We all want the best in life or at least the best value for our money.

When it comes to good whiskies, price is often the indicator that most people rely on – if it is expensive, it must be good. However, this is not entirely true; not all good whiskies are expensive, and not all expensive whiskies are good.

So, how can you determine a good whisky as a beginner?

Let’s discuss a few factors and characteristics of a good whisky in our beginner’s guide so you can tell if you have a good whisky in your hands or not.

The Beginner’s Guide to Good Whisky

Here are a few key things that will help beginners understand and determine the factors and characteristics that make a good Whisky

  • Age

Age is a key defining factor of a good whisky, and it is the thing that makes whisky what it is. The general rule of thumb is that the older the whisky, the better; this is because good whisky is stored in wooden barrels for years before it is packaged and sold.

The age of a whisky is determined by the time it spends in contact with the wood. This factor, which varies by country of origin, is important because much of a whisky’s flavor profile comes from the wood. Over time, it will absorb the wood flavors and balance them out.

Hence, a whisky’s age matters and why a 21-year old whisky is much better than a 12-year old.

It also means that just because you have kept a 12-year old whisky bottle for 2-years does not mean that you now have a 14-year old whisky. Some whiskies do not have their age labeled on their bottles, but you can always tell a whisky’s age by its viscosity.

This allows older whiskies to run slower on the walls of your glass when you swirl it.

  • Color

Whisky comes in a wide range of colors from pale gold to rich brown. The color will tell you two things about the whisky – its malted grain content and its age. Darker whiskies are dark because they have had more contact with wood and higher malted grain content.

Typically, a dark-colored whisky is better than a light one but this is not a hard rule, and there are plenty of exceptions.

  • Aroma

Aroma is an important characteristic of any whisky. The aroma is heavily dependent on the ingredients and the making process. A good whisky will always smell engaging and have a rich and beautiful aroma. If you take a deep whiff of your whisky and it smells inviting, it is a sign that it’s good.

  • Taste

Naturally, the whisky’s taste is another key defining factor of whether a good Whisky or not. Taste also depends heavily on ingredients and the making process. However, the taste is subjective, and what may taste good to you may not taste good to someone else.

So, how do you determine taste?

You can perform a simple test of consistency to tell if a whisky tastes good or not. First, take a sip of the whisky with a mix of air in your mouth. Determine its taste characteristics and then repeat the same with a mix of water.

If the taste is consistent between both, you can be sure that it is a good-tasting whisky.


There are many types of whiskies made with different ingredients and techniques, and they come from all corners of the world. The factors and characteristics that determine a good whisky largely remain the same, whether it’s blended or single malt.

This guide will help you determine a good whisky no matter its type or origin. As a beginner, tasting and testing different whiskies will help you gain experience and get better at determining good whiskies.

Another great way is to get involved in something like The Whisky Club so you get to taste good whiskies regularly. Over time, it will help you develop a knack for good whiskies and you will be able to determine them accurately every time.