Just last week I received word from Bill Samuels, Jr., President of Maker’s Mark Distillery that my barrel has been moved to it’s new resting place in the warehouse for some nice, Kentucky aging. It’s true, that as an Ambassador, I get my name on a barrel with the privilege of buying bourbon from it when the time is right. Actually, there are all kinds of perks that come with joining this program. Sure, I have to “endure” an occasional email from Mr. Samuels regarding “obligations” that come up, such as the recent Maker’s 46 release party at Prohibition in the Foshay Tower. Yeah, the demands of bourbon ambassadorship are tough.

This week, Bill sent me a surprise, as you can see in the images. He must be reading Summit Sips and enjoying my adventures with ice spheres, because inside the box was a two-part spherical ice making tray with a nice holiday card wishing me the best. What a nice guy! Naturally, I wasted no time putting this tray to good use. I decided to type up a quick review and remind you all that ambassadorship is free just for signing up on their website, and as far as I know, every Ambassador received the free ice tray (including my wife). They aren’t paying me or anything to write this. I am just sharing, like every good Ambassador should.

As Burgess Meredith said to Perseus in Clash of the Titans (the original 1981 version), “A fine gift should never be questioned—simply accepted.” Well, I generally agree with that sentiment, but I’ve been messing around with ice spheres for a while, so even if some folks think of Mr. Samuels as the Zeus of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail™ I figured a comparison was in order. Besides, this is a different configuration than I have seen before and I wanted to see if it was any easier to get perfect ice spheres with this tray than with some of the others I have used.

The first thing I noticed is that the spheres are a little smaller than the Muji silicone molds. That’s not necessarily a problem if you use them to sip bourbon, but they may seem a little small for use in cocktails with more volume. I also noticed that one side of the tray says “kraM s’rekaM” (in reverse lettering) presumably to imprint the name upon the surface of the ice. I have no problem with that, but I was skeptical that it would work properly. I filled it up with water following the instructions and placed it into the freezer.

A day later, the tray halves had separated under the pressure of ice expansion. I expected this, as the same thing happened with my Japanese ice tray. The resulting spheres were elongated like eggs. The expansion had created a gap letting water seep into the void. As it did, it also left cavities in the spheres. But that wasn’t the worst problem. The lettering which was designed to imprint the spheres with the name gripped the ice and prevented me from extracting the spheres from one half. It took ten minutes of messing around with warm water to release them. In all fairness, the instructions do mention using water to help release the ice, but it was more troublesome than I expected.

I want to pass along a big thanks to Bill Samuels for thinking of me (and all of the Ambassadors) and sending this ice tray. I am certain that a more patient person would make good use of the tray and enjoy the spheres it creates (along with plenty of Maker’s Mark) but given some of the other ways I have found to make bigger and better ice balls, this one will probably go unused. Still, you gotta admire the marketing!


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I have similar ice ball trays (from the MOMA store) and the difficulty in extracting the balls is the same. I switched to Tovolo King Cubes for my rocks glass ice of choice — albeit not as visually stunning but less frustrating.


Frederic, have you tried the Muji molds? I get very good, consistent results from them and they unmold as easily as can be since they are flexible. I have also made some pretty good larger (3+ inches) using a spherical metal candle mold. The pieces come together with a neoprene washer, held by paper spring clips, and yield the largest successful spheres I have made so far. These I need to melt a bit just to fit them into my glass. I am also considering another mold to try like the Taisin process using this: