Robert Pirsig was the "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenace" guy right? Didn't he go crazy and kill himself? I'm trying not to think about all that veneer stuff too much.

Adapting his philosophy to blind liquor, beer and wine purchasing at stores like Trader Joe's has been good, though. Basically: buy expensive stuff that comes with crappy labels, no stories, gold foil, etc... Bound to be good, just poorly marketed.

Quality in liquor is more objective than in beer because of the distillation process. Depending on which part of the distillation is bottled, the price and quality of the spirit will be affected. The foreshots are toxic, if I remember correctly, and the feints? or last runnings are of poor quality - harsh, medicinal, whatever. Obviously, to obtain max yield (and profit) one would blend as much of the poor quality stuff as he could. Additionally, there are two types of stills commonly used: the pot still and the continuous still. From what I understand the pot still is less efficient, but is capable of yielding finer spirits (discarding the foreshots and the last stuff). Further, many spirits are double or triple distilled - removing more impurities each time. Doesn't mean it's going to taste better, but it does seem to yield stuff that is less likely to give you a hangover. I have a triple distilled single malt Scotch that I bought in quantity at $12.99 a bottle that goes down like water and causes no distress in the morning, but many connoiseurs shun it because it is too light tasting and it is a lowland malt. But the quality cannot be disputed.
Also, the amount of time some spirits spend laid up in wooden barrels improves their flavor - quality I don't know.
Regardless, all of these things that improve quality also decrease yield and should make the product more expensive to produce. In zymurgy, it's a slap bang process that utilizes basically cheap ingredients, has a quick turnaround time and demands less precision from the maker. There is little you can do in brewing beer to justify the exorbitant cost of some of these beers. Specialty malts and rare hops are just not that expensive.

The easiest way to demonstrate the differences in quality of liquor is to buy three bottles of Cognac from the same maker - one VS, one VSOP, and one XO ($20, $30, $100). Drink a third of one bottle the first night, a third of the next a couple nights later, and the last a couple more days later. Besides the huge difference in taste (in refinement of what should be the same basic flavor) between the three, you will notice that the better stuff leaves you feeling a little more spry in the morning.

Gotta go, my glass is empty.