Recently I bought some WT 80. Not bad but nowhere near as complex and refined as RB or the other premium WT's. Clearly it has a preponderance of young whiskey in the mingle.
I mixed it with Pepsi and then it became really good, the sugar in the pop melded with the distillery taste and unassimilated tannins.
I wonder if cocktails and mixed drinks were simply a way, just as adding sugar to young harsh spirit was one of the original rectification methods, of making liquor taste older?
Because older liquors (I am referring mostly to bourbon and straight rye, but the logic applies to rums and some malt whiskies) acquire additional wood sugars from the barrel, the gums and other elements which lend sweetness.
Thus, many bourbons, say Knob Creek, Rare Breed, ETL and others have a natural sweetness which at least 8 years of aging imparts (in the case of the current RB clearly the sweet in the older whiskeys is dominating).
Young whiskey doesn't have enough time to acquire those wood sugars; for those who found it too austere, they made it into a cocktail. E.g. a dryish Manhattan made with young rye or bourbon resembles some good 10-15 year old whiskey (say ORVW 12 year old rye - I renew my offer to trade for this whiskey at Sampler if anyone has some and doesn't like it).
Of course young whiskey can have its own charms, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that using premium bourbon in cocktails, while not "wrong", doesn't make sense.