883.

Upon his return to Bombay, he immediately joined BNHS and in January 1884. Phipson served as the editor of the Journal of the BNHS for twentytwo years – as the sole editor for seventeen years till 1901 and then joint editor with W. S. Millard, who succeeded him as Honorary Secretary in 1906.  

Meanwhile, Millard’s primary task was to ferret out an excellent Rare (8 YO) Scotch Whisky that would suit the tropical climate of HM's Colonies in Asia, particularly Indian and the other Asian countries. While touring the Speyside Region of Scotch Whisky distillers and blenders, he came across James MacKinlay, then known asThe Royalty in Scotch Blenders.” It was here, in Leith, Edinburgh, that he first met MacKinlay’s daughter, Sarah, with whom he fell in love and reached an understanding, an informal engagement.
MacKinlay’s name and fame had started to circulate, to peak with his 15-YO blends that he would supply Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton between 1898 and 1907. Three bottles of 15-year bottled-in-1898 Mackinlay's Scotch Whisky were found in 2010 among three crates of Scotch and two of brandy buried beneath a basic hut Shackleton had used during his dramatic failed 1907-09 Nimrod excursion to the Antarctic.

One of the recovered bottles
The packing case

Phipson Black Dog

The leading Scotch whisky of its time

This 12 YO premium whisky had beaten Walker's Very Special Old Highland by a margin of 20 years; Johnnie Walker's 12 YO Black Label hit the market in that new avatar only in 1909, when a decision was made to simplify the names of its rather pompous but anachronous brands. It was well appreciated, but found inferior to Black Dog, even after it undercut the latter's price.

Painstakingly conjured up over a period of twelve long years, Black Dog Scotch instantly became the favorite of connoisseurs all over the world after making a dramatic debut as an eight-year old in 1883, and re-emerging as a different 12 YO Premium blend six years later. Quite a few trials must have taken place to get both grain and single malt whiskies in phase. This was hardly surprising, considering that Black Dog Scotch was required to be, and indeed was a masterful blend of fine taste and exquisite artistry.

A newspaper cutting supposedly bolstering the Millard story. It is an obvious fraud: Sep 17, 1883 was a Tuesday, not Saturday; the word aficionado entered the English dictionary with a different connotation in the mid-19th century; the spelling of honour is wrong. I must thank Callum McKean, of the News Reference Team, The British Library, London, who searched through the British Newspaper Archive, a database of digitised local and regional newspapers which is especially comprehensive for the late nineteenth century. He was unable to locate this article. It appeared to him that this is a modern mock-up image as the typeface, wording and layout of the newspaper pictured were not consistent with any late nineteenth century newspapers of which he was aware. (This could perhaps explain the spelling mistakes, wrong selection of word and why the date and day of publication were mismatched too). NM.

Phipson's Black Dog has become a collector's item which my coursemates and I possibly drank in our halcyon days-I,for one, certainly did on my commissioning party. I kept my eyes and ears open for any future mention of this brand, and found them stocked by the 12-bottle cases in our Navy's Duty Free stores. Obliging naval coursemates provided me with a bottle or two till stocks ran out.

When the British started to leave India in 1942, Phipson and Co. battled hard to stay on, well beyond 1947 when India gained Independence. Walter Millard died in England in 1952. Carew and Co., a smaller liquor dealer, and Phipson & Co. were partly taken over in 1963-64 and merged with itself by McDowell & Co, owned by United Breweries Group (UB), an Indian alcoholic beverages company. in 2002, the company acquired Phipson Distillery marking the demise of Phipson Black Dog. In 2006, McDowell & Co Limited, Herbertsons Limited, Triumph Distillers and Vintners Private Limited, Baramati Grape Industries India Limited, Shaw Wallace Distilleries Limited and four other companies were merged to form United Spirits Limited, the world's second-largest spirits company by volume. It is now a subsidiary of Diageo, and headquartered in Bangalore. USL exports its products to over 37 countries.   

USL also owned Whyte and Mackay and as Phipson Black Dog died with the taking over of the company, it turned to Richard Paterson, Master Blender at W&M to recreate The Black Dog. This acquisition of Scottish major Whyte & Mackay, with one of the largest inventories of aged malts and grain whisky reserves saw USL bolstering Black Dog with better aged variants to prop up premium appeal. USL started premiumising Black Dog. Rather than just placing the product on retail shelves, the company took an account management approach and created a huge buzz around the brand.  

Four versions of the Black Dog Scotch Whisky exist today:

Black Dog Black Reserve Scotch Whisky
Black Dog Black Reserve is a rich and rare premium blended Scotch whisky loaded with exceptional characters. It is blended to perfection with a multitude of malt spirits chosen from the various regions of Scotland.
- See more at:
Black Dog Black Reserve Scotch Whisky

Black Dog Black Reserve is a rich and rare blended Scotch whisky loaded with exceptional character. It is blended well with a multitude of malt and grain spirits chosen from various regions of Scotland. On completing 8 years in barrels, it is exported to India for bottling and sale. A few barrels are bottled for the local market as well. The whisky has a distinctive briny note, picked up in transit from Scotland to India.

Black Dog Gold Reserve Scotch Whisky

Black Dog Gold Reserve Aged 12 Years is a blend of 25 fine malt and grain whiskies from four regions of Scotland - Speyside, Islay, Highlands and Lowlands, each matured for a minimum period of 12 years creating a bouquet that captures all the flavours of Scotland, giving the blend its very distinctive flavour and taste. Over 95% of its output is bottled in India, the balance going into travel packs in Duty Free shops and other markets. There is a distinct difference between the two, possibly caused by the effect of maritime air on the barrels as they travel to hot and dusty India, where the angel is far more demanding-up to a 12% cut. Sadly, this version is but a pale shadow of the Black Dog 12 YO of yesteryear. Whyte & Mackay use a different source of water, have different stills and can NEVER replicate Mackinlay's whiskies. That said, Johnny Walker Black Label started to use unpeated Caol Ila 12 YO and Talisker, changing the flavour profile markedly and elevating this brand to No.1 in the Blended Scotch 12 YO range, from which it was displaced in India by the Famous Grouse 12 YO, which sadly has been discontinued. Teacher's 50, Ballantine's 12 YO, Dewar's 12 YO and Buchanan's 12 YO are currently vying for top honours in this category.

The latest offering from the brand is Black Dog Triple Gold Reserve. In the triple maturation process, Grain and Malt whiskies are matured separately in American Bourbon Casks and  then blended together and matured again in Oloroso Sherry Butts for an extra long period of time to give the blend a distinctive flavour and a delicate finish. This gives this scotch a very fine finish, and is a tangible improvement of the 12 YO Black Dog Gold Reserve. Its effect on the market is yet to be assessed as the owners are waiting for the Black Dog Gold Reserve to run its course, what with Whyte and Mackay and its massive inventory being sold yet again, this time to Philippines-based Emperador Inc.    
Black Dog Reserve Scotch Whisky
Black Dog 18 years old Scotch Whisky is known as Black Dog Reserve Scotch. It is matured for a minimum of 18 years in oak casks. Master blenders carefully put together a fine blend of Aged Malt and Grain Whiskies to make this an exceptional Scotch whisky. Black Dog Reserve Scotch has won Gold award at the MUNDUS Vini International Spirit Awards held at Germany in 2011. This is the third Gold award won by this 18 year old Whisky, making it one of the top five of the world’s best tasting 18 year old blended Scotch whiskies. I can vouch for it, as it melts into your tongue like honey. It is as good as The Glen Ord Singleton 18 YO, which forms the body of JW Blue Label, an NAS blend.

Black Dog Quintessence Scotch Whisky

The Black Dog Quintessence is a 21 year old blend. It is pure liquid gold as it is handcrafted to meticulous perfection by Black Dog’s master blenders. Only 25 of the finest single malts and grain whiskies have been drawn from the Highland region of Scotland, in particular from Speyside to provide that special key – “finesse”. Like a loving partnership each individual part has made its own inimitable contribution. Balance and harmony prevails throughout this noble elegant spirit. After a long 20 year maturation in Bourbon barrels, the final year is spent in the finest Oloroso sherry butts. These aren't just any sherry butts; they are specially selected from Spain’s noblest Bodegas of Gonzalez Byass in Jerez de la Frontera; these Matusalem butts provide the perfect platform to marry and mould Black Dog 21 years old Blended Scotch Whisky.  This whisky has been sold out, more's the pity. I did manage to taste it at The Patio in 2013 and can still recall that dram.

The Black Dog Gold Reserve 12 YO is available at most duty free shops at close to US$ 37.00 per 750 CL. These are all Bottled In Scotland whiskies but are rapidly fading out. They are far too expensive. In the free market in India, The Black Dog Gold Reserve 12 YO Bottled In India is freely available at US$ 28 and below. The rush for this brand at this price by people who don't care where it was bottled is unbelievable. The 12 YO is the brand that is selling  the fastest globally when seen YoY, averaging 45-50%!   

Black Dog's scorching growth contrasts with overall blended scotch sales coming under pressure globally, and within India, for different reasons. The only other blended scotch brands to report five year double-digit growth are Black & White (19.8%), Old Parr (14.8%), Passport (13.7%) and VAT 69 (10%) among a list of the world's 50 top scotch brands compiled by International Wine & Spirit Research.

How Scotch Whisky is faring globally


Together with James MacKinlay, he discovered the blend he was looking for. Its unique taste, delicate aroma and smooth effect on the palate were the aspects that appealed the most and brought an end to Sir Walter Millard's quest. Being a keen 'Angler' and considering his love for his favourite sport, Sir Walter Millard named the Scotch after his favourite fishing fly - the Black Dog. - See more at: