Whiskey Stones vs. Ice: Which is Better for Your Drink?

What is the first thing you do after a long day of work? Take off your shoes? Kiss your partner hello? Maybe, but if you’re like us, you’re doing all of that as quickly as possible so as to get to the best part of coming home after work — pouring a nice glass of whiskey (behind seeing the love of you life, of course). There’s something special about how the whiskey — cool yet warming at the same time — feels when you drink it.

It helps calm the nerves and allows you to forget about the outside world for a little while. Because of this, not only do we have the old standby, ice (in cube, crushed, sphere, pebble, and practically every other form), but thanks to some intrepid individuals, we also have another major player in the chilling game: whiskey stones.

Whiskey Stones

While that would be a really good way to describe the courage one gets after slamming a few ounces of bourbon, that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Since there’s no wrong way to drink whiskey, the right chilling method will vary from palate to palate. We repeat: Your enjoyment of whiskey is dependent on what you like (as in you, yourself, and you alone). And you can figure out what works for you with this primer on whiskey chilling.

Below, we look at the pros and cons of whiskey stones and compare them to ice. Read on and see if they might work for you. (At the very least, give them a shot. You can’t say you don’t like something if you’ve never actually tried it.)

The Benefits of Using Whiskey Stones

Whiskey stones can be made out of actual stone (soft soapstone, typically) or stainless steel. In both cases, they are engineered to keep your whiskey in a chilled sweet spot. Once your whiskey gets below approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit, you lose the majority of its nuances. If you like your whiskey particularly cold — taste buds be damned — large steel stones tend to offer the most comparable effect to ice. Stainless steel stones are also adept at keeping your whiskey cool for longer periods of time than their soapstone counterparts.

Whiskey Stones vs Ice

Killing two birds with one whiskey stone, this chilling method also allows for your drink to remain undiluted, preserving the original flavor notes (though perhaps slightly compromised vis-a-vis temperature). You’re also able to be very particular about how many drops of water you want to add without the over-commitment to ice.

The Reasons Against Using Whiskey Stones

Most products require some foresight — and even after sight. With a few steel exceptions, whiskey stones typically need at least four hours of freezer time. Even with the increased freezer time, you’ll experience a far more marginal temperature change in your whiskey than you would with ice. Of course, it goes without saying that both types of stones should be washed immediately after use — unlike ice, which simply disappears down a drain.

Many whiskey stones, regardless of material, are usually fairly small, thus requiring the use of several stones for your preferred level of coldness. These stones are far more unpleasant than ice when (not if) they hit your teeth and are definitely a swallow hazard depending on how much you’ve been drinking and how attentive you are.

Why (and When) You Should Use Ice to Chill Whisk(e)y

The general rule of thumb with ice is to go big or go home. Whether it’s a sphere, cube, or even a wedge, the size will take your whiskey a long way. The surface area allows for a dramatic chilling effect and a slower melt than typical ice cubes. This, unfortunately, means you’re also introducing a lot more water to your whiskey and, depending on the water’s mineral content, your drinking experience can change in unexpected ways.

drinking whiskey on the rocks

Standard ice cubes work fairly well in a pinch and can slightly mitigate a dilution disaster, but crushed ice is no whiskey’s friend. If you want to cool your whiskey, control the amount of dilution, and have nothing clinking around in your glass, your best option is to shake the whiskey over ice. It will warm up faster than your other options, but that’s the only major sacrifice when it comes to the overall experience.

As we said at the beginning, if you have a set way to enjoy whiskey, great, keep it up. You do you. If you’ve read through this entire thing screaming profanities at the screen because you’re a one-drop-of-water man and will forever be one, well, as long as you’re happy with how you take your whiskey, we’re happy.

Now, ready to drink some whiskey? Check out our picks for the best bourbon, rye, and single malt in America according to The Manual Spirit Awards 2019.

Article originally published by J. Fergus on July 12, 2017. Last updated by Sam Slaughter.

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