Thrifty Living

Don’t pay retail ever again

Good glassware isn’t cheap, and rightfully so. Anyone who drinks liquor will know that quality crystal elevates the drinking experience to a whole new level. But how do common-folk reach this plane of existence when funds are short? Simple, pay less than retail.

Take for example, the Glencairn whisky glass.

1. They’re beautiful.
2. They’re functional.
3. They’re reasonably priced. (Roughly $10 CAD new)

That last point though, a reasonable price, they weren’t always reasonable. Just 5 years ago, they cost 50% more than they do now at $15 each! Even though they sell for $10 now, that has never stopped my thriftiness (read: cheap ass) from buying them for less than retail. I recently was at a Value Village in Brampton, Ontario, doing some thrift-shopping-therapy and I picked up three Glencairn whisky nosing glasses, a Glenmorangie copita, and four glass toppers for $14.64. If I bought these new it would cost me about $63 in Ontario (HST included). That’s a savings of over 75%! In fact the best deal I got was when I paid about $0.25 each, about 97% off retail!

Mind you, Value Village is getting expensive these days, but the price was $2.99 for the Glencairn glasses as well as the toppers. New that would be approximately $14 for both. I grabbed three out of the four that were there.

This Value Village in Brampton is large and has a wide selection.

In my six years of drinking whisky, I have gone from having no Glencairn whisky glasses for the first three years, to having roughly 10 in the last three years. I absolutely love these glasses. They’re functional, beautiful, sturdy enough for travel (Picnics and even in carry-on luggage from Delhi to Toronto… not kidding). Despite the fact that they’re lead-free crystal, they are weighted nicely and still have a brilliant appearance.

Here’s how it all started.

When I first started drinking whisky in 2011, I used whatever I could to enjoy the symphony of aroma flavour, so long as it tapered at the rim. I’ll explain this in another post.

Back to the Glencairn. This glass was literally invented by experts in the whisky industry who were miffed that after centuries of making one of the best spirits in the world, they still don’t have a dedicated glass in which to drink their liquid opus.

Detail in the base of a Glencairn nosing glass.

Wine has a variety of glasses to suit the variety of wine. Cognac or brandy have a snifter, champagne, sherry, absinthe, even a mint julep has a traditional serving cup. Beer has pilsner glasses, tulips, pint glasses, steins, goblets, you name it. Breweries even make glasses that suit their beers! The list goes on. So how did whisky drinkers survive without a dedicated whisky glass? Well all you need is a tapered rim. So wine glasses and brandy snifters, anything with a tapered rim worked just fine.

Going back to when I first started drinking whisky. I was living on about $10,000 per year hacking it in Ottawa as a photographer and skimped on whatever I could to be able to afford the LCBO’s (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) obscenely over-inflated price of Scotch whisky (more on that another time).

At the time, Glencairn glasses hadn’t quite caught on amongst us plebeians in Canada. You couldn’t just walk into a store and buy them, and the only nearby website that had any was They charged roughly $15 per glass at the time, and shipping cost roughly $15 (As of April 2017 the price is about $10 per glass). What makes it even worse in Ontario is the bloody 13% HST. I wasn’t going to spend $30 on one glass. Unless the glass was made from moon dust, not going to happen. Not when a bottle of Talisker 10 was $75, was I going to spend nearly half that on one glass (Talisker 10 is now $100 at the LCBO as of April 2017).

A little credit to the LCBO though, they did sell the Canadian whisky glass, made by Glencairn. The glass is actually a tulip shape, which ended up being an all-around perfect glass for wine, beer, cocktails, even soft-drinks. It performs moderately well for spirits. The glass was just under $10 each so I bought two and I still enjoy them to this day.

I forced myself to live without them and learned to enjoy whisky in a wine glass or a beer glass.

It was not until 2013 when I worked in Whitecourt, Alberta, as an intern reporter did I acquire my first Glencairn whisky glass. I went a little crazy in Alberta because the privatized liquor sales meant every shop had different prices and selection. What a concept. Most stores were open after 6 p.m. and on holidays because in the 21st century I guess we figured the devil doesn’t hide in the dark nor in liquor bottles. While I was perusing the great selection of beer and whisky at The Wild Orchid Liquor Company in Hinton, Alberta, I noticed they had Glencairn glasses and even whisky sampling! Instantly I asked about buying them because I had never seen them in a shop, and the girl sold me the one they had for $10. I eventually met the owner and he was a great guy and remembered me a year later when I went back in 2014 even though I only spent $10 at his store. Whenever I’m in Hinton I stop at their store to buy beer, and even when friends drive through I send them a list.

They’re such a stunning shape, and the glass is brilliant, even if it’s not lead crystal.

So I was thrilled that not only had I got my first Glencairn whisky glass, I got it for $5 less than online in Ontario, paid 5% tax instead of 13% in Ontario, didn’t have to pay shipping and didn’t give my money to the LCBO.

Fast forward to 2017. I think I now own about 10 Glencairn whisky nosing glasses? In total I think I have spent about $40.

How then did I get this insane 97% off deal? Well If you’re serious about thrift store shopping, or charity store shopping if you’re in the UK, the really good stores will only charge twenty-five to fifty cents for glasses. Many don’t care whether it’s an IKEA glass or some Victorian-era glass. They aren’t there to gouge customers, their purpose is to fundraise for their charity and are mostly volunteer-run. It’s true, I do feel like a thief walking out having paid $0.25 for a $10 glass, but that’s the way it is. Give thrift/charity shops your business and donate extra if you feel inclined to. The staff and charities themselves deserve it.

It’s a great system, someone gets rid of their junk, the thrift store sells it and makes money, the thrifty shopper gets to dine like a prince on a pauper’s budget! Thrift shopping is a win-win-win.

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