Ask any whiskey lover and one thing is certain: They have strong opinions on how to sip their libation of choice. Some like it neat, some prefer a splash o water, and others require it to be chilled. If you fall into the last bucket, there’s even more debate as to exactly how you should cool down your scotch or rye.
The thought is that you want to chill down your glass without diluting the taste.
Many drinking accessories, like whiskey stones, claim to do just that, making them one of the best gifts to give your favorite whiskey lover, bartender or party host. But are they really better than ice at cooling down and sustaining a cold temperature? Naturally, we tested out a set of soapstone whiskey stones to see for ourselves
Whiskey stones have been available to shop online for almost a decade. Usually shaped into little cubes, the drinking accessory is made of nonporous soapstone, which theoretically shouldn’t affect the taste and aroma of your malt. Before you pop the stones in your glass, you would freeze them for at least four hours.
When we tried them out for ourselves, we noticed that, while they cooled our drink to start, the overall temperature wasn’t sustained. By the 25-minute mark, our beverages were nearing room temperature, which isn’t great news if you really take your time sipping and enjoying your scotches and bourbons. But once we learned more about the thermodynamics behind the stones, this made sense.
The process of chilling any drink involves transferring the heat from the drink to the cooling object like ice or, in this case, the whiskey stones. An ice cube will absorb the heat from the whiskey, which causes it to melt. The melted ice then cools the liquid around it. However, since the whiskey stones don’t melt when in the beverage, they just absorb the heat of the whiskey, making the stones warmer. The stones will ultimately stop cooling your drink.
Of course, a simple solution to this is using good old-fashioned ice. A large mold, like Tovolo’s Sphere Ice Molds ($9.99, originally $11; amazon.com), creates a slow-melting sphere that can chill your whiskey without excessive dilution. This will allow you to savor the taste of your drink at your desired temperature for much longer than your whiskey stones can. And if you loved the novelty of whiskey stones, there are ice molds that feel just as unique but still do the trick. Take, for instance, Corkcicle’s Whiskey Wedge ($17.95; surlatable.com), which cools down spirits at an angle.
If you’re still concerned about how ice will affect the taste of your drink, it might comfort you to know that many experts drink their whiskey with water (normally by using a dropper to add small amounts of water). That’s because a splash of water actually opens up the nuanced flavors of scotch. A little extra ice water in this case will make the flavor that much better.
We’ll drink to that.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.