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To me, here's what makes a whisky good...

2 8

@two_bitcowboy
two_bitcowboy started a discussion

I like twice-distilled single malt Scotch whisky. I'm quite sure it's a combination of the barley, the country, and the process that earns my affection. Lots of other-country whiskies have come on the scene and gained some renown, but--to me--none compete with the whisky of Scotland.

As for a style of whisky for me bourbon-barrel matured whisky earns extra points. I've learned to thoroughly enjoy the malt, sometimes the vanilla, and always the other associated flavors bourbon barrels share with the whisky. Most of these are best enjoyed as a pre-dinner dram, but some can carry you far on into the night.

I enjoy peat and smoke. From hardly peated (Arran Machrie Moor) to the big guns from Ardbeg and Bruichladdich (Port Charlotte and Octomore) I love the stuff (several Laphroaigs are ongoing must haves as well). Generally speaking, if it's solely matured in bourbon barrels so much the better.

Sherry-cask matured whisky is lovely. I've grown quite bored with sherry finishes, but a fully sherry-cask matured, cask-strength whisky (e.g., Glenfarclas 105), minus the sulfur-candle components, is a delight after a feast or with a bite of superior chocolate.

Now on to a whole different arena. A participant at a Laphroaig tasting hosted by Master Ambassador Simon Brooking asked Simon why the distillery would sell great casks to Independent Bottlers. Simon's answer was short, simple, and oh so significant. He said, "The distillery sells casks that don't fit the distillery profile." Lucky for us many of those non-distillery-profile casks are fabulous. We get to appreciate a distillery-produced single malt that we'd never taste if we only bought official bottlings.

Here's what I think contributes to making good whisky. How 'bout you? What trips your trigger?

10 years ago

8 replies

@Victor
Victor replied

What makes a whisk(e)y good? To me?

I am not malt centric. I am not bourbon centric. I am not rye centric. I am not anything centric.

I like bright flavours. I like crisp, pointed flavours. I like wave after wave of differing flavours. I like intense flavours which curl your hair, force you to take notice, and make you beg for mercy. I like flavours which do not clash. I like the rich full flavours from new oak. I like crisp alcohol flavour as a balance to sweetness. I insist on natural flavours. I detest anything that tastes chemical, artificial, or not to have derived from grain or wood. I accept peat, smoke, brine, and wine influence in malt whisky because malt whisky is pretty limited without it.

I have absolutely no biases against whiskies based on class or where they come from...each individual whisky of every type is for me evaluated on its own merits, on the palate and on the nose.

I have a very broad palate, and have found many many whiskies of almost every imaginable type which I like.

10 years ago 2Who liked this?

@two_bitcowboy

Great stuff, Victor. As with any exchange of ideas your passionate piece has brought a point to mind that I initially missed.

No matter its pedigree I like a whisky that lets me take a long time to enjoy it. A whisky that demands I take a sip every few seconds to remind myself of the flavor isn't a whisky I enjoy. It takes a full-flavored, lingering whisky to achieve this.

10 years ago 1Who liked this?

@PeatyZealot
PeatyZealot replied

Haha yeah, what Victor said. But subconciously I still lean towards peated stuff, wherever it may come from. For example, I loved the Laddie 10, but I 'miss' something compared to the PC10. Right, Peat:) Therefore, my buying whisky tends to differ some from my trying whisky.

10 years ago 0

@hunggar
hunggar replied

For scotch, I go for intensity and a unique character above all else. Big flavours. Big sherry, big peat, big wine (or whatever else), big coastal character, or any successful marriage of the above flavours.

If there's something that sets your whisky apart, I'll likely appreciate it, whether it be a strong peat presentation, a special cask finish, or simply a strict adherance to quality ingredients and production. Special cask finishes are hit and miss, but they have the potential to introduce a whole new world of flavour to a whisky and take it in a dramatically different direction.

Obviously a higher abv will help matters, too. Of course I can still find pleasure in the lighter drams, but they just won't stand out for me. That being said, I rarely meet a single malt I can't enjoy to a certain degree.

I'm still working out what makes a good bourbon or rye for me, but here's what I've found so far. I like intensity, once again. 40% rarely cuts it. I like deep wood flavours that balance out the intrinsic sweetness of bourbon, so quality oak is important. I usually enjoy a healthy dose of rye in the mashbill, as well, but that's not set in stone. Depth and complexity may be the biggest factor for me, though. I want a whiskey that I can enjoy on a visceral level, or break down and explore if I'm in the mood.

10 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor replied

You know, there is REALLY GOOD barley in your barley-malt whisky, OR, there is SO-SO barley in your barley-malt whisky. Excellent quality delicious barley, such as that found in Highland Park and Bruichladdich whiskies, can really carry a whisky pretty much by themselves. If the barley is mediocre or worse, and there is no peat, smoke, brine, or wine, there just isn't anything there that I am going to look forward to drinking. At my most cynical, occasionally, I have thought that peat, smoke, brine, and wine have been used to make crappy mediocre barley-malt whisky have some flavours which you can actually want to taste. I would add those influences too if all I had was the barley flavour of, say, Speyburn 10.

10 years ago 1Who liked this?

@OCeallaigh
OCeallaigh replied

I used to be all about big flavors. As I drink more whiskies, I have started really appreciating subtlety. I like a really complex, yet subtle and understated dram.

Don't get me wrong, I love the biggies sometimes. ultimately, I tend to go for Cask Strength, slightly smoky whiskies the most.

Overly sweet whiskies don't usually excite me too much. But sometimes a sherry bomb can be just what I need, depending on my mood. ;)

10 years ago 0

@Nozinan
Nozinan replied

One thing I've noticed..... It tastes a lot better when you share it with someone who appreciates it as much as you do...

10 years ago 1Who liked this?

@CanadianNinja

Like others have already stated, I too do not discriminate when it comes to the appreciation of whisky. What makes a good whisky for me is dependent on a number of factors and what I choose to drink at any given time depends on how I feel at the moment. I find myself in the mood for rye, blended whisky, Japanese whisky etc. at different times and for different reasons.

I will say though, that I particularly like spice in my whiskies. Big spice. The spicier the better! I've been falling in love with rye spice lately, and I have been a big fan of the black pepper and white pepper spice commonly found in Japanese whiskies for quite some time. Like others have stated, I too am a fan of strong, bold flavors but more specifically I enjoy the intense attack on my senses that I experience with spicy whiskies.

10 years ago 0

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@paddockjudge@CanadianNinja