Whiskey Stones | Are whiskey stones better than ice?
Whiskey stones have been in the top charts, must-haves, and wish lists for a while already, but the craze isn’t going anywhere, and we’re pretty confident this is not just a phase, and whiskey stones are here to stay. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the science behind those little cubes and the different types that are currently available on the market.
- What are whiskey stones?
- Are whiskey stones better than ice? Benefits & Limitations
- How to use whiskey stones?
- What are whiskey stones made of?
- How long do whiskey stones last?
- Tips for drinking whiskey or bourbon
My ex was obsessed with the idea of getting crystal clear ice balls for his scotch, like those served in speakeasies. And if you like whiskey, then you know the struggle. Sometimes he reminded me of a crazy amateur chemist who’d do anything to get his alchemy work. And indeed, as far as I remember, the struggle was real. From his standpoint, the cloudy ice was somehow not as aesthetic as a crystal clear transparent piece of ice. He would read all the DIY advice on a myriad of forums populated with refined spirit drinkers, devoured dozens of youtube videos, bought questionable tools and accessories online, and finally tried all of the stuff combined.
And you know what? After a while, he did make it work: his ice was as clear as the ones in high-end bars. I’d never seen him use any whiskey stones, but that was also a while ago, and the stones seem like a relatively new craze. So I decided to find out if the stones worked and if they were any better than the good old plain ice cubes.
Whiskey stones are cubes of solid soapstone or metal that should be stored in a freezer before serving. The idea? They would chill the spirit without diluting it. However, not all aficionados would prefer whiskey stones to regular ice balls or a splash of water. Every avid bourbon or whiskey lover would have their own way of drinking their favorite libation.
Moreover, some would even say that whiskey stones are for hipsters or beginners. And indeed, while stones have been around for a decade, they have only recently emerged on the front shelves of design stores and became a regular feature in all gift guides around the country. And they do look super stylish and sleek with their cute little shapes and geometrical design.
But what’s the science behind those innovations? The answer lies in thermodynamics: the heat flows from warm to cold through conduction, convection, and radiation, until it reaches an equilibrium temperature. In the case of stones, while the whiskey gets colder, the stones get warmer until they hit roughly the same temperature.
But let’s look more at the benefits and limitations of stones compared to regular ice cubes.
- They won’t dilute your drink
- They would initially cool your drink faster than the ice cubes (the density of soapstones, for example, is three times bigger than that of ice, meaning it will be more effective at cooling the drink at first)
- If you want to achieve a cooler drink, just add more stones
- Some versions of stones are just as good as ice (those made of stainless steel)
- They are tasteless and odorless, thus won’t add any unnecessary smells or tastes to your spirit (as opposed to low-quality ice)
- Water (ice) has a high heat capacity. Thus it is much better at cooling things.
- Ice absorbs the heat in three distinctive ways: first, it absorbs the temperature to reach a fusion point, then it takes more energy to switch the phase from solid to liquid, and finally absorbs the heat to become warmer than 32 F (0 Celsius).
- Whereas stones work only on heat capacity (and the heat capacity of soapstones, for example, is 0.9, while for ice is 2.1, meaning they are way less effective than the ice)
- By 25-20 minutes, a drink usually reaches room temperature, rendering stone cubes ineffective (in case you like to sip your spirit for long)
- Many refined spirit drinkers advocate ice because it’s better for whiskey: it enhances the drink enabling other subtle flavors to come through. But more on this a little later in the article.
All of the whiskey stones have to be pre-chilled in a freezer, some for just an hour, others preferably overnight. After you take them out of your freezer, put them in a drink and sip!
There are different types of whiskey stones over there, and it’s critical to look for high-quality materials because you can end up with a dirty or foamy drink, and you certainly wouldn’t want that.
The cheapest stones are usually made of soapstones, and while they are considered traditional whiskey stones, they won’t do much in terms of chilling your drink and sustaining that temperature for a long.
Then there are steel cubes with or without cooling gel inside, and they are indeed pretty potent in getting down the temperature of the drink faster and keeping it chilled longer.
The granite rocks are better than the soapstones but would perform inferior to the stainless steel.
And then there’s well…ice, but you know about that one, right?
Generally, they would last about 20-25 minutes, speaking of chilling properties. Then you would have to add more stones or re-freeze them again. But 20 minutes should be enough for a drink. Don’t you think? If you, however, prefer to sip your drink for longer than that, keep a stack of these in a fridge or just stick to plain ice.
Can whiskey stones be used in other drinks (beer, coffee, scotch, rum, wine)?
Yes, of course. Although, using stones in wine is quite questionable, aesthetically wise. But yes, you can.
Can whiskey stones be reused?
Yes. You can reuse them as many times as you like.
Can whiskey stones go in the dishwasher?
Some of them are dishwasher safe, while others are not. Please, check the label or product description for stones of your choice and see if they can be placed in the dishwasher or simply rinsed under the tap.
Can whiskey stones be heated?
No. I don’t think they can. A brief search also didn’t reveal anything significant. You’re the only person asking this.
Can I leave whiskey stones in the freezer?
Of course. This is precisely what you need to do. Place stones in the freezer for at least an hour, then put them in your drink. Simple as that.
From what I’ve heard and have been told by my ex, the whiskey is best taken neat. You can, however, add a splash of water into it to open up the flavors and subtle nuances of taste or dull the alcohol part a bit, especially if it’s more than 50% or something. However, if you like it chilled, then nothing works better than a crystal clear ice ball, which melts way slower than regular ice cubes because of its size and shape and because it adds some water into the spirit, which helps the whiskey have a rounder, smoother taste.
Well, even if you stick with plain ice, whiskey stones would still be a great addition to your bar accessories. They are in fashion, they can make a statement at any party, they’ll instantly put you in the spotlight, or they might serve as an original conversation starter. In any case, with the options we’ve provided, we’re confident you’ll choose only the best whiskey cubes out there. Happy drinking!