Accessories

What Do The Best Whiskey Stones Actually Do: A Guide To Whiskey’s Coolest Accessory

The best Whiskey stones are an alternative to ice cubes which allow you to chill your drink without diluting it. 

It’s the way to go if you enjoy your whiskey at below room temperature, but don’t want to compromise on taking it neat.

By placing chilled stones or metal in our drink, the whiskey’s heat energy is transferred to the stones until the temperatures are balanced.

They will shift your beverage down roughly 5-10 degrees, which can be tailored by using more or fewer stones. 

Colder whiskey is a point of contention for purists – they say it closes out the flavor and stops you from tasting every element.

The logic here is that your tongue is less effective at picking out individual flavors at low temperatures and that chilled whiskey produces fewer vapors and therefore a lighter nose.

While I agree it is unwise to serve a premium whiskey at arctic temperatures, nudging a couple of degrees off with some quality whiskey stones won’t destroy the flavor. 

I find that the improved drinkability generally smooths the blend just enough that I’m more likely to gently sip and explore the flavors fully. 

While some consider whiskey stones to be a bit of a fad, they actually date back to the 18th century. It was far harder to produce and store ice back then, so Scottish travelers would just reach into frigid rivers, pull out chilled stones, and pop a couple into their glasses. 


Our Top Whiskey Stones 

Check out the list below for the best whiskey stones on the market in 2021

Balls of Steel – Best Stainless Steel Whiskey Stones

Balls of Steel whiskey stones

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This design is minimalist, but the polished silver surface still feels premium and sleek.

The medical-grade stainless steel retains the cold better than any of the stone options on this list, so it’s the choice to make if you plan on settling in with a glass for an hour or so. 

For each unit sold, the company donates a percentage of their profits to MD Anderson Cancer Center- so you can know you’re making a difference while enjoying your chilled dram. 

The only drawback is that Balls of Steel only comes with two stones, so you may want to pick up a spare set if you regularly have friends over for drinks. 


R.O.C.K.S – Best Whiskey Stones

R.O.C.K.S, best whiskey stones

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This set of six handcrafted granite stones is a nice middle ground between style and substance

The rounded edges are designed to prevent scratches to the glass, so you can whip out your best crystal without worry.  

R.O.C.K.S also comes with a hardwood tray for serving. The stones themselves are easy on the eye, and their different tones and patterns function as drink distinguishers at a gathering. 


Old Time Whiskey Stones – Best Soapstone Whiskey Stones

Old Time Whiskey Stones

If you’re looking for something to take you back in time, traditional soapstone is the only way to go for a truly authentic experience.

Scotch drinkers have been plucking soapstone from frozen river beds since the 19th century, and it is less likely to scratch expensive glassware than steel, granite, or marble.

They also come with a leather storage bag, rather than the fabric bags offered with most whiskey stones.

This will make the stones less likely to get stuck to the bag in the freezer – and nobody wants bits of the bag in their whiskey. 


Sovyime Skull Whiskey Stone and Glass Set

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Sometimes, drinks-ware is about more than just function – it’s about the wow factor. These skull stones ooze rock and roll and add another layer of theater to the tasting.

They’re available in both granite and steel, so you can cover all bases in terms of aesthetic and cooling properties.

The set also comes with an octagonal Scotch glass designed for use with the stones so you can crack open the box and get going. 


Sea Stones Granite Coasters, Whiskey Stones and Tumblers Set

Sea Stones Granite Coasters, Whiskey Stones and Tumblers Set

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If you’ve had a good experience with whiskey stones you may wish to branch out into some similar accessories.

These stones come with freezable granite coasters which work to chill your drink from the bottom. 

One of the main things that will warm your whiskey up over time is the contact from your hand, so having somewhere convenient and tempting to place your drink will encourage you to put it down every once in a while and let the stone do its job.

This set is simultaneously robust and stylish, with the different designs also functioning as useful drink distinguishes.

The coasters are cork-backed to prevent any table-top scratches and to reduce condensation that may damage wooden surfaces. 


Neat and Tidy

When you’re drinking a quality whiskey, you want to be able to explore every aspect of a rich flavor profile. 

Because our taste buds are less effective at distinguishing flavors at low temperatures, you never want to serve a whiskey freezing cold.

Whiskey stones shift the temperature down just enough to smooth out the harsher elements without masking the flavor or obscuring quality.

Cooling the liquid with whiskey stones does ‘close’ the nose to some extent – but nowhere near as much as ice.

