How two Aussie designers invented the world's best bourbon glass

Are you a bourbon fan? Then this glass could change your life.

Melbourne designers Denver Cramer and Liely Faulkner have created a specalised vessel to consume the misunderstood American spirit.

Sitting in the front bar of Hats & Tatts, in South Melbourne, we are giving the stylish glass a dry run – actually, make that a wet run – with a number of top-shelf bourbon whiskies, Blanton's Gold Edition and Parker's Heritage Collection among them, ahead of its official launch in July.

"Over the last couple of years, Liely and I have developed a true appreciation for bourbon," says Cramer, by way of explaining the pair's decision to produce a bourbon glass.

A glass comparison

More specifically, we are sampling the bourbon glass against the dram-namic design duo's original Denver & Liely whisky tumbler, first launched in 2014 to family and friends as Christmas presents, before being enthusiastically received by whisky connoisseurs and aficionados worldwide through word of mouth.

Alongside each other on the bar, the American model is shorter than the original, with a broader opening. This lets the spirit diffuse more, producing a softer, smoother drinking experience. It also has a base to hold the glass, as Americans often drink their bourbon on ice.

"The bourbon glass has similar airflow and bottom shape, but it's a major departure, as a drinking experience, from our whisky glass," explains Cramer. "It is not just about making the whisky taste and smell better, but making sure it's a cultural fit."

From the ground up

Figuring out what that cultural fit was, Cramer and Faulkner spent several months on the road in 2017, travelling through the United States. In particular, the trip took in the US states of Kentucky and Tennessee, the home of bourbon whisky, to experience its drinking culture firsthand.

Starting out from Nashville, Tennessee in a milk-grey Dodge Challenger rental, Cramer and Faulkner crossed into Kentucky, heading as far north as Louisville, before looping back into Tennessee, as far south as Chattanooga, dropping in on bars and distilleries – with names such as Green Briar, Angel's Envy and Heaven Hill – along the way.

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What they discovered was a far more chilled, less snobbish appreciation of whisky. "It's a whole different drinking experience when you go to American bars," says Cramer. "Americans are more into enjoying the spirit rather than dissecting it, like we do with Scotch, Japanese whisky or even Australian whisky."

Process and culture

Cramer and Faulkner's MO in designing the bourbon glass has followed a similar route to all the glasses they have designed. They start with an interest and build on it by looking to create a better drinking experience. Then they do their research (wouldn't we all like to call it that) by going to the source – the bars, drinkers and habitués, the makers, spirit cognoscenti and aficionados.

"We set out to understand the process, the culture, history and stories," explains Cramer. With the bourbon glass, it was the same: "We wanted to see whether drinkers saw a need for a specific glass."

Certainly, it was the approach taken with their first whisky glass, now produced in batches several thousand-strong, selling internationally in such places as Germany, Switzerland, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the UK, including at Harrods in London.

A pattern emerges

It's what they adopted for their follow-up gin glass, launched in late 2016, hitting up key players in our burgeoning craft gin scene, like The West Winds Gin co-founder Jason Chan and Four Pillars' Cameron Mackenzie. In turn, this spawned a range of 3-D prototypes with different profiles to test for flavor and smell before they settled on a winning design.

It's something Cramer and Faulkner did with the bourbon glass, putting through their paces several 3D printed prototypes for close friends, supporters and assorted industry folk, including distillers and whisky geeks, in the upstairs bar at Whisky + Alement, in Melbourne's CBD, late last year.

They also held a series of tastings in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles to further test their designs on industry influencers.

Next on the list

It's the approach, too, they are adopting for their next project – a stemmed glass for agave-based spirits tequila and mescal, planned for release in November, which they have spent time in Mexico researching this year and last.

Cramer is promising an unusual design, based again around the drinking experience. "It'll be fluted and splayed at the top and bulbous at the bottom," he says. "It'll be weird."