Many people like to chill their whiskey as it calms the burn of the alcohol and makes it a bit more palatable to drink. Whiskey stones are a great way to do this because they lower the temperature of the whiskey without diluting it and changing its taste – like ice cubes do.
Obviously using whiskey stones is not difficult at all, but there are a few things it’s useful to know to ensure you’re getting the most out of them. So here’s how to use whiskey stones to chill your whiskey effectively.
1. Get the Type for the Amount Of Cooling You Want
The first step in using whiskey stones to chill your drink effectively is to get the right type of whiskey stones for the amount of cooling that you want.
There are several types of whiskey stones each of which will chill whiskey to a different temperature as shown in the table below. Bear in mind that room temperature is considered 68° – 77°F / 20° – 25°C. I also added the temperature ice cubes will cool whiskey to for comparison.
|30° – 40°F / -1° – 4°C
|50°F / 10°C
|65° – 67°F / 18° – 20°C
|66°F / 19°C
As you can see, whiskey stones made of granite cool whiskey the least – and only to just below room temperature, whiskey stones made of soapstone are a little better, but whiskey stones made of steel cool whiskey the most – the difference between them and other types of whiskey stones being quite large.
You can also see that ice cubes chill whiskey significantly more than even steel whiskey stones. That’s because they’re able to melt which means they can absorb far more heat than whiskey stones – you need a relatively large amount of heat for the solid to liquid phase change to occur, and therefore make your whiskey colder.
But that doesn’t mean it would be better to use ice cubes.
That’s because when it comes to chilling whiskey, colder is not necessarily better as it can mute the whiskey’s aromas and flavors. Lower temperatures prevent the flavor molecules from evaporating so there’ll be less aromas to smell, and because flavor is a combination of taste and smell you won’t get some of the flavors either.
So just like whiskey stones allow you to chill your whiskey without having to worry about dilution, they also allow you to chill your whiskey without having to worry about it becoming too cold and losing its flavor.
Therefore, to use whiskey stones to chill your whiskey effectively you need to get the right type for the amount of cooling that you want.
- If you want an ice-cold whiskey, then you’ll need to use ice cubes.
- If you want to chill your whiskey significantly but not so much that it loses its flavor, then you’ll need to use steel whiskey stones.
- If you only want to slightly cool your whiskey so that it’s just below room temperature, then you should use whiskey stones made from soapstone or granite.
2. Freeze Them For At Least Four Hours
In order for your whiskey stones to cool your whiskey you’re going to need to make them cold first. Here’s how to do that:
Put your whiskey stones into a plastic bag and then place them in the freezer for at least four hours. Make sure to store them away from anything too smelly as whiskey stones can absorb some smells and transfer them to your whiskey, contaminating it and ruining its flavor.
Some suggest freezing whiskey stones for less time, but that’s because they have less cooling power. This is perfectly fine if, for example, you’re using certain granite whiskey stones that only need 20 minutes in the freezer, and you only want to slightly cool your whiskey. But if you’re using steel whiskey stones because you want your whiskey to be colder, if they only need 2-3 hours in the freezer that indicates they won’t be as good as steel whiskey stones that need to be frozen for four hours.
Freezing whiskey stones can sometimes give them freezer burn, which in turn will give your whiskey a freezer burn taste, so you might want to seal them in a plastic bag before putting them in the freezer.
Whiskey stones have an advantage over ice when it comes to freezing as they’re porous so they’re less likely to absorb the smells and flavors of the other things in the freezer and transfer them to your whiskey. But you should still be careful not to store them near anything too smelly as that can affect even non-porous whiskey stones.
3. Place 3 – 4 Large Or 1 Small One into A Tumbler
Whiskey stones come in different shapes and sizes, but a good rule of thumb is to use three or four small whiskey stones or one large one to achieve the expected amount of chilling for the type of whiskey stone you’re using.
When drinking whiskey with whiskey stones, it’s best to do so using a whiskey tumbler and not a nosing glass. That’s because whiskey tumblers are stronger, nosing glasses are more delicate, and whiskey stones are … well pieces of metal or stone that can easily damage, scratch or break glass.
- Nosing glasses are tall-ish with a wide bowl, long narrow neck, thin stem and pedestal.
- Tumblers are short and wide with straight sides, a thick or heavy flat bottom and no stem or handle.
Nosing glasses have thinner sides than tumblers and even if they have a thick bottom, it’s usually separated from the main part of the glass by a stem, and so provide no protection against ice or whiskey stones. In fact, some nosing glasses are so delicate that their manufacturers specifically discourage you from adding ice or whiskey stones because that could damage the glass. It’s not impossible to use whiskey stones in nosing glasses but if you do you need to be that much more careful.
Whiskey tumblers on the other hand are made to be stronger with thicker sides and bottoms, so that ice can be placed inside and cocktails can be muddled against the sides or bottom. Whiskey stones are not supposed to scratch them, but you still need to be somewhat careful when you place the stones inside the glass. You are at the end of the day, putting pieces of rock or steel into a container made of glass. That’s why some whiskey stones come with tongs, so that it’s easier to place them inside the glass without damaging them.
You’ll definitely have to use a whiskey tumbler if you’re using one large whiskey stone as opposed to several small ones because the larger whiskey stones won’t fit through the narrower opening of nosing glasses.
4. Wait A Few Minutes for Them to Work
Despite the fact that as we’ve seen, whiskey stones don’t cool your whiskey to as low a temperature as ice cubes, and that as we shall see in a minute, they don’t cool your whiskey for as long either, they do take about the same amount of time to chill your whiskey in the first place.
It only takes a few minutes for whiskey stones to start making your drinking cooler. On the other hand, it takes about 5 – 10 minutes for whiskey stones to chill your drink to its maximum capacity. So if you want to drink your whiskey when it’s as cold as the whiskey stones will make it, you will have to wait a few minutes.
5. You May Want to Remove Them Before Drinking
Some people remove their whiskey stones before drinking their whiskey. This is for two reasons. First, because whiskey stones can be a choking hazard and second because they can damage your teeth if they tumble towards your mouth as you drink.
Using one large whiskey stone instead of several small ones reduces the chances of choking or damaging your teeth as does using the types of whiskey stones that don’t tumble around. Of course, being careful can also work too.
6. Drink Your Whiskey Within 25 Minutes
Not only do whiskey stones chill whiskey less than ice cubes, but they also chill whiskey for a shorter amount of time. That’s because as time goes on whiskey stones becomes less and less able to chill your whiskey.
You see the way whiskey stones and ice cubes make whiskey colder is by absorbing its heat. That’s why ice cubes can chill your whiskey for longer. Since ice melts it can get rid of the heat it absorbs which leaves the rest of the ice cube cold enough to continue cooling your drink. But since whiskey stones don’t melt, they retain the heat they absorb, so they become progressively warmer and therefore less effective in cooling your whiskey.
After about 25 minutes, whiskey stones will be so warm they will not cool your whiskey at all, and it will start to warm up again. It’ll probably take another half an hour or so to return to its original temperature, but if you want to drink your whiskey while at its maximum whiskey stones chill, you’ll have to finish it within 25 minutes.
This also means that you can’t reuse whiskey stones without putting them in the freezer again. If you’re planning on having a few whiskeys, don’t expect to be able to use the same three or four whiskey stones in each one. Once they’ve warmed up, they’ll need another four hours in the freezer before being able to chill another whiskey. You’ll need to make sure that you’ve frozen enough whiskey stones for three or four per drink.
7. Clean Them Well Each Time They’re Used
One of the advantages of whiskey stones over ice cubes is that they can be used more than once. However, this also means they need to be cleaned each time they’re used too. This is important because residue and bacteria can build up on your whiskey stones and because although they’re non-porous, they can absorb a slight alcohol flavor. If you don’t wash these things off, they’ll be added to your next whiskey.
Cleaning whiskey stones is fairly straight forward:
- Wash them by hand under a tap with warm water.
- Add a few drops of dish soap.
- Rinse them thoroughly to remove all the soap
It’s important to ensure that you don’t leave any soap on your whiskey stones as that will also contaminate your next whiskey.
Some whiskey stones can be cleaned in the dishwasher (often stainless steel or granite whiskey stones) but you must check with each manufacturer what they recommend.
It may be best to handwash even whiskey stones that can be cleaned in a dishwasher because you really want to make sure they don’t absorb other aromas and flavors, as they will end up ruining the taste of the next whiskey they’re used in.
8. Store Them Properly to Prevent Contamination
Similarly, when you store whiskey stones away between usages, make sure you store them in a way and in a place where they can’t pick up any contaminants such as bad smells and dust, as your whiskey stones will add them your next whiskey.
Many whiskey stones come with a velvet bag or wooden case which are definitely useful for storage.
You can even store whiskey stones in the freezer which has the added advantage of their being ready for use whenever needed.