Bourbon Scotch By Nino Marchetti / October 29, 2015 There are whisky glasses, and then there are whisky glasses. It is into this latter pool the recently debuted Norlan Whiskey Glass falls, being billed by its creators as “combining design, science and technology for the perfect whisky drinking experience.” It plays to the idea that the two defining styles of whisky glasses already out there, nosing glasses and classic tumblers, can be brought together into a new design that builds upon the key characteristics of each in a new and exciting way, while at the same time adding some new improvements. Those behind Norlan have turned to Kickstarter for crowdfunding of their new glass and, as of the time this story went live, were just a few thousand dollars short of their initial funding goals. In order to find out what exactly is the mindset behind their product we turned to Shane Bahng, their chief operating officer, with some questions. – Norlan is described by your company as “the glass which will change whisky.” What does this mean exactly to you? Changing whisky is obviously a big statement. We mean this both specifically (how whisky tastes, smells, and looks in a glass) and broadly (how whisky is marketed and presented to the consumer). Regarding the broad change, there are so many things about the industry that we feel are not only stagnant, but regressive. Whisky is not simply about the latest rarity and it certainly shouldn’t be consumed out of just one glass. It is primarily about experience. Of course, we think one’s experience of the spirit is improved by drinking from our glass, but homogeneity is not what we’re after. Despite the lack of development in the functional aspects of whisky glasses, there is also the conversation of aesthetics. We humans love beautiful things, and are drawn to the tactile aspects of physical things. It is in our biology. We knew that a considered approach to design and the aesthetics of a whisky glass could become an important part of one’s whisky drinking ritual. Norlan was founded on the idea of addressing deficiencies in the whisky drinking experience; mainly, that the world of whisky is dominated by two distinct types of glassware: nosing glasses and classic tumblers. While the former do improve the scent delivery of the spirit, they too often concentrate the ethanol vapors, obscuring the subtler flavor notes. Tumblers, on the other hand, have a broad aesthetic appeal and are sociable glasses, but their wide open brims diffuse and flatten out whisky’s complex aromatics. We wanted to make sure that we were making the best possible glass for whisky enthusiasts and one that would allow everyone to experience their favorite whisky as the distiller intended. – Tell us a little of the background of this new whisky glass – how did it come to be created and who was involved in crafting it? Norlan was created by internationally renowned Icelandic designer Sruli Recht and further refined with input from master distillers in Scotland. A whisky aficionado, Recht searched but found history had yet to produce a truly thoughtful design-response to the unique experience of enjoying fine whisky. Like any designer, when faced with a problem, they fixate on finding a solution. The problem here was a lack of beautiful, specialized, glasses for an incredible and varied drink. Nearly every glass was cumbersome, finicky, covered in logos, or seemed to be forged in a goblin’s dungeon. No glass addressed the modern day, and the growing interest in whisky by people of all ages. Even after the last year and a half we still don’t know why whisky is so tightly and homogenously marketed. Norlan was borne the exact moment Sruli tried a snifter – its narrow opening dramatically changing his favorite whisky beyond anything he had experienced. It was a phenomenally different beast in that glass, a dog to a werewolf, and in the light of that same full moon, the idea hit him, on the left side of the face, improve the performance… and then the right: make it look better. During the development, Sruli further drew inspiration while watching the waves in Reykjavik, and began to apply bio-mimicry techniques to copy the natural way the waves moved over the sand. He wanted to create a standing wave effect in the glass when you swirl it so as to add air into the water for massive oxidation. He had met with Martin Hanczyc, a synthetic biologist and TED talk alumnus, resulting in a heavy conversation about the Maragnoni effect, and the rate of ethanol oxidation to surface volume which led to the incorporation of fluid dynamics modeling into the design of the glass. So we took this approach and created different extrusion forms for the base of the glass, to agitate and test the fluids in such a way that the ethanol could escape, reducing the volatility of the spirit, thus allowing the more flavorful aromatics to surface. Essentially he followed his nose until he found the right glass. – One element which seems to stand out to us in reviewing information on the Norlan is the so-called “social engagement” factor if it. Can you explain exactly what that is and why it is important to your product? While many people enjoy whisky in the comfort of their own home, we frequently engage in a social setting of some sort: a bar, a date, a business meeting, or an event. Many nosing glasses with a narrow aperture force the drinker to tilt their head up and back, causing one to break eye contact and cutting the drinker off from their social engagement. We consider this an introspective experience, personal and solitary, hence perfect for a private noser, but not in any way ideal for socializing. Whisky is amazing, cool and interesting. It is an endless maze of aromas and flavors. People love to talk while they drink, look at their companions, and enjoy a totally immersive social situation. You know a tumbler looks great when you drink out of it, but as mentioned above, you lose so much of what makes the whisky special. We are social beings, and drinking together really is the pinnacle of social highs for many people. We wanted a glass that would deliver the aromas better than a nosing glass, yet maintain the casual elegance of Dean Martin, leaning against a polished rich mahogany bar, with a twinkling thousand-yard stare as he croons “king of the road” one last time through the haze of a forgotten bar, or Tom Yorke as he hangs a digital fugue over an endless breaking sea of people. Eye contact and feeling good is key to social engagement. And enjoying the drink in new ways adds to that. Norlan transforms the way whisky is enjoyed through a design which combines the advanced aromatic delivery of a snifter with the aesthetic virtues of a tumbler. After an extensive process of refining the glass from over 90 design iterations we refined the experiential and the data, providing a glass with a scientific performing inside that has a wide enough aperture to allow you to drink while having your nose in the glass, thus preventing one from having to tilt the head up and back. – You’ve turned to crowdfunding for getting this new glass to market. Talk a little about the decision behind that and how consumers can take part. Working with the crowdfunding medium is not without its challenges. Any start-up wants to raise public awareness of their project while also raising funds at the same time. This is where the beauty of crowdfunding comes in. If the people want the product, then it comes to life. We feel that in this day and age there is a certain social responsibility when it comes to bringing physical products into the world. By presenting through this platform, we are able to give people the choice about whether it should be made, and not just make it and apply marketing firms to tell them to like it. It’s part word of mouth and part belief. We are blown away and humbled by seeing people believe in this product, not just with their pledges, but with their enthusiasm—it means everything we have worked for was in the right direction. – Give us some final compelling reasons to consider adding the Norlan to our whisky drinking experience. What it comes down to, for us and everyone that has tried the glass, is that there is always room for improvement, and by following this belief we have created a new category of drinking glass for the whisky world, offering a radically improved experience. We made this glass for everyone. And anyone that is curious enough to try new whiskies, will be curious enough to try this glass.