Experimenting with whiskey chillers
Whiskey Stones are 1˝ cubes of soapstone that you keep in the freezer and drop (gently) into your glass of whiskey to chill it without diluting it. One package gets you nine little rocks, and it costs $20. I get asked about Whiskey Stones a lot, all versions of the same basic question: are Whiskey Stones worth it?
This is not one question, but three:
(1) How much cooling power do they have?
(2) Is chilling without dilution something you want?
(3) What is it like to use them?
1: How much cooling power do they have?
I’m going to save you the suspense: almost none. You would think that 2 oz. of whiskey stones and 2 oz. of ice, both straight from the freezer, would have a similar effect, no? While that indeed does seem intuitive, you’d be wrong.
Without getting too much into it, the fact that ice is cold isn’t why it’s so good at chilling liquids. It doesn’t take much energy (aka chilling power) to take ice from 31°F to 32°F, or water from 32°F to 33°F. But it takes a ton of energy to turn 32°F ice into 32°F water. Like, 80x more. It’s the melting, called the “heat of fusion,” that makes ice magic.
So, what does this mean for whiskey stones? In the marketing materials, they say they used soapstone because it has “unique ability to retain temperature for extended periods of time.” And that’s true: compared to most stones, the specific heat of soapstone is high. But comparing it to ice is like comparing a foot massage to oral sex: it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same fucking sport.
In my trials, 2 Whiskey Stones in 1oz. of whiskey, which is not much, brought the temperature down a measly 10.3°F. By comparison, a frozen glass (very thin) chilled it 14.9°F, ice chilled it 22.5°F, and a frozen glass (thicker) chilled it 25.2°F.
Conclusion: Whiskey Stones don’t chill for shit.
2: Is chilling without diluting something you even want?
Experiment time: I tried 1oz. of 45% whiskey, side-by-side, 5 different ways, and took temperature readings after 5 minutes:
- neat, at room temperature (66°F)
- whiskey stones (56°F)
- frozen thin glass (51°F)
- frozen thick glass (41°F)
- ice (44°F)
Because so much of this falls to personal taste, I tasted with Vikki and we both silently jotted down our favorites. I like my Japanese whiskey neat, but when it came to chilled whiskey, our rankings were identical: frozen thick glass, then ice, then frozen thin glass, then whiskey stones.
The frozen thick glass was the coldest, and while the cold temperature did suppress some of the more delicate flavors, it also suppressed some alcohol burn. It also added silky viscosity, which we both loved. I wouldn’t always have whiskey so cold, but for casual drinking, it was great.
As for our old friend ice, we both loved it in the beginning, as a little dilution of a 45% spirit does release and stretch out some flavors. But after a while it became too diluted and therefore gross. Get bigger ice or drink faster.
Why did we love the frozen thick glass but not the frozen thin one? I can only guess — the thin glass made the spirit cold enough to suppress flavor but not enough to add texture, and seemed to be in some weird middle ground, neither as flavorful as neat nor as silky as actual cold.
3: What is it like to use them?
And, finally, Whiskey Stones. Our least favorite, by far. The temperature change was negligible. The threat of taking a rock to the teeth, however, was not. Drinking whiskey, or really doing anything at all, doesn’t exist in a vacuum; atmosphere and aesthetics matter. Temperature-wise, the stones didn’t really do anything but disappoint me. But beyond the disappointment, and beyond the constant specter of dental injury, I ultimately found it a weird bit of superfluous pageantry to drink with actual rocks clunking around in my glass.
So, are Whiskey Stones worth it? No. They’re not.
[Post edited for length.]
Blog: Drinks and Drinking | Post Title: Are Whiskey Stones Worth It? | Post Date: January 22, 2015
Author: Jason O’Bryan | From: Normal Heights | Blogging since: 2012