Which cognac glasses and how to drink

Which glass is best for enjoying your precious cognac?

There are three types of cognac glasses that are frequently used, all are stemware. The two balloon snifters – big and small – are both short-stemmed and the tulip or nosing glass, which usually has a longer stem and is less wide.
The big balloon snifter is the most eye-catching, because of its size. The small balloon snifter is the most widely used. The tulip glass, sometimes called pipe-snifter, is the one used by the French producers themselves and by the connoisseurs.

The big balloon snifter is usually higher than 12 cm and has a content of 20cl up to 85cl (sometimes even more!). Because of its size it has a large surface and the cognac is spread around in it and evaporates more easily, bringing nice aroma’s to the nose. The narrow top prevents the aroma’s to escape before they have been appreciated.

big balloonglass or snifter

But this big surface has a drawback. It is generally felt that the evaporation goes to fast and as the aroma’s evaporate, the taste suffers. The process of evaporation can be enhanced by heating the glass above a flame. But now the subtle and very volatile substances are gone even before anyone can enjoy them.

The small balloon snifter is smaller than the above, but still has a belly that is round. Its content is often not more than 15cl with a height of around 10cm.

small balloonglass

This glass was the most widely used glass for cognacs (and brandies) for many decades. The surface is much smaller and the content-surface ratio is more favourable so the aroma’s escape very slowly from the liquor. It is a glass that has a good feel to it when you hold it in your hands and swerve the cognac. If the cognac is too cold, this is the best way to warm it a little.

The pipe snifter, usually called nosing glass or tulip glass, is much less wide and like the small balloon glass it has a small content. It can be reasonably high, up to 185mm, but can also be much lower than this. The content varies from 10 to 18.5cl.

Tulip glass (nosing glass; pipe snifter)

Here the content-surface ratio is even better. The glass is round a the bottom, narrowing upwards and then bending open again. This is the optimal shape for holding back the aroma’s a  bit and at the same time helps them gently to release.
If you have diffulty finding them, the copita or sherry glass can be a very good alternative.


Some people even differentiate between a glass for a VSOP cognac and one for an XO. The VSOP being somewhat smaller, containing 16cl and the XO 17cl. What I think of that? First of all, I do not drink VSOP quality and secondly, I think this is just for trying to make you spend more money.

16cl 'VSOP' glass 17cl 'XO' glass

Besides the three most common types of glasses, other glasses have been made; like the following ones:

Black crystal glass, 12cm high Final Touch, 12,5cm high and with a content of 57cl. Normann snifter, 11cm high and 25cl content  Eva Solo glass; 21 cl and 280mm high.

The way to appreciate cognac.

Just poor a little bit, 2 to 4 cl is enough. Take your glass in your hand for a few minutes to warm it a bit. Take the first sniff before you whirl it, but from a bit of a distance. Then give it a soft little swirl for the second nose, maybe a little closer to the glass. Take a little sip without oxygenating it.
When you want to discover more flavours in your cognac, you can try oxygenating the cognac in your mouth. So have a bit of cognac in your mouth and inhale some air, letting the air go through the liquid in your mouth. What does it make you think of? Is it red fruits or yellow fruits? Nuts? Flowers? Or even wood or leather flavors? I usually try visualizing diffferent fruits and nuts and various other flavors when doing so. Do I taste pear? Banana? Red berries? Almonds? Vanilla? Violets? Geraniums? Chocolate? Leather? Cedarwood? And so on.




Glasses — 2 Comments

  1. In the Netherlands this is not very difficult as you can buy six glasses for €16,95. Not very costly.
    But I don’t know your location of course.
    Another possibility is to attend a cognac tasting event. Most often you can keep a glass.
    Recently I have been in the cognac region in France and got some glasses for free after tasting, but you have to be a bit lucky because this is not common practice…

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