Nothing beats recording live from a great amp. However, even a guitar player with 20 years under his or her belt might need to use laptop setup with a DAW to put down ideas. Producers and engineers need to know how to get good tones even if they don't play instruments (of course, playing instruments helps). You didn't mention what style of guitar music (you did mention "thunderous, heavy" tone) you're recording but I record hard rock and metal. It's important to get your equipment checked out. I had a Gibson Les Paul that wasn't shielded well and took it to a reputable guitar tech who took care of it. Be sure to get the best sound BEFORE you record. I've switched out the pickups to all my guitars to get better sounds. I like EMGs on my Gibsons and Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot pickups on my strats. Once you have your guitar(s) setup to your liking, you play and record a section multiple times. You're looking for a number of tracks to playback at the same time. Do not duplicate! You'll be bussing these tracks to a single track most likely, and you'll also be bouncing it down. Use the best takes. You'll need at least 2 to get a great sound. A lot of productions use four tracks at once. I've seen more. Check out this YouTube video:
It describes in detail a method that's pretty close to what I do for recording straight into a laptop. In short, record multiple takes of the piece. Use high and low shelves. Even though you want a massive guitar sound you don't want the guitars competing for frequencies with a second guitar or the bass. You could scoop mids for the "Metal" sound but a lot of people I've recorded with have been moving away from this. If you keep the mids, turn down the gain and boost with a Tubescreamer plug-in before the amp sim. You might need to use a gate or at least an expander if you're getting a lot of "buzz". This will help quiet the signal. I'm assuming you know how to set the threshold on gates and expanders. If not, youtube it. If you plan to do a lot of recording into your computer's DAW and to use plug-ins to get your sound, I recommend the LePou plug-ins. Their amp simulation is quite good. Finally, I'll leave you with this link about free plug-ins which you can use for recording guitar.