By providing a light cooling effect of 5 – 10 degrees, whiskey stones are an effective way to mellow out a stiff drink while still savoring each flavor clearly.


Pros and Cons – Why Should I Use Whiskey Stones?

Whiskey stones cool in far less time than it takes to produce ice cubes, and are good to go after about 30 minutes in the freezer.

Most whiskey stones will come with a small fabric bag (often velvet) to store them in. You should use this when freezing them to make sure the stones don’t pick up any ‘freezer burn’ flavor that may affect the quality of your dram. 

The vast majority of bartenders avoid whiskey stones – but it’s usually a matter of practicality rather than principle.

On a busy night, it would be impossible to wash and maintain the hundreds of stones that would be required – and that’s before you factor in people taking them home!

Boutique whiskey bars may offer them, but beyond that, you will struggle to find whiskey stones in the wild.

Another consideration is how to pair your whiskey stones with the correct glassware.

It’s personal preference as to whether you drink with the stones in or remove them, but your choice will dictate what kind of glass you can use without having to take a trip to the dentist if a stone smacks into your teeth. 

Tall and narrow vessels (like traditional Scotch Glencairn glasses) are not able to retain the stones while sipping at an angle. You’ll have to use something wider, like a rocks glass. 

Failing to take care with whiskey rocks can cause damage to glasses, so be sure to handle them carefully if you’re using your favorite crystal.

Whiskey StonesIce
Cold whiskey with no dilutionSafer for your glasses
Will cool your drink to the correct temperature (not too cold)Will keep your drink cooler for longer
Quicker to freeze than iceUnlimited supply at home
Stylish and personalAvailable at every bar

Different Types of Whiskey Stones

Whiskey stones have had a renaissance in the last decade, and there are now a variety of materials available to choose from. 

The main factor you’re going to want to consider is the density, which will determine how much energy is required to equalize the temperature of the stones with the ambient drink.

Denser materials require more thermal work to heat up, so these kinds of stones will stay cooler for longer.

The main options on the market are soapstone, steel, marble, and granite.

Steel stones hold temperature noticeably better than traditional stones, and in my experience, they provide an extra 10 – 15 minutes of cooling effect.

With the other materials, you will have to add more stones to bring the temperature down to the same extent.

Non-metallic stones are more liable to chip and therefore more likely to retain flavors from a previous whiskey in small cracks and crevices.

Make sure you clean them thoroughly between uses to avoid depositing old flavors in your new drink and corrupting the flavor profile.

I boil them to stay hands-free and avoid hard scrubbing that may damage the stone. 

Because soapstone is the weakest of the materials, it does have the hidden benefit of being less likely to do damage to your glassware.

Some people report that they can taste the soapstone in the whiskey as it gradually erodes, but I have not found this to be the case personally. 

Whiskey Stone MaterialDensity
Granite2.7g/cm3
Marble2.7g/cm3
Soapstone3g/cm3
Steel7.9g/cm3
The denser the stone, the harder they cool

Whiskey Stones Are Not Ice

It’s important to remember that whiskey stones are not ice – if you’re holding them to the same standards in terms of sustained cooling effect, you’re going to be disappointed. 

It takes less energy to change ice’s temperature than whiskey stones, but the state change of ice melting into water requires a comparatively huge amount of energy. 

Whiskey stones aren’t rearranging their molecular composition – they’re just heating up.

For comparison, one gram of soapstone will demand 4.1 calories of energy to raise its temperature 1 degree, while one gram of ice melting at 0 degrees requires around 80 calories of thermal energy. 

That means melting ice is going to have a cooling effect around 20 times more powerful than soapstone whiskey stones. 

Alternative materials such as steel, granite, and marble are slightly more effective than soapstone at retaining the cold, but unless you’re using a material that melts it’s not going to cool to anything near the same extent.

Alternatives To Whiskey Stones

For a more makeshift approach, put a glass in the freezer around ten minutes before serving to allow the glass itself to cool the whiskey. 

Some people prefer to put the bottle itself in the freezer and serve in a room temperature glass, but this has a couple of drawbacks. 

Serving from the fridge removes the freedom of your drinking buddies to decide how they want to enjoy their whiskey, making ‘cold’ the only option.

Also, every time you open a cold bottle of whiskey, water from the air condenses on the inside of the bottle. When the bottle cools droplets will trickle into the whiskey, gradually watering it down. 

Some people also prefer to use reusable ice cubes which hold water in a plastic casing.

While these will similarly cool your drink while not diluting it, these colorful plastic blocks look a little ridiculous and will likely numb the flavor profile by cooling the whiskey too much.

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