The Letter and the Box: A Whiskey Challenge!

These little piggies in a bubble wrap blanket represent the biggest challenge to my whiskey palate ever!  This is a little concoction cooked up by those crazies in Northern Idaho Jeff Whitman and Rob Wallace.  The owners of Selkirk Abbey (Idaho’s only all Belgian brewery) have thrown down the gauntlet and are proposing a challenge for the whiskey half of the Beer and Whiskey Brothers!

See these 4 Nalgene Bottles contain four different whiskeys.  All are available from the Idaho Liquor Store and one is top shelf, one is bottom shelf, and the other two are middle of the road whiskeys.  They are all Bourbon Whiskey and I have been given two ounces of each one.

I’ll let them explain the rest of the challenge:

Now I’m really unclear to their intent.  Are they trying to make me flub up so they can mock me in the comments?  Nah, they will do that even if I don’t flub up.  Are they trying to prove a point that bourbon is very similar when you take off the labels?  I’m really not sure.  But I’m about to enter into the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced as a Whiskey guy.  I am intrigued that they said that the lower end offering would be considered Top shelf in most Idaho Bars.  Probably a Knob Creek or a Blantons.  That means that the Top Shelf stuff might be like an AH Hirsch or the like.  One thing is for sure I’m gonna get to try some pretty good bourbons this weekend!

How about you?  What are you going to be drinking this weekend?  Do you think you could do well with this Bourbon Whiskey Challenge? Wish me luck!


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45 Comments on “The Letter and the Box: A Whiskey Challenge!”

  1. January 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Don’t over think it, just drink it!

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      It is easy to do without a doubt. I have already smelled them all, and based on that I have some ideas, but it will be very interesting to see how it all turns out. I have enough, I might try them all individually first then do a side by side flight to pick up on differences and nuances. This is gonna be hard!

    • The Wookie
      January 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

      “Don’t over think it, just drink it!” ,,, That be on the back of a Beer & Whiskey Bros T-shirt or, for Don, Beer & Whiskey Bros mudflaps for his truck.

  2. January 6, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Also, how can you not love these madmen? First the Donnybear, and now this!

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

      I think they have it in for me! Yikes!

  3. January 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

    What a great experiment! I would fail miserably for sure. I once did this with Wine and picked a sugary $8 Meridian Chardonnay over both red and white bottles that cost 5 times that much.

    I recently bought a bottle of Beam Black as part of my goal to find cheaper bottles that I enjoy drinking. The Beam Black is actually pretty good but it’s only a few dollars less than Makers and not quite as good, so I can’t say it’s a good value.

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      If you like Beam, try Devil’s Cut. I think I bought mine for under $20. I like it a lot better than Beam black. I guess there are no losers here, just good whiskey! 🙂

  4. January 6, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    I am looking forward to the follow up on this post. A very cool package and challenge to get in the mail!

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      It was very cool, but perhaps a little daunting at the same time! The last package better have a good cigar in there too!

  5. January 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    Ooooh…pressure. Fun. But a little nerve racking to publicly test your skills like that. I like your tasting approach. Very methodical, Don.

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

      My thoughts exactly! Pressure…Fun. Just gotta “keep it real” as the kids say, and not over complicate it in my head, or my mouth…

  6. beercommdood
    January 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    I’d love to participate in something like this. You lucky bastard! How could you NOT blog it? 😉

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

      It will be interesting for sure. Those guys are always up to something!

  7. Rick
    January 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Great to see more spirits on this blog! This sounds like a really fun challenge. Can’t wait to read the 16 outcomes.

    I love good beer, but I enjoy drinking and talking about it much more than reading about it.

    But I am very interested in reading about whisky. Perhaps because I have been consuming beer for my entire life, literally. (My grandfather lived with us and slipped me a shot glass of beer every now and then).

    But I only became a whisky drinker about 4 years ago, but quickly grew to love the wooden aspects of the process, the tastes and smells.

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      All I can say Rick is Stay Tuned! I’m sure there will be plenty of mockery and embarrassment to come!

  8. Fred Colby
    January 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Don you and I have the same Challenge we should compare notes

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      Ahhh…they got you too Fred! I’ll bet they sent us different flights to prevent just such a collusion!

  9. January 6, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    Go Don–we’re rootin’ fer you!

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

      I need all the help I can get Wayne!

  10. January 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    That will be tough. I don’t envy your position. Wait a second…I totally envy your position.

    I would probably fail miserably, but at least I would have 32 oz of free bourbon!

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      It is quite an enviable position, but I just hope my reputation doesn’t take a beating!

  11. The Wookie
    January 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    Good luck. And don’t worry about the mocking if you flub up. You are probably going to get mocked even if you don’t flub.

    If you don’t think you can handle the challenge just mix them all together and start selling samples of the Beer & Whiskey Bros blended Bourbon.

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

      I might do that anyways Wookie! Start turning a profit with all these samples I got!

  12. Rob
    January 6, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    I should clear up the