Have you heard of the cradle glass? If you bought the VIP tickets for Whisky Live Singapore 2017, you are the proud owner of one of these cradle glasses. Do you know where the cradle glass come from and the story behind the glass? WhiskyGeeks seeks out Sandie, the lady behind the cradle glass for a chat.
The Story of the Cradle Glass
The story started in Tasmania, Australia. Back in 1997, the owners of the Cradle Mountain Whisky Distillery decided to mothball the distillery due to insufficient funds. At the same time, they continued to sell existing stocks. By 2015, the whisky barrels were dwindling. Joe and Sandie love the whisky so much that they brought the Cradle Mountain Whisky Distillery to prevent it from shutting down! In their capable hands, the distillery began production again.
As a small craft distillery entirely owned by Joe and Sandie, they have the opportunities to explore and experiment with different wood types. They developed their special “Sol’Lahra” Barrels (which are barrels with different stave combinations) and used these barrels on top of the standard American Oak Barrels. They also explore different charred levels and even different formula for their new make! With all these variants, they have about 45 types of new make resting in their specialised barrels.
As distillers, one of the joys on the job is to nose the new make. Cradle Mountain Whisky started with a new make of 65% abv and the alcohol fumes can be quite a challenge when the other aromas are still in their infancy stages. Using a standard Glencairn glass, it is difficult for Joe and Sandie to make out the developing aromas underneath the alcohol fumes. The high number of variants in the distillery makes the job even more difficult. Joe and Sandie know that they had to do something to make the job easier – they need a new glass.
And so the Cradle Glass is born
The owners of Cradle Mountain Whisky needed a glass that can eliminate the alcohol fumes in order to get access to the evolving aromas and subtle changes in their 45 new variants. The need to chart the development and tweak the environment (when necessary) of the maturing casks are vital for making good whiskies. With their needs clearly mapped out, the couple set to work. Creating the cradle glass was more challenging than they thought. Taking inspiration from Cradle Mountain and the nearby Dove Lake, they take movement, surface area and air pressure into consideration while creating a glass that is shaped like a natural cradle.
It took them seven attempts before they feel that what they have is a perfectly shaped glass that can radiate, move, aerate, accelerate, expel and emote.
How does the Cradle Glass work?
The Cradle Glass is easy to use – just pour your whisky of choice and cradle the glass in your palms. The radiant heat from your hands agitates the phenols in the whisky to release the aromas. The shape of the glass allows the whisky to move easily and aerates it to “open up”. As the air pressure increases within the glass, the aromas and alcohol fumes rise upwards to the narrowing neck. The smaller opening drops the air pressure as the vapours rise. When the vapours reach the widened lip of the glass, the alcohol fumes, being lighter than the organic compounds of the whisky, moves over the lips of the glass. That leaves the aromas of the whisky in the middle, right where you will nose it. The glass allows you to experience the fruity, floral aromas without getting the nasal burn from the alcohol fumes.
The glass has another function. With its rounded and weighted bottom, the glass extended the movement of the whisky within to release the aroma in between each sip, helping you to catch all the aromas as intended by the whisky maker. Of course, it also serves a practical function – the glass does not fall over or spill the precious liquid inside.
Here’s a summary for you:
The Business of the Nose
Studies suggested that we used up to 80% of our sense of smell to work out the taste. The process is somewhat scientific – molecules of a substance stimulate nerve cells in our nose, mouth and throat and transfer the information to our brain, allowing us to judge whether the substance is pleasing or not. While it is natural for everyone to have a different preference when drinking whisky, Joe and Sandie want to share the cradle glass with the rest of the world as they believe removing the alcohol fumes help them to enjoy the whisky more.
Aromas can be overshadowed by alcohol fumes and make it more difficult for the whisky drinker to discern the subtle flavours beneath the burning sensation. The cradle glass removes the alcohol fumes to help the whisky drinker discover the flavours and aromas to better appreciate a good whisky.
Why do We think the Cradle Glass Works?
WhiskyGeeks tested the two cradle glasses that we received at Whisky Live Singapore 2017 for about two months before reaching out to Sandie. We need to know if the cradle glass works as it intended. We tried it with many different whiskies, even comparing the same whisky using a Glencairn glass and the cradle glass. What we found was a fuller flavour, a better nose and more aromas when using the cradle glass.
One of the most significant examples was Zerlina’s experiment with The Macallan Gold. We had a sample from Master of Malt and decided to use it as a test because there are simply too many people who think badly about it.
We split the liquid between a Glencairn glass and the cradle glass, and nose them. The aromas arising out of the Glencairn glass are more subtle and less prominent as compared with the cradle glass. The spiced ginger was more in tune with the citrus lemon zest in the cradle glass than the Glencairn glass. We were impressed indeed!
The cradle glass delivers as promised and we know that we need to share this after conducting various other experiments with similar results.
First, a disclaimer – We are not here to sell the cradle glass and Sandie is not sending us with a crate of Cradle Mountain Whisky to get us to write the article. We are here to introduce the cradle glass mainly because we believe that it works! While we still use our Glencairn glasses for drinking whisky, we find ourselves favouring the cradle glass when we want to write tasting notes. It helps us to discern the subtle flavours and make the work easier for us in general.
For those of you who own a cradle glass of your own, why not try it if you have not? For those who have tried, how about sharing your experience with us? Did you get a positive experience too?
A small note about the owners of Cradle Mountain Whisky and the Cradle Glass
Joe and Sandie are owners of the Cradle Mountain Whisky Distillery in Tasmania, Australia. They developed the cradle glass out of necessity for their whisky making process and is today, sharing the glass with the rest of the world. You can find out more at www.cradleglass.com.
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