Glassware blamed for gender bias in spirits

30th January, 2019 by Melita Kiely

Researchers claim to have identified the main cause for gender bias within the spirits industry – tulip-shaped glasses.


Glassware has been identified as a “primary cause” for gender bias in spirits

Tulip-shaped, or copita, glasses have long been used for nosing and tasting spirits, and have been designed to concentrate the aromas of the liquid.

However, a new report – Applying Physics and Sensory Sciences to Spirits Nosing Vessel Design to Improve Evaluation Diagnostics and Drinking Enjoyment – suggests these glasses have been a primary cause for “female exclusion” due to women’s heightened sense of smell compared to men.

Commissioned by Arsilica, which owns glassware company Neat, the research revealed that in a simple ‘A/B’ preference test, 98% of women preferred an “open-rim, engineering nosing vessel, which diverts ethanol (A), over the tulip, which concentrates ethanol (B)”.

It also showed that 30% of women “refused testing, averse to olfactory pain to tulips”.

For men, 87% of those surveyed preferred option ‘A’, and “none experienced olfactory pain”.

All participants chosen for the study were well-known to the author, Christine Crnek, co-founder and CEO of Arsilica, and comprised spirits industry executives, collectors and aficionados, spirits judges, bartenders, brand ambassadors, certified sommeliers, spirits distributors and buyers, competition and tasting organisers, and members of international spirits clubs.

The exception was participants in ‘Consumer Test I’, who were all random attendees at spirits events.

Glassware put to the test during the study included the snifter, Glencairn, copita, an ‘engineered vessel’ and a tumbler.

The study proposed a modified social position to “balance gender participation” in the spirits world.

It stated: “The industry has a golden opportunity to balance gender participation and much to gain from expanding straight spirits markets to include more sensitive female noses.

“As a bonus, males with more sensitive noses will participate. Modifying social stance requires no investment, and there are many areas for improvement.”

Christine Crnek, co-founder and CEO of Arsilica, said: “Fifty years ago, Scotch, whiskies, Tequilas and rum target markets were solidly male, and gender-neutral social norms were not a consideration.

“Our research uncovered a major reason for predominantly male participation and female exclusion among straight spirits drinkers: tulip glasses which concentrate painful nose-numbing ethanol.

“According to sensory science, females have far superior noses, and ethanol is an anaesthetic which quickly hinders aroma detection and appreciation. It’s been under our noses all along, yet no one noticed.”

6 Responses to “Glassware blamed for gender bias in spirits”

  1. For this self-serving PR research to have a shred of value, you need to assume that tulip glasses are widely used to serve spirits, and that this fact alone puts off female drinkers. Seems unlikely.

  2. DTS says:

    I assume the “engineered vessel” was the Neat glass? I have a few an have only met one person that preferred it (who was male), it’s also a nightmare to actually drink out of. Inequality and Gender bias is a serious issue in the industry but this sort of a distraction and as Robert said “self-serving PR research” is not helpful.

  3. Robert Metcalfe, you may find the peer reviewed research is published in a different light than this PR summary. Please read it. The research began long before the engineered glass was invented, and the engineered glass was the result of an attempt to solve the problem of appealing to more sensitive noses, both male and female. The fact that many women refused the test was a strong indication that they were familiar with the tulip glass and did not care for it. Thank you for your comments.

    • Michel says:

      “The fact that many women refused the test was a strong INDICATION that they were familiar with the tulip glass and did not care for it.” . No its not, they made a assumption, thats it!
      How about this? The only indication I get is that woman just dont like higher proof alcohol, hence why they refused to participate the test in the first place….
      But i get it, when you are talking about (gender/race/whatever) equalities all the so called facts must be true and are not debatable. Or is it just because its a popular subject nowadays and probably gets funded much easier than the subject that will conclude something different?

    • Adam says:

      I would have much rather seen a direct link to this research. This article describes what sounds like a cocktail party demonstration, where someone shows her friends a new glass she’s making, not anything resembling actual research.

  4. Jamie says:

    Many of my female friends could care less about the glass. Many times I served them in the “tumbler” glass and it was not the alcohol vapors but the overall strength they objected to. So did many male friends. These are 40% alcohol low ABV whiskies. Most people drink beer, wine, and cocktails. Whiskey is far stronger than these drinks. It is not that glasses are “bad”, it is that most people do not drink strong drinks and that over decades whiskey was marketed to men. This is a distraction and a self serving “research” for a glass company.

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