Whisky Stones as a gift from my brother. My sister, independent of my brother, also had the same idea. So, I had two boxes of this product to try out. Not familiar with this item? Worry not. I have analyzed and tested this product, as only an incurable malt fanatic can.
A marketable product is one that meets a consumer need/demand or better yet, is an innovation that no one else has brought to market.
The Consumer Need
To my mind, Whisky Stones is a product that targets the consumer who does not enjoy whisky neat at room temperature. For them it is too strong. So, such a consumer adds ice. As you undoubtedly know, the ice chills the drink and at the same time dilutes the whisky, making it smoother and removing some of what novices or casual drinkers regard to be an unpleasant 'bite.'
On the back of the packaging, I read:
"Teroforma's Whisky Stones are made in Vermont from natural soapstone, by craftsmen of some of the oldest soapstone workshops in the United States. The stones are non-porous, and will impart neither flavor nor odor. More gentle than ice, Whisky Stones can be used to cool down your favorite spirits just enough to take the edge off without "closing down" the flavors."
Soapstone instead of ice cubes? The stones are non-porous, and will impart neither flavor nor odor? That's a tall order, and if those claims are true, this product is a terrific innovation. But, before we launch balloons and parade down the street high fiving each other, let's see what my field research turned up.
(1) Rinse with water;
(2) air dry;
(3) place in the freezer for four hours before use;
(4) add three stones to a tumbler and fill to the height of one stone your favorite beverage.
I did not follow the instructions to a "T." I did wash the stones under the tap thoroughly. I did not 'air dry' them. Instead I dried them off with a tea cloth and tossed them in the freezer. I did wait the minimum four hours, actually it was like 12 before I plopped three stones in a drink.
. . .
I started with Linkwood 15 years. A single malt, whose flavor profile, I am well acquainted with, as you can judge by the level of the bottle pictured above.
". . . will neither impart flavor nor odor . . ." claims the packaging.
Sadly, I must report that the Linkwood flavor profile had been affected by the presence of the stones in the single malt. The whisky stones impart a mineral, slate, flinty, even wooden taste to the malt that appears on the finish. It's subtle, slight but those off notes are unmistakably there.
I thought maybe the fact that I did not let the stones 'air dry' may have contributed to the flavor impairment. Using a cloth might somehow not be as good. So, I repeated the exercise, but adhered to the commandment that they 'air dry' before being transferred to the freezer. Result: Still tasting those off notes as observed above.
Still perplexed, I thoroughly washed the stones again. I mean I held the little bastards under the damn kitchen tap for an eternity (think a full episode of the wife's Gilmore Girls). Air dry and back to the bleedin' freezer once more. Ten hours or so later, when I fixed myself a drink, the flavor impairment still occurred but was somewhat more restrained. I guess the washing helped . . . a little.
So far, all I accomplished was a waste of precious Linkwood.
scientific control when conducting an experiment.
In a nutshell, a 'control' is a baseline or a recognizable standard that can serve as a helpful reference for the results of an experiment. Is that clear as mud? I know, I should have just described how hot Della was. Actually she could have been a control for a hotness scale. Ahh better save that for another post and hope my wife is not reading this post . . .
Anyhow, what scientific control could I use that would serve as a baseline for comparison with the addition of whisky stones? My knowledge of Linkwood is new. Maybe I should be more conservative. So, I went back to a blended scotch whisky that I know intimately (unlike Della). Teacher's Highland Cream.
So, I plunked three whisky stones into a tumbler of Teacher's to see if I could detect an impairment of this most excellent of economy blended scotch whiskies.
The result? More disappointment. That damn flinty, wooden taste was there on the finish. I tested, re-tested, matter of fact, I sent that tumbler to remedial class for more testing. And! It failed. Dumb as a frozen boot I tell ya!
In the spirit of science I thought let's do a control test that is beyond reproach.
Water - Über Control Test
I could taste something slightly 'off'' in the water. By the time I got to the bottom of the glass there was something definitely Flintstone funky going on. To the untrained palate, I suppose they might miss it, but if you are reading this blog and know one or two whiskies well, I assure you, you would pick up on the flavor disturbance produced by these stones.
Another claim made by the makers of the whisky stones is that they 'chill' the whisky, take the edge off without 'closing down' the flavors.
My experience is not consistent with this claim. I find that the whisky stones barely chill the spirit in the tumbler at all. I was expecting the stones to really knock down the water or scotch temperature with a frostiness akin to a cold stare from Judi Dench. I was disappointed. The stones very quickly warm up, unlike Judi.
I cannot recommend the whisky stones. While they make impressive claims, our scientific method proved that their claims are . . . just that. This product brings to mind automotive fuel additives that tout improved mileage with a hodge podge of psuedo science, but when critically examined prove to be hokey, like the potions peddled by snake oil salesman of the wild west. Hopefully, these trendy whisky stones will go the way of the bouffant hairdo, mood ring, lava lamp and bell bottom jeans. Out of vogue and never to be seen again.
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission. Photo credits: Photograph of tumbler with ice melting adjacent to it is by Flickr member t2tantan who holds all copyright and licenses concerning its use. No reproduction is permitted without obtaining the consent of t2tantan. Photograph of chalk on chalk board was taken by Flickr member Dunja Dumanski, who holds all copyright and licences concerning its use. No reproduction is permitted without obtaining the consent of Dunja Dumanski. Photograph of Judi Dench taken by Flickr member Caroline Bonarde Ucci who has graciously granted a GNU Free Documentation Licence. All other photographs were taken by yours truly. Note: All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment. Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.