THe Neat Spirits Tasting Glass

NEAT spirits glasses were made to create the perfect aroma experience for sipping spirits such as whiskey, rum, tequila, gin and more. But the production of the stubby, round glass with a flared lip—which looks like a classic vase, shrunk down to tiny proportions—started with a mistake.

George Manska, a Las Vegas financial planner, met glass artist Dale Chihuly at an event in the early 2000s and was inspired enough to take a glass-blowing class. “My glass did not exactly turn out the way I expected,” says Manska, who has a degree in mechanical engineering and worked for Ford Motor Company in a previous life. “It was a mistake, but like a kid making a school project, I brought it home and put it on a shelf.”

George Manska

One night, Manska came home with a bottle of Macallan Cask Strength Scotch and realized his usual tumblers were in the dishwasher. “I noticed my ‘mistake glass’ on the shelf,” he recalls, “and it seemed to be calling, ‘try me!’” After he poured the luxe scotch into his handmade glass, he thought he’d been duped with a fake bottle of spirits. “I couldn’t smell any alcohol, so I decided to grab one of my usual glasses from the dishwasher, poured the scotch and smelled the alcohol.” The handmade glass, Manska
found, focused the aroma on the honey, caramel, butterscotch and wood notes of the Scotch, while his standard glass hit him with the alcohol’s nose-numbing ethanol.

Realizing he was on to something, Manska went into mad-scientist mode,
researching spirits’ chemical compositions, olfactory biology and more. He began crafting glass prototypes in his back yard and garage to create the perfect shape that would dissipate the ethanol and focus the senses on the spirit’s character aromas.

Manska went so far as to buy a kiln so he could fire porcelain versions of the glass form. During the process, he admitted he would lose track of time. “My wife would have to tell me it was 2 a.m., and that I’d better turn the kiln off and come to bed.”

After organizing numerous tasting panels, Manska zeroed in on the present
design—with a bowl shape, narrowed neck and flared lip. With business partner Christine Crnek, Manska launched the NEAT (Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology) glass collection in 2012. Made in Slovakia, the lead-free crystal glasses are now standard equipment in many official spirits competitions and tastings, including the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The glass may also be found in numerous restaurants and bars across the country, including Emeril Lagasse’s eateries at The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.

Manska has hardly been resting on his crystal laurels since founding NEAT. He and Crnek are exploring bringing the same scientific approach to other kinds of glassware—for beer and wine. And they’re thinking about adding a stemmed version of their glass to the line. “The cognac people want a stem,” sighs Manska. And, while he might not be firing prototypes in his kiln in the wee hours, Manska remains in the scientific weeds, researching the science of spirits glass design and publishing his findings in online journals.

His latest research? Women and their olfactory responses to spirits. “It’s a macho society—a boy’s club—when it comes to spirits,” Manska says. “There are a lot of myths out there about women and spirits, but, to put it
simply, women have a nose that’s 43 percent better than men’s based on research. They have more olfactory receptors, so they are more sensitive to the aromas of spirits.”

So, while a set of NEAT glasses might be the perfect Father’s Day gift, it could be a much- appreciated Mother’s Day gift as well. “Plain old curiosity started this all,” says Manska of his lengthy foray into the science of glassware and aroma, and the beginnings of NEAT. “One question always
led to the next question.”

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