My father has always enjoyed american whisky and bourbon but never really began experimenting with quality bourbon until I got the itch a year or so ago. I given him several nice bottles or suggested purchases based upon my perception of his tastes and he's enjoyed many of them.
He has a buddy that's about his same age and experience level (neither read about bourbon, the styles, mashbills, the history, etc. -- it's just a purely visceral experience/reaction when they drink someting).
Last night while watching the Steelers beat the Redskins I mentioned to him that I've noticed that he and his friend typically render an opinion on a bourbon based primarily on one factor: how "smooth" it is. The result is that higher proof bourbons often aren't smooth enough for their taste (and thus they don't care for them). I was arguing that flavor profile and complexity are the real hallmarks of good bourbon and whether it's "smooth" or not isn't really a quality characteristic but one of stylistic choice (at least in the standard to premium market we're drawing from).
He was taking offense to this position and saying that some people cannot use big words to describe flavors and in the end his enjoyment comes down to how smooth the bourbon is when he assesses how well he likes it.
I, being a bit of a dick, told him the ultimate "smooth" beverage is water and he should just drink that instead if that's his main concern. As an aside I am aware that we could solve his frequent dislike of high proof bourbons by adding a little water...
Coming from a wine and beer background before bourbon I am accustomed to certain beverages having some kind of standard flavor profile or archetype, and smoothness is not always an important or even desirable characteristic. Some beverages should be loaded with tannin or highly hoppy and bitter.
How do you feel about bourbon and how "smoothness" plays into enjoyment of this "frontier" beverage?