"Tasting and smelling the king of spirits: where do the complex aromas of a good whiskey come from?"
One of Raymond Chandler’s most famous alcohol quips goes:
There is no bad whiskey.
There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.
While opinions are personal and subjective, most whiskey fans would agree with Chandler. Whiskey can be graded as good (not bad), better and best. But what makes a great whiskey?
When evaluating wines, grape varieties, soil and climate are some important factors that will determine the quality of the final product.
For whiskey, the crucial factor is the quality of the casks in which the spirit was aged. Because of the high alcohol content, a lot of the aromas are absorbed from the wood and locked in the solution. What’s interesting about this aspect of whiskey-making is that new casks cannot be used or resin would diffuse into the spirit. Instead, distillers have to go looking for casks that were previously used for ageing wine or sherry.