Stone Cold: Are Whiskey Stones Better Than Ice?

Whiskey Stones for chilling

If a glass of cold whiskey sounds good to you, you’re not alone. For decades, people have tried to find the perfect way to chill whiskey, spawning the rise of whiskey stones and giant balls of ice. Since there’s no wrong way to drink whiskey, the right chilling method will vary from palate to palate. Figure out what works for you with this primer on whiskey chilling.

It Was the Best of Whiskey Stones

Whiskey stones can be made out of actual stone (soft soapstone, typically) or stainless steel. In both cases, they are all 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

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

It Was the Worst of 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/how attentive you are.

Ice, Ice, Baby

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.

old fashioned whiskey with ice sphere

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.