I own about four sets of whisk(e)y stones, all of which came as part of a gift. I’ve used them a total of never, and neither should you, no matter what good intent lies behind the gift (as giftee or gifter).
Master of Malt’s JC Connington recently published a good explainer on whisky stones — we’ll go without the “e” in whisky to match their style, but you can (but shouldn’t) use them with a brown spirit from any country and spelling. The stones/rocks are reusable and aim to replicate ice without melting. They’re usually soft, non-porous and crafted from soapstone but could also be made from stainless steel or other materials that don’t impart flavor.
Keep ’em cold, keep ’em clean and when you’re ready, put ’em in the glass and top with your favorite alcohol. So far, so good, right?
While keeping an open mind to their use case, Connington does point out a few flaws with the stones. They’re not great to clean. They won’t remain cold for long. And, not mentioned but obvious, you don’t want to accidentally chew on or swallow one of these.
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If you’re worried about the dilution that comes with ice, don’t be! “Water has the ability to interact with the natural esters and aldehydes in the spirit, and create new flavor compounds,” Connington notes. “A little dilution also reduces the strength of the whisky, and even changes its perceived texture and mouthfeel.” This can be a really good thing! Plus, if you get an ice mold that makes cool-looking giant cubes, that dilution will take a while (aka don’t use pebble ice).
You know what else helps the whisky? When your hand begins to warm up the glass a bit. Exploring a whisky at different temperatures, with or without ice, will expose you to new tasting notes and aromas over time as you (slowly) sip and enjoy your dram.
Look, don’t take my word for it. Take everyone’s. Whisky educator Matthew Fergusson-Stewart notes the stones aren’t very good at cooling whisky and they erode over time (which will impact flavor). They can hurt you, says Refinery29. And they’re more expensive than ice, which is basically free, suggests Lifehacker … which does offer a few good suggestions if someone didn’t read this article and buys you whisky stones anyway, which is to cool your hot tea, coffee or soup if you’re incredibly impatient and you have a few unused stones sitting in your freezer.
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