Every year, during the holiday season, we struggle with an age-old question: What should I get that one uncle who I don’t really know anything about? And every year, we are told — by the holy trinity of friends, Google, and gift guides — that the answer to our question is: whiskey stones. And every year, we spend $30 on glorified rocks and perpetuate the myth that whiskey stones are a good gift and that people actually like getting them. But not this year. We've decided that, in the year of our lord 2020, the whiskey stone conspiracy must stop. It’s time to accept the truth we all know deep down — whiskey stones are not a good gift and nobody really likes them all that much.
Now, as a whiskey lover, I could make a PowerPoint presentation detailing all the reasons why whiskey stones gifting needs to stop, but in the interest of clear formatting I'm just going to lay it out for you here. (I'll still probably do the PowerPoint for a PowerPoint party some other time.)
The first problem with whiskey stones is that they don’t improve the taste of — or experience drinking — the whiskey at all. If you’re a purist, you drink your whiskey neat. Even if that’s not how you drink a whole glass, Steve Walton, beverage director at High West Distillery, suggests you take at least a sip with no ice (at room temperature) so “you can understand the taste and flavors the producer was trying to achieve.” Once you taste the whiskey as it’s intended to be tasted by the creators, you can (and should, in my humble opinion) add an ice cube or two to release new flavors, and as Walton says, “soften the so-called punch of alcohol.” Whiskey stones don't allow you to do that! If you’re saying, “But, Hannah! I want my whiskey cold and not diluted!” To that I say, fine, stick it in the fridge. Whiskey stones won't evenly cool down your whiskey. And also, in case you've forgotten, they are rocks. Stop putting rocks in your whiskey.
Second of all, adding ice (made from water, and not rocks) is part of the beautiful ritual of drinking whiskey. Adam Harris, Senior American Whiskey Ambassador at James B. Beam Distilling Co. put it perfectly: “I really enjoy the ritual of watching ice slowly melt to cool the bourbon and add its slight dilution to my drink.” Sir, I could not agree more. There is something deeply satisfying about each sip of whiskey tasting slightly different thanks to slowly melting ice — something that would never happen if you threw a few rocks in your drink. Remember, good whiskey is not meant to be knocked back like a shot of Malibu at a frat party. It’s meant to be sipped slowly and deeply enjoyed. So, allow your whiskey-loving loved one the chance to enjoy the ritual as it's meant to be enjoyed. Stop giving them whiskey stones that will just sit in the back of the freezer, collecting freezer burn as they go completely unused.
Finally: Whiskey stones will hurt you. Whether you’re an ice chewer or simply love to get that last sip of whiskey, whiskey stones will inevitably turn your perfectly excellent whiskey experience into a painful, tooth-crunching nightmare. According to Natalia Cardenas, the Woodford Reserve Miami Brand Ambassador, whiskey stones are usually made out of “nonporous soapstone or stainless steel,” both of which are very hard and so will hurt if they hit you in the face. Which they will. So don’t gift whiskey stones to people you love, but I guess, if you want, you can gift them to your enemy.
Now, you might be saying, “But, Hannah! What do I get my uncle or boyfriend or long lost fifth cousin if the only thing I know about them is they drink whiskey?!” Well, to that I say, buy them an actual bottle of whiskey. My personal favorites are Knob Creek Small Batch Kentucky Bourbon, High West Double Rye, anything by Woodford Reserve, and The Horizon bourbon from Hirsch (I especially love this bottle!). If you don’t want to buy your loved one alcohol, there are also a lot of whiskey accessories that us whiskey-heads love! May I recommend rocks glasses, ice cube trays that make big ice cubes, a coffee table book about whiskey, or a bitters set (I love this one from Hella Bitters).
So, dear reader, the moral of the story is: Whiskey stones are the itchy wool socks of alcohol gifts and you, as an impeccable gift giver, can do so much better. Happy holidays.