Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Water and Whiskey: Friend or Foe? Whiskey Disks to the Rescue

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 8:36 AM

Whiskey Disks. Don't try to say that three times fast. Especially after you've been drinking whiskey. Actually Whiskey Disks are a new product designed to give spirits fans the best possible sipping experience ever.

I first heard about them on one of my favorite local food/drink blogs, Erin's Food Files, where Erin and her husband Nathan often share their favorite drinks and meals from around town. Not only are they both fun, engaging young people, but I find we tend to share similar tastes in food and drink. And I seem to run into them frequently in restaurants and liquor stores.

When I saw their review of Whiskey Disks, I immediately reached out the the manufacturers to see if I could try some out for myself. Luckily, they quickly obliged, since I usually enjoy at least one glass of bourbon every night after dinner to take the edge off a hard day of eating and writing about it. I normally enjoy my brown liquors on the rocks with a splash of water, but this can be problematic.

Why drink whiskey on the rocks? And why the splash? Most scotches and whiskeys benefit from being served slightly chilled, but not to the same degree as vodka or gin, which many people store in their freezers. Straight up is certainly an option, and it certainly avoids the possibility of melting ice diluting your Pappy Van Winkle. Alcohol melts ice quickly, so it's a given that mixing them will eventually lower the proof of the contents of your glass. But if you're going to drink whiskey at room temperature, you might as well serve it in a shot glass. Around 50 degrees Fahrenheit is about right if you're looking to maximize your drinking pleasure.

Many people think the reason you add a splash of water is to dilute the drink and ease the burn of the alcohol, but distillers already add water to their barrel-strength spirits to achieve the proof level they find most desirable. I trust their titration skills more than mine.

— Alcohol molecules have a tendency to clump together due to hydrogen bonds that form between charged hydrogen and oxygen atoms. These clumps can actually contain the esters that represent the aromas and flavors of whiskey or scotch. Adding just a splash of water can serve to break these bonds and release the wonderful flavor esters. The result is you can better enjoy the smell and taste of your highball.

So the best of both worlds is to find a solution that cools your alcohol without ice, allowing you to add only a small splash of H2O to open up the flavors, thus limiting dilution. That's where Whiskey Disks come in.

Whiskey Disks are pieces of polished soapstone from quarries in Quebec that are shaped by hand in the foothills of New Hampshire's White Mountains. You may have seen other soapstone cubes that you can chill in your freezer and use like ice cubes, but Whiskey Disks' unique squat cylindrical shape has much more thermal mass than traditional cubes. Plus, there's much less danger of having a rock tumble out of your tumbler and hit you in the nose, or even worse, tempt you to accidentally try to crunch one with your teeth like a regular ice cube. Ouch.

Somebody nominate these guys for a Nobel!
  • Somebody nominate these guys for a Nobel!
Whiskey Disks stay where they're supposed to, on the bottom of your glass. This provides for prime drink swirling to cool your spirit. True, you might miss the comforting clink of ice against glass, but the upside is well worth it. Soapstone is soft enough to scratch with your fingernail, and it won't scratch your glasses. It's nonporous, so it won't take on odors in your freezer like your ice maker might, despite that two-year-old box of Arm and Hammer you keep tucked behind the frozen tilapia fillets.

Plus, they're just damned cool. (Pun intended.) No two stones are alike, thanks to their unique grain patterns, and they look great in the bottom of a glass. They quickly chill your drink and make you look cooler while you use them. Whiskey Disks are available from a few retail outlets, but primarily in the Northeast. If you're interested in trying them out, well, you could actually just come over to my den about any night of the week. But if you want to buy a set of four for yourself, they are available for $24.99 from the Hammerstone website.

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