What are whiskey stones? Simply speaking, they’re pieces of stone or metal that are frozen and then used as an ice-alternative for chilling your whiskey. They’re not, as some might have hoped, stones made out of whiskey, as it’s not currently scientifically possible to make one material out of another.
There’s also the more comprehensive answer – that they’re the solution to the problem of the ice you’re using to chill your whiskey, melting and diluting it. Though because the two cool your drink differently, whiskey stones are not as effective as ice cubes.
But before we get to that in more detail, let’s look at some basic questions about whiskey stones which will contribute to our understanding of what they are.
What Are Whiskey Stones Made Of?
Whiskey stones can be made from soapstone, granite or stainless steel.
Soapstone is soft and either has a semi-polished finish so that they retain their natural and rugged piece-of-chiselled-rock look or are highly polished to have a shiny black surface.
Granite is tougher and more durable, but they may scratch your glasses.
They come in a variety of shapes
Large Whiskey Sphere
Are Whiskey Stones Safe to Use?
There are actually three issues here.
The first is to do with whether soapstone, granite or stainless steel are toxic substances that will poison your drink. The key is to only buy those that are FDA approved.
There’s also the question of their being a choking hazard or causing damage to one’s teeth if they tumble out of the glass and towards your mouth as you drink.
The ways to use them safely include but are not limited to, removing them before drinking – many come with tongs designed to do just that, using one large whiskey stone instead of three smaller ones, and using types that don’t tumble into your mouth or teeth. Of course, being careful can also work too.
Finally, while they’re not supposed to scratch or otherwise damage your precious / valuable / delicate whiskey glasses, you are at the end of the day putting pieces of rock or steel into a container made of glass – the material that is easily shattered into a million tiny and impossible-to-find-because-they’re-see-through, dangerous pieces. Some have claimed that their whiskey glasses have been totally ruined by whiskey stones.
The solution to this is to be normal and not suddenly decide to throw what are actually hard objects into your whiskey glass or to drop them in from a great height. Just like you’re careful not to juggle your finest crystal whiskey glasses, you’re allowed to take some degree of care when putting inside items that could possibly break them.
How to Use Whiskey Stones
Freeze your whiskey stones for about four hours. Some may take only an hour and a half to freeze but that might be because they have less cooling power.
When you want a drink of whiskey, take them out (you won’t need more than three small ones), put them in your glass and pour yourself a drink. When your whiskey is the desired temperature, start drinking it.
Don’t forget that unlike ice that melts away, whiskey stones must be properly cleaned after use.
Repeat for as much whiskey as you’d like to drink.
How to Store Them in the Freezer
When it comes to whiskey stones, freezer storage is a less complicated affair than storing ice.
This is because ice can take on the flavors and smells of the things it’s stored with in the freezer and transfer them to your whiskey. Ice cubes must therefore be stored away from smelly foods, or otherwise isolated in a special container or even a separate ice-cubes-for-whiskey freezer.
Whiskey stones, on the other hand, are non-porus and so less likely to absorb other flavors. You don’t have to be as careful where you store them in the freezer, unless your food is so smelly that it affects even non-porus, non-absorbing materials.
What Are Whiskey Stones? A More Comprehensive Answer
What are whiskey stones? As explained, they’re pieces of stone or metal that are frozen and then used as an ice-alternative for chilling your whiskey. But a more comprehensive answer is that they’re the solution to the problem of the ice you’re using to chill your whiskey, melting and diluting it.
Let me explain.
Whiskey has a high alcohol content. Some people like to temper the intensity of the whiskey and calm the burn of the alcohol so that it becomes a bit more palatable. They do this by adding ice cubes to their whiskey which drops the temperature rapidly.
But this causes a problem because ice melts and your whiskey could become diluted.
The solution: Whiskey stones. They will cool your drink but they won’t melt and then dilute it.
This leads us to the most important question of all (in this topic, not in life in general):
Do Whiskey Stones Work?
