Find the Good in Whiskey: 7 Qualities to Look for When Picking a Bottle


Whiskey is an alcoholic beverage that is produced from matured grain mash. Different grains are used for different varieties, including corn, barley, wheat, and rye. It is typically aged in wooden casks, generally made of charred white oak.

There are many different types of whiskey, including bourbon, Canadian whiskey, Irish whiskey, Japanese whiskey, Scotch whisky, Tennessee whiskey, and rye whiskey. But no matter what type you’re looking for, certain qualities make a good whiskey. 

Here are seven qualities to look for when picking a bottle:


One of the essential qualities of a good whiskey is smoothness. Whiskey should be smooth enough to drink neat (without any mixer) and not leave a burning sensation going down. The best way to determine smoothness is by taste, so take small sips and pay attention to how your throat feels afterward.

If you’re new to whiskey, start with a lower-proof variety and work your way up. Generally, the higher the proof (or alcohol by volume), the more likely it is to burn. Typically, there are wide whiskey bar options to choose from.


Another essential quality to look for in a whiskey is complexity, which is determined by the number of flavor notes present. A complex whiskey will have multiple layers of flavor that unfold as you drink it. To get an idea of a whiskey’s complexity, take a small sip and let it sit in your mouth before swallowing.

Pay attention to the flavors you taste and see if they change over time. Whiskey with complex flavors will have a long finish, meaning the flavors linger in your mouth after you drink it.


The body of a whiskey refers to the mouthfeel or how the whiskey feels in your mouth. A whiskey with an entire body will feel rich and creamy, while a whiskey with a light body will be thin and watery. In contrast, a whiskey with no body will be harsh and astringent.

You can usually get an idea of a whiskey’s body by looking at the color. A whiskey that is darker in color is typically fuller-bodied, while a lighter whiskey will have a thinner body. Just like with smoothness, the body of a whiskey can also be affected by the proof. Higher-proof whiskey will usually have a fuller body, while lower-proof whiskey will be thinner.


A good whiskey should be well-balanced, meaning all the flavors are harmonious. Well-balanced whiskey will have a smooth taste, with no one flavor overpowering the others. The flavors should be in proportion to each other so that none stand out too much. But just because a whiskey is well-balanced doesn’t mean it will be boring.

Some of the best whiskey is well-balanced but complex, with multiple flavors working together. To see if whiskey is well-balanced, take a small sip and let it sit in your mouth. Then pay attention to how the flavors interact and see if they’re in harmony.

To determine if whiskey is well-balanced, take a small sip and let it sit in your mouth for a moment. Then, pay attention to how the flavors develop over time. Well-balanced whiskey will have a consistent flavor from start to finish. If you find an unbalanced whiskey, adding water or ice can help bring out the flavors.


Character refers to the overall personality of the whiskey, which is determined by the combination of all the other qualities. A whiskey with good character will be smooth, complex, well-balanced, and have a distinct flavor that sets it apart from other whiskeys.

Hence, to get an idea of a whiskey’s character, it’s helpful to read reviews from other whiskey drinkers. Or, if you can taste the whiskey before you buy it, pay attention to your overall impression of the flavor and how it compares to another whiskey you’ve tried.


While the price doesn’t necessarily indicate quality, it can be a good indicator of what you can expect from a whiskey. Higher-priced whiskey will generally be smoother, more complex, and have a better character than lower-priced whiskey.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If you find a whiskey you like on the cheaper side, don’t hesitate to buy it. But generally speaking, the higher the price, the better the whiskey.


Finally, availability is another essential factor to consider when choosing a whiskey. If whiskey is hard to find, it can be difficult (and expensive) to get your hands on a bottle.

To find out if whiskey is available in your area, check online retailers or ask your local liquor store. If you’re looking for a specific whiskey, it’s always a good idea to call ahead to see if they have it in stock.

Final Thoughts

When choosing a whiskey, there are many factors to consider. But if you keep these qualities in mind, you’ll find a whiskey that suits your taste. But most importantly, remember to drink whiskey the way you enjoy it. If you find a whiskey you like, don’t hesitate to buy it. Cheers!


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