It isn’t often in the world of spirits (or cigars for that matter) that a new accessory creates the veritable firestorm of buzz on whisky social media that was created by the release of the Norlan Glass. In 2017, Norlan Glass announced its newest product: Norlan VAILD (not veiled or vailed!). In this post, I’m going to go into a lot of detail on my experience thus far with the Norlan VAILD. But, I’ll cut to the chase first so you can get the gist if that’s all you want:
The Norlan VAILD is an amazing product and elevates the scotch experience. Not only that, it elevates the experience in such substantial and emotive ways that I have to recommend purchasing a set to anyone who either loves whisky or has a loved one who does.
Why? Let’s find out.
For the purposes of this review, I’ll be taking a look at form (how is it made), aesthetics, and function (what do I like / dislike about using the product).
The Norlan glass is made of hand-blown borosilicate glass. For the Norlan VAILD, a matte black exterior finish is added. Inside the glass, the designers of VAILD added a recursive infinity mirror that traps the light entering the glass and putting it on full display within the glass.
The lip is concave, giving it a width very uncharacteristic of most whisky glasses.
The shape of the glass, inside and out, is distinctive, and intentional. The unique shape was made to achieve two goals, and here I’ll let the creators do the talking.
Goal 1: Aeration
Through specially developed protrusion forms inside the glass — adapted through studying bio-mimicry — when swirled around the glass the fluid forms a standing wave shape, which increases the surface to air ratio and rate of oxidization. The effect here is that considerably more ethanol evaporates. This resulting reduction in volatility allows the whisky to become significantly more expressive. This feature is an invention of the Norlan glass — no other whisky glass will do this for you.
Goal 2: Aroma Focus
The second main performance feature is the shape of the inner walls, which close as they rise and then flare out again so as not to hit the nose. The height and diameter of the smallest aperture focuses the aromatics to the nose while simultaneously diffusing the ethanol away from the face, fantastically improving the taste of your whisky.
Marks for form: 15/15
I was in Toronto on a business trip when I saw this video in a Facebook ad for this glass. As the camera panned over the glass and the whisky was highlighted by the light emanating from the infinity mirror, I fell in love and ordered the set on the spot. However, after ordering I had my post-purchase thought: it can’t be as awesome as that video. There’s no way that the scotch is going to glow in the glass, it’s a marketing effect.
Two weeks later, I opened up the box, dropped a dab of Glenfiddich XX into the glass, and behold: there was light. It really works as advertised. Even after testing in high light to low light rooms for this review, the glow ranges from a faint, dark gold to a bright shine. It is positively hypnotic, and gives every glass of scotch I have a sense of mystery.
The glass itself is gorgeous. It falls far outside the aesthetic of a typical scotch glass. Its angular curves are modern without being flashy. Its black color is modest, creating stark contrast to the light emanating from within and keeping the focus where it belongs: on the whisky. I think aesthetic deserves a perfect 15 out of 15, but I have heard some comment that the design seems snobby or pretentious. Since the world isn’t joined in agreement on the aesthetic, I’ll knock one point off
Marks for aesthetic: 14/15
As of my writing of this post, I’m about one week in to owning my Norlan Glass. Here are the highlights of what I love most about the form of this glass:
- Infinity Mirror: I’ve already mentioned it but I’m going to do it again: I love the infinity mirror on the inside of this glass. It is a brilliant touch. It works as advertised. I continue to be impressed.
- Wide lip: the wide lip adds a ton to the experience. As I sip my whisky, I can’t help but feel that the additional thickness of the lip adds a sort of feeling of substance to the taste of the whisky. Almost a kind of chewiness. I won’t keep going into detail on this: you’ll have to try it for yourself.
- Aeration: my experience thus far is that scotches I know to be heavier on the nose in terms of ethanol are softened with this glass. I couldn’t explain to you exactly how it works, just that it does.
- Weight: I’ve seen some comments about the glass itself being too light and feeling almost fragile. I think the weight is perfect, perhaps a touch on the light side. But I like the delicate feel – it encourages me to pay attention more, to take my time, to experience my whisky intentionally.
Marks for function: 15/15
Overall score: 44/45
Numbers are, of course, symbolic when it comes to reviews. The point is, this glass ups the ante on any other scotch glass in existence today, including the original Norton Glass. Of course, price is an important component, and at $58 for two, they are the most expensive whisky glasses I’ve ever purchased. But the Norlan glass is also the only scotch glass I’m likely to purchase from this time on, and that’s saying something.
The Norlan VAILD is a no brainer for any new or veteran whisky enthusiast. If my experience of the glass changes at any point, I will of course come back and update this review. Until then, consider me a Norton glass fanatic.