To answer this, we have to point out that while superficially both ice cubes and whiskey stones do the same thing – they’re both cold and reduce the temperature of your drink – there’s a slight difference in how each works. This slight difference is a crack which when prised open creates a mammoth debate about the effectiveness of whiskey stones.
Here’s the science.
Cooling works because heat travels from relatively warmer areas to relatively colder areas in order to equalize the different temperatures.
Ice cubes placed in whiskey will absorb the whiskey’s ’heat’ (while we’re being mildly technical and scientific we might as well add that it’s not real heat – the ethanol molecules trigger the same nerve endings that respond to heat, so it feels like it ‘burns’). As the heat is absorbed it makes some of the ice melt, but it leaves the rest of the ice cube cold enough to continue with this process.
On the other hand, whiskey stones being not ice can’t melt and will retain the heat of the alcohol. This means that they will cool your drink at first, but the more they do so, the warmer they become and the less effective they will now be in cooling your drink any further.
Also, since it takes a relatively large amount of heat for the solid-to-liquid phase change to occur, more heat will be absorbed by ice cubes in the first place than by whiskey stones which will always remain solid (until you pulverize them with a hammer for being so ineffective).
The upshot of all this is that whiskey stones are not as effective as ice cubes. Since they take on the heat they cannot cool your drink as much as ice cubes, nor can they cool your drink for as long – they will stop cooling your drink after about 25 minutes whereas ice cubes will continue cooling your drink for longer.
But Are They Meant to Be as Effective as Ice Cubes?
Well, yes. Surely.
Or perhaps no.
Or perhaps it depends on how cold you like your whiskey.
One thing’s clear: for an ice-cold drink, whiskey stones are not as effective as ice cubes, but since whiskey’s start losing their complexity when very cold, the fact that they don’t cool your whiskey as much as ice cubes could be a good thing. Perhaps even intentional.
In fact, one could argue that they’re effective in chilling your whiskey while at the same time ensuring it doesn’t become so cold that there’s a loss of flavor.
It also appears that steel whiskey stones are better at cooling your whiskey than those made out of soapstone, which intentionally or otherwise (probably otherwise) does mean that you have three options of coldness to choose from depending on your personal preference.
If you want to only slightly cool your whiskey so that it’s below room temperature, then whiskey stones made from soapstone will be perfect for the job. If you prefer a colder whiskey, but not so cold that it loses its flavour, then you will definitely need steel whiskey stones. And if you like ice-cold whiskey then you’ll have to resort to using … well … ice and watching it like a hawk to make sure it doesn’t dilute your whiskey beyond repair.
Yes, I am pulling the old (and convenient) whatever-works-best-for-you solution to the ice cubes versus whiskey stones debate. Because this time it’s true!
As for whiskey stones stopping to cool your drink after about 25 minutes, in my opinion, if you’re still holding the same glass of whiskey for more than half an hour, you’ve got worse problems than warm whiskey to deal with.
On the other hand, if you’re planning on having a few glasses of whiskey with one set of whiskey stones, you may run into a cooling issue that can only be solved by reverting to ice cubes or drinking faster.
Who Won’t Need Them
As already stated, they’re not for those who want their whiskey to be ice cold.
They’re also not for those who want some dilution of their whiskey and like to taste all the changes in their drink as the ice cubes melt and the added water opens up the whiskey’s more subtle flavors.
Unless they want to use them for an inferior drink which can’t do that like … well let’s not get into that now.
What Are Whiskey Stones? Conclusion
What are whiskey stones? They’re pieces of stone or metal that are frozen and then used as an ice-alternative for chilling your whiskey.
What are whiskey stones? They’re the solution to the problem of the ice you’re using to chill your whiskey, melting and diluting it. Provided you don’t want your whiskey ice cold.
What are whiskey stones? A great gift for someone who isn’t anti them, because let’s face it, they certainly look cooler than ice cubes.
What are whiskey stones? The subject of yet another whiskey debate.
To have, like every whiskey debate, while all parties make their way through a bottle of whiskey.
Whiskey Stones and Whiskey Glasses Gift Boxed Set