A little over a year ago I got my hands on a glass that its inventors claimed would change whisky - the Norlan Whisky glass. Overall I was pretty impressed with it, and have been using it regularly in my rotation ever since.
More recently, Norlan expanded their product line by offering a glass they call Norlan Glass VAILD - Black Edition. It’s what you think it is, an opaque black glass. But marketing images also showed a sort of glowing effect emanating from the glass when whiskey was in it and you were looking at it from the right angle. Being obsessed with just about everything whiskey, I was intrigued. Incidentally the company reached out to offer a sample set of glasses, so I gladly accepted.
The claim is that VAILD was developed to create a unique blind nosing experience, with the black outer wall concealing the whiskey, and inner wall revealing it. The claims go on to talk about stray photons, which is a bit over the top but it’s essentially light reflecting and refracting inside the glass like a sort of mirror effect. In marketing imagery it looks like an inner “glow.”
So before the glasses were even released we discovered opinions seem to diverge drastically. On one extreme, some say it’s such an incredibly unique concept and they can’t wait to get their hands on them, and on the other it’s accused of being ridiculous - an opaque black whiskey glass? In what situation would you not want to see the whiskey?
I was skeptical but still excited to try them out. I drink bourbon regularly, often studying it in the glass as I do. Seeing the whiskey in the glass, watching it roll around and stick to the sides, getting a sense of the depth of the color and how the whiskey got that way - all of these visual aspects play an integral role in the experience. Because of that, I was interested in exploring how changing up such an integral and innate part of drinking whiskey would impact that experience.
Hands On Norlan Glass VAILD:
Building off the original glass, the additional design element is actually quite simple - it’s the original Norlan glass with a black coating covering the entire outside of the glass up to the rim. It feels well made and from what I can tell will hold up against a moderate amount of wear and tear one might put a glass through they use to sip whiskey neat - keep in mind hand washing is recommended, while ice and whiskey stones are not. The coating has a slight texture to it, and feels good in the hand. The additional coating also feels like it gives some much needed sturdiness to the glass, or at least the illusion of it, making it feel more solid as compared to its seemingly fragile original counterpart.
Inside the glass the whiskey does appear to “glow” as marketing images seemed to portray. It’s like an inner mirror spanning the whole inside of the glass, making it appear to be more full than it is and extending up to the exposed rim of the glass making it appear as a sort of gold glowing ring. The “glow” is intriguing, and encourages you to swirl the whiskey around in the glass. On the downside, this also makes it difficult to tell how much whiskey has been poured if you’re doing a standard 1-2 ounce pour as I typically do. But that is easily remedied by pouring into another glass first, or just going with it.
Drinking blind it is rather unique, as promised. You can’t see through the opaque walls and the inner glow disguises the true depth of color to some extent if you happen to take a peek.
This is all pretty interesting at first. A different experience. “Glowing” whiskey. A glass that has a nice texture and feels good in the hand. A glass that brings drinking blind to another level.
But the intrigue wore off quickly.
Using the glass repeatedly it became apparent that looking through a crystal clear glass and seeing the whiskey is a critical part of the experience for me. Drinking whiskey is a sensory exploration, and for me the visual component is a crucial one. Ironically, the visual aspect of the experience is what makes the original Norlan glass such a success in my mind - it displays the whiskey better than any other glass money can buy. With VAILD, it’s a different visual experience and one that just doesn’t quite satisfy me.
VAILD offers something unique, but its intrigue is fleeting. It’s also not cheap, coming in at $58 for a set of two, which is a $10 premium over an original pair of Norlan glasses. I’ll give Norlan credit for doing something different, but I can’t get behind the concept wholeheartedly.
While fleeting, I think some will still find the new experience worth the splurge, but for most I think this will be a hard pass.
Then again, at least now Dracula has a whiskey glass he can appreciate.
The Norlan Glass VAILD used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Norlan Glass. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.