Though taste is subjective, there are some characteristics which distinguish good whiskey from the ordinary. Complexity of flavor, high-quality ingredients, distilling processes smoothness, ageing, and more all contribute to making whiskey “good”. Ultimately though, the solution to “what is an acceptable whiskey” is a whiskey that you love and enjoy drinking.

Let’s look at all of the factors that make one sip an enjoyable experience. We hope that after you’ve learned the basics of the process of making whiskey, you will be an expert in the matter of, “what is a good whiskey?”

Flavor Complexities

Complexity of flavor in a whiskey differs from what constitutes a great whiskey. You can choose whiskey that you like on its own or mixed with water, and also a whiskey you’d rather drink in a cocktail.

A whiskey with lots of depth could be mixed with a cocktail however, you’d be missing out on all of the subtleties of the flavor that have been expertly made in every batch.

There are many things that affect the flavor profile of a excellent whiskey.

What are the flavor families of whiskey?

There are eight flavor families that are found in whiskey. They can be broken down into individual subcategories. Understanding even the families they belong to can aid in identifying the distinct notes in a whiskey. Here are the families and their subcategories.

Fruity – Cooked Fruit, Dried Fruit, Fresh Fruit, Citric
Winey – Oily and Nutty and Chocolate Sherries
Sulphuric – Sandy- Vegetative, Coal/Gas, Rubbery
Peaty Kippery Mossy, Smokey, Medicinal;
Cereal – Yeasty, Cooked Mash, Husky, Malt Extract
Woody woody Vanilla, Old Wood, New Wood, Toasted
Floral – leafy, hay-like, Green House, Fragrant
Feinty The Tobacco, Sweaty Plastic, leathery

There are some tastes don’t seem like they would be good by themselves, but you’ll be amazed at how different flavors can mix together to make a tasty whiskey.

It’s also completely normal to begin by drinking whiskeys with an apricot-like flavor or to steer clear of stronger-flavored whiskeys. In your search to figure out what is a good whiskey, try different flavor profiles, but as always, it’s all about what you like!

“The Devil is in the Grains” Defining a Flavor Profile

Although these flavors are flavors that are present in whiskey, they are not the primary ingredients in the creation of whiskey. Whiskey is made by the fermentation of grain mash which is malted or not.

Malting grain is that involves the grain being soaked and then allowed to develop. The result is maltose which is which is a sugar. It adds a richness comparable as chocolate or butter to the overall taste profile.

Sometimes, the difference between a good whiskey and what’s not is in the grains. In addition, different ratios of grains produce different flavors.

Some of the grains used in whiskey production are:


Barley is primarily used in Scotch whisky. It packs quite a punch. Barley is usually malted and dried with peat. The bitterness of barley whisky is typically mellowed out by being aged in old port wine or sherry barrels. These add fruit and spice notes to the natural earthy smoky flavor of Scotch.


Rye provides a rich sweet, nutty, and spicy flavour to whiskey. It can be used by itself to make rye whiskey. It is only able to be referred to as such if it is matured inside American oak barrels, and has 51 percent of rye mash.

Rye can be mixed with other grains in order to create various types of whiskey, like bourbon.


Wheat whiskeys are mostly produced in the United States. They’re popular due to their being delicate and subtle sweet.

Wheat whiskeys are distinguished by flavor notes like vanilla, toffee, and honey. While they used to be less popular however, they are getting more and more sought-after for their sweet and silky characteristics.


Corn is the most important basis for Bourbon whiskey – to be Bourbon it has to be made in America and contain at least 51% corn mash.

It’s another drinkable ingredient, giving aromas of honey butter, creamy and even marshmallow that has been toasted.

Certain whiskeys are made from various combinations of these grains in different proportions. Some have only one grain, and some have all four! Make sure you keep the flavor profile you’d like to experience in mind and when you are choosing a whiskey, pay attention to what grains they’ve been crafted with.

Barrels in various types and the imparting of Flavor

In order to answer to the query “What is a great whiskey?”, the barrels in which whiskey is aged are an integral part of the discussion. The barrels that whiskey gets stored in are extremely important in giving flavor. The majority of whiskey barrels are made of oak, which contain oils that get soaked into the liquid when it sits.

Sometimes whiskey, specifically Bourbon is matured in brand new barrels, and sometimes the barrels it is aging in were used to store something else. That other thing is what makes the whiskey unique in flavor once it’s time to be released.

New Oak Barrels

The new, unseasoned oak barrels are barrels that haven’t been used yet to hold any spirits. Therefore, the taste of the wood becomes more prominent in whiskey. The use of new oak barrels to mature Bourbon.

Ex-Bourbon Barrels

After the virgin barrel is employed to age Bourbon the barrel can be re-used to age other whiskeys such as Scotch. These barrels give an aroma of fruit, similar to the Bourbon that was distilled from them, along with vanillic flavours.

Ex-Port Barrels

Barrels that were used to hold port wine impart the flavors of the wine that held them They are usually dried fruit flavors, such as fig or raisin. According to the port, the flavor will alter.

Ex-Sherry Barrels

Sherry barrels can also provide a dried fruit flavor similar to the ones found in ports wine barrels. Sherry tends to have a drier profile than port, so the whiskey that is aged in these barrels is likely to possess a dry taste.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the various types of barrels used for aging whiskey, but you get the idea.

What spirit was in the barrel was a part of will impart its own distinct character to the whiskey.

Aging Whiskey and it’s Impact of Whiskey’s Flavour?

We’ve been learning about the types of barrels used for aging whiskey. Let’s take a into the actual process of aging. Do you think that aging is the key to what is an excellent whiskey?

Many think that the more aged the whiskey is, then the better quality it is. It is true that whiskeys matured for a prolonged period are often more expensive than those that are not. The time of aging doesn’t necessarily indicate higher quality, however.

As the barrel ages the temperature in the barrel of oak fluctuates. This causes the wood to shrink and then expand which introduces oxygen into the spirits.

This can add various different flavour profiles to the whiskey. If the whiskey is stored in oak barrels that have been charred, the charring acts as a filter to eliminate the alcohol’s strong flavor. As time passes, the color turns gold and then develops into a smoky caramel body.