Oops, clerical error: this post is actually in response to AUsloth's post at the end of page 1. I'm still keeping it.
Actually, he may have been telling the truth as to the origins of flavor effects like "smoky" and "peaty" etc. Of course, once people realized how desirable and/or distinctive those qualities can be, even when they designed better chimneys and equipment, they deliberately set them up to simulate the equivalent effect of the old ways. Trappist Ales, for example, are made using not just the same kind of aging barrels as they were 200 years ago when unique bacteria (non-harmful) grew in them and gave a certain flavor to the ale due to incomplete sterilization, they use the actual same barrels as they did back then. When they have to replace barrels, they make sure the new ones are "infected" with those same bacteria as well, so that the unique flavors are still imparted to the beer.
Chaos and creativity are spontaneous but sustainable.
Also, I'd like to add another voice to the importance of the "splash" or "dash" of water to a sipping liquor like whisky. As it sits, the flavor chemicals (aromatics, essentials, etc) settle into chemical stability, which is less reactivity, more inertness, more blandness. When you add a touch of water at the final point of drinking, you throw the chemical balance back into reaction, into dynamic, into tasty activation. Just a few milliliters of water in a glass will break down the "plastic" static barriers of flavor and bring out much more sensation/flavor from the mixture. Chemistry + sensation + perception = alchemy. This process works on less concentrated spirits like meads and wines as well, but is more noticeable, even crucial, on more concentrated/distilled beverages. Any fine liquor that will support combustion (28%+/vol) should definitely be given a dash in the glass.
Crappy liquors should just be avoided altogether as much as possible, except perhaps as a degreasing/cleaning agent. We don't want to encourage the production of lousy booze at any price. Think of it as voting for a sliding scale towards excellence.
In case you didn't realize it, I DO have a sense of humor. How about you?
"I will not fear. Fear is the mind-killer... I will face my fear. I will let it pass over and through me, and when it has gone, only I will remain." --The Bene Gesserit
"Time is a spiral. Space is a curve. I know you get dizzy, but try not to lose your nerve." -- Neil Peart
"I'm not in the ship. I am the ship." -- River Tam
"The truth is simple. It's the lies that get complicated." -- me
"No matter where you go, there you are." --Buckaroo Banzai