The holidays are approaching, which means every men’s magazine will be featuring stories on great gift ideas and none of their lists are ever complete without including at least one set of whiskey stones. They sound great, they promise to cool your drink without diluting it and they’re a little futuristic in nature yet rugged.
The truth is, no one needs, wants or actually uses whiskey stones. A set I received several years ago have been sitting in my freezer absorbing odors, they smell like fish, and getting no use ever since. You see, whiskey stones are almost entirely useless, they’re fun to stack, so there’s that, but when it comes to drinking, worthless. Whisky stones are intended to do two things: cool your drink and prevent dilution. Sure whiskey stones don’t dilute anything, in that they succeed, they don’t cool anything either so it’s a moot point.
In response to the claim that whiskey stones cool your drink; almost every stone I’ve seen out there is made of soapstone because it supposedly doesn’t absorb flavors or odors and won’t scratch your crystal. But soapstone is a real shitty way to cool your drink, why? Science. Ice has been the predominant way to cool beverages for centuries because water and its solid form, ice, are scientifically pretty awesome substances. Water, and ice to a lesser extent, has an extremely high specific heat capacity. Without getting too crazy, you’re welcome to get into the science and equations if you wish, specific heat capacity is the energy required to raise the temperature of something. You can also think of it as how much heat something can absorb from something else, in our case room-temperature whiskey.
Ice also benefits from the phase change. Melting ice into water takes a lot of energy in the form of heat, your stones won’t be melting anywhere near room temperature. In fact, the process of melting ice absorbs the vast majority of heat in your drink. Whiskey stones don’t experience a phase change, so all they can do is warm up.
The only thing whiskey stones have going for them is that they don’t dilute your drink, but if you want a room temperature drink you could just put nothing in. If you want a cold drink without diluting it a much better option than the whiskey stone is a handful of reusable ice cubes, which are loads more effective than stones. They don’t even look half bad these days.
If you’re a true whiskey snob, you know to drink your whiskey at room temperature with a few drops of water to open it up as chilled drinks lessen the effectiveness of your taste buds and olfactory senses. In fact, most whiskey snobs will put a drop of water in, take a taste, then add another drop and see how the whiskey evolves as they slowly add water to it. Ice cubes work in a similar way, as they melt they lend more water to the mixture and change the flavor.
If you’ve got some whiskey stones sitting around, enjoy stacking them or maybe throw them in your garden. They’re worthless. Make some ice, or grab some reusable ice cubes if you like your whiskey cool. But before that try giving room temperature with a little water a shot. If you really like cool whiskey, really hate dilution and can’t stand the idea of having reusable ice cubes floating in your whiskey, your best bet is an expensive ice sphere press. A sphere delivers the greatest cooling with the least dilution.
Honestly, just drink the whiskey however the hell you want to, just don’t waste your money on whiskey stones, because they don’t do a damn thing.