I once walked into a bar, not a bold statement i know but there is a purpose here… I was probably around 18 years old ( ye right) and as i approached the bar i wanted only one drink, whisky. “Scotch please”.. Nothing hard to understand here but as i turned back to receive my order the lady behind the bar hands me a tumbler style glass with some small amount of liquid and a shit load of ice… With a blank expression i simply asked ” whats this ? i asked for a scotch” ” That’s what you got, Scotch on the rocks, that’s how you drink it”..
I never gave it a second thought other than politely asking for her to remove the ice, i wanted whisky not a bloody smoothie.
Anyway, where am i heading with this, well let me explain. A few weeks ago i was approached about doing something with a company, they wanted me to try some whisky Rocks. Honestly, my first thoughts were not that positive but as someone who never adds ice i did think this was a perfect opportunity for me to actually explore without to much bias.
My first option was to try learn about why. Why use them in the first place and when was the use first started. After talking with a few people and listening to stories it seems this actually goes back a long way, old prospectors for instance used to pick small stones from the rivers to cool down their whiskey whilst drinking during the heat of the day. stories of stones being added to other drinks from the cold waters of streams, rivers and lakes are certainly abundant. This is obviously not something that is a new phenomenon although the manufacture of these stones may be far more recent, it does seem like these Rocks have been around for around a decade or so.
There are many countries around the world where adding ice to a drink is kind off essential, whisky or whatever the drink being enjoyed may not be as enjoyable at “room temperature”, so we have to understand there is a need for the practice, for those living in cooler climates then the procedure can come across as pointless..
There is even an odd reference to the term stoned relating to the stones placed within a glass of whisky, when you became drunk you became stoned ( not sure how true this origin is) Anyway back to the practice of placing stones into your precious whisky. Is this the done thing these days or will you just feel the wrath of the purists bearing down on you as you sip…
Well the answer to that is, its your drink so do what ever you damn well want.. The next question should be, ice or stones ? The simple answer for me is Stones, why ? well its simple, add ice and all you end up doing is diluting your whisky, not always what you want, although do remember that water will allow some of those more delicate notes start to come through, and many a drinker likes to add water so if ice is your preference then that’s fine.. Ice will do the same initial objective but as we all know, ice melts, as it melts it becomes water, cold water then dilutes the whisky and you have a weaker liquid, closed off until it starts to warm up again, this therefore subdues some of those big flavours and therefore can give you less pleasure..
The Rocks however does allow those original flavours and aromas to stay within the glass, but the initial idea of cooling the whisky is an interesting concept, i personally get the idea of using Ice / Rocks in warmer climates or on warmer days in our climate but on a general drinking day for me then no ice / Rocks will be used in my whisky drinking, this does obviously limit the use for me. What it does do however, is it allows me to experiment to find a use, and for me this resulted in me using these Rocks for both cocktails and in liqueurs.
The use of these Rocks in both the cocktails and liqueurs worked rather well and did what i expected, the drink was refreshing and more enjoyable than if it had been at room temp, the only downside i did find was weight and obviously the chance of breaking a delicate glass if that’s what you use. For me i did try the ones i have in a glencairn and personally found it did not work so well, but in the sturdy tumbler i found these were extremely versatile, the clinking on the glass also felt and sounded good and the steady cooling worked well, did it make my whisky experience more enjoyable, no, not really but please remember i am an avid drinker of whisky without ice! That said, if i lived in a warmer climate than i would not hesitate to drop these Rocks in my glass rather than ice…
What i did notice however was how well it worked with the liqueurs, the way it just kept it slightly cooler rather than instantly cold as with ice and the obvious fact that there was no dilution really helped with the enjoyment..
So how exactly do you use them ?
Place them in the freezer at least 4 hours before use.
When you are ready to have a glass of scotch, place your whiskey stones into the glass and pour your selected drink.
Give the stones a couple of minutes to allow the temperature of your drink to go down before drinking.
So do the stones out perform ice ?
Yes and no.. the obvious pluses are – they look rather good and do what they are designed to do, they don’t cool the whisky down for as long as ice can and they have multi uses and will last you a long time. They do make a very nice gifts for those who do drink their whisky, spirits or any liquid that needs cooling with ice and even if they don’t get a lot of use they will also look good on anyone’s desk..
The downsides for me were the weight and size if used within a blenders glass or Glencairn, i did feel i needed to be very careful in case i ended up breaking the glass, this is however easily overcome by the use of a sturdy tumbler. If you need your drink cooling for some time the Rocks do tend to loose efficiency quicker than ice ( can be both negative and positive )
So final thoughts from me are, these are extremely good looking objects made with a purpose, they do actually fulfill that purpose so as they say ” it does exactly what it says on the tin” . Are they for me ? Not exactly, but they will sit on my desk, they will get used in those summer months to cool down those cocktails and liqueurs, they will also proudly be offered to anyone who asks for ice when visiting…
Thanks go out to Quentin at R.O.C.K.S for sending this product..
More info can be found HERE ..