Learning the art of the perfect glass in Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Learning the art of the perfect glass in Beaver Creek

Krista Driscollkdriscoll@vaildaily.comVAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

In the right glass, any spirit can be enjoyed without training wheels.”When we talk about Riedel, for us, everything has to be neat and straight up,” said Maximilian Riedel, CEO of Riedel Crystal and 11th generation of the Riedel glassmaking family. “There’s no need to dilute the message of the beverage, to dull it down with ice cubes.”To prove his point, Riedel led a seminar in Beaver Creek on Thursday showcasing the company’s line of expertly crafted spirits glasses. The event, part of the Beaver Creek Wine & Spirits Festival, taught the rapt audience that a proper glass could enhance the taste and aroma of even a few drops of high-quality liquor and elevate the entire drinking experience.For each round of tasting, Riedel instructed his pupils to divide the spirit among three Riedel glasses – tequila, cognac and single-malt whiskey – his goal not only being to distinguish each specialty glass from its traditional cocktail counterpart but also to demonstrate the unique qualities of each piece.A lesson with tequilaThe 6-ounce bowl of the Riedel tequila glass follows a gradual taper to the rim and is supported by a long, thin stem. It appears simple and unexceptional next to its fluted, rose-bud-shaped cognac and whiskey companions. But as soon as the reposado tequila was poured, Riedel pointed out the delicate, floral perfume of the blue agave that was amplified by that very ordinary looking glass.”Start to smell,” he said. “Just keep your nose in there; there’s no gorilla that punches you in the face. … You can really keep your nose in the glass – pepper and spice, the smell of fresh agave like a perfume.”From plastic cup to refined glassware, the transformation was astonishing. “People are stunned,” Riedel said of the typical reaction to tequila once presented in this sophisticated vestment. “They have walked out of my tasting saying one thing: They love tequila. It’s beautiful; it’s refreshing; it’s interesting. There’s no sign of concentration of alcohol.”Poured into the cognac glass for comparison, the spirit lost a lot of its peppery, earthy notes and gained more of an olfactory burn from the alcohol, and in the third glass, designed for single-malt whiskey, the tequila lost all traces of what made it a superior spirit. That bright, floral aroma was gone, and with eyes closed, a consumer would be hard pressed to distinguish the liquor as reposado, rather than anejo or blanco. Riedel directed his pupils back to the tequila glass for a taste.”When the beverage floats onto your palate, it has this creamy texture that tequila can offer – it’s the structure, the viscosity of the beverage,” Riedel said. “It has this long-lasting aftertaste, beautiful minerality.”The second sip was even milder and more lovely, with a slightly smoky palate and an aftertaste of salt and dark chocolate. The glass directed the tequila to meet the tongue just behind the sweet-sensing taste buds on the tip that amplify alcohol. The liquid then slid toward the sides of the mouth, boosting the tequila’s minerality.No science neededThe tequila glass had transformed the beverage, and the experiment continued through cognac and single-malt whiskey, each glass showing off its talent for creating depth of aroma and directing its contents across the tongue in the way that was most pleasing to the taste buds and complimentary to its mouth feel. The creation takes time and patience. There is no science behind these Riedel glasses, Riedel said – no analysis of air flow, no computers involved – because drinking a finely crafted spirit is a sensory experience that is unique to each individual. The glasses evolve through prototypes and many steps of trial and error tended by spirit producers to create the glass that best tells the story of that particular draught.”Wine and spirits speaks to our senses,” Riedel said. “It’s necessary that we work with our senses to develop these glasses. … My glasses without wine and spirits would simply be dust catchers.”

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