New Whiskey Drinkers Ask: What Are Whiskey StonesDrinking fine liquors often means following the latest trends. One trend for whiskey lovers is that of Irish whiskey stones. Whiskey stones have been around for some time, but they are just now gaining momentum in the consumer sector. In fact, they are often sold next to crystal rock glasses and bitters, and they are marketed to those who are picky about drinking their single malts.
What is a Whiskey Stone?
A whiskey stone is a clean, natural piece of stone that is cut into a cube-like shape and used to chill scotch. The stones come in a variety of sizes, and they are safe to store in the freezer. Then, after the consumer pours a glass of scotch, they add a whiskey stone to chill the drink. The purpose of the stone is to chill without diluting like ice cubes.
For those who do not like to add water to their scotch, the stones are ideal. They cool down the whiskey to bring out the natural flavors but still maintain the chance to enjoy an unadulterated glass of single malt.
Do Whiskey Stones Redefine “On the Rocks?”
Traditionally, when one wanted their whiskey “on the rocks,” they meant ice. However, this is a literal interpretation of the phrase, and the whiskey stones have been used since 2007. Whiskey stones come from
naturally occurring rocks.
Per Wikipedia, the most common type of stone used for these “rocks” is Soapstone. This rock can go into the freezer and be used in place of ice cubes. Most stones come in a semi-polished finish, which gives them the natural soapstone look, but there are highly polished varieties on the market too.
One significant benefit to using these stones is that they preserve the flavor balance. For example, a cocktail made with a fine scotch relies on the balance of spirits and additives. When ice is added, it dilutes the flavor and compromises the drink. Stones result in zero dilution; therefore, the drink is perfectly balanced from start to finish.
Examining the Types of Whiskey StonesWhile soapstone was the original, there are other materials used to create these stones. After reviewing the whiskey stone reviews out there, it appears there are a few different types:
- Plastic Whiskey Stones: These are the cheapest stone option, and should not be used in fine scotch. Plastic may react to the high-quality liquor, and it could release fumes in particular through the freezing and warming process.
- Glass Stones: Glass is durable and conductive. However, it is prone to chipping. Therefore, if these are dropped too hard into a glass, they may break the glass or chip into the drink. Also, inside those chips, bacteria may grow, making glass stones rather unsanitary in the long run.
- Stainless Steel Stones: These are the most attractive alternative to soapstone varieties. They freeze quickly (in about two hours or less), hold their chill, and do not contain bacteria or chips.
The Proper Way to Use Whiskey Stones
Using the stones is rather easy, regardless of variety. First, they must be placed in the freezer for two to four hours.
When ready to drink, place two to three stones into the glass and top with a quality scotch. Then, wait for one to two minutes (which allows the whiskey time to chill down), and drink.
Most whiskey stones that come in stainless steel or soapstone are designed to last a lifetime; therefore, with proper care, they can be passed down for generations.
Do the Stones Really Work?
Whether the stones work is up for debate. Some die-hard whiskey drinkers will say that they do not notice a difference, but these groups are usually on the “no ice, no stone” side of the debate. Meaning, they do not believe in adding anything to a fine whiskey; therefore, stones are just as bad as ice to them.
There are some valid arguments against the stones, such as the amount of weight they can add to the glass. Also, when dropped into the glass, a consumer must be cautious, or they could break the glass. Some have reported the rocks hitting their teeth as they try to finish the bottom of their drink, which can be quite painful.
Also, the soapstone variety is harder to clean than stainless steel. Therefore, care and maintenance is a consideration before making the investment.