A debate is going on behind closed doors between bourbon enthusiasts. No, it is not if Pappy is overrated; the debate is about which provides a better chilling effect on bourbon, stones, or ice.
Regardless of if you are new-school or old-school, we can all agree there is nothing better than coming home and enjoying a nice pour of bourbon. What chills that bourbon may be a different story altogether.
Old-School drinkers will argue that ice has been the go-to for cooling cocktails since Nero in the 1st century, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Recently, ice has become a focal point of the drink itself. Large cubes and spheres are used since the thick surface prevent them from melting too fast, which avoids the loss of flavor.
The New-School thought is, “why add anything that can change the flavor.” Whiskey stones came on the scene around 2007. Typically made of soapstone and naturally occurring metamorphic rock, the chilled stone cools down your cocktail without introducing water to the drink.
First off, they look cooler than just ice. There are tons of different sizes, designs, and colors, but do they work?
Yes and no. The stones keep your bourbon cold for a more extended period, but once your drink reaches a certain temperature, the stones lose their value. The benefit to all bourbon connoisseurs is that it does not introduce any foreign substance into the drink and preserves the original flavor profile.
What old-school bourbon drinkers will complain about? You only have a certain number of stones in your collection, and they take at least four-five hours of freezer time. Stones need to be maintained and washed after every use.
Finally, a select few believe that the stones leave an aftertaste. This aftertaste is more directed to the soapstones than the stainless steel.
The primary benefit of using ice is it is readily available and inexpensive. On the flip side, water is introduced to the bourbon, and if you are someone who likes to taste the true distiller’s expression, it can be a problem.
The mineral makeup of the water can also change the taste of the bourbon. Here in Kentucky, we have hard water, so using tap water to fill up the ice trays can change the drinking experience completely. I know that people use distilled or bottled water to limit mineral exposure, but now the cost increases.
Bourbon is not stored cold, so introducing a room-temperature liquid to ice can exponentially speed up the melt time.
The debate can take a third fork for certain purists who see no need to chill their undiluted bourbon.
It does not matter if you are old school or the new school; drinking bourbon has always been a personal preference. Enjoy it any way you want and be dammed to anyone who says otherwise.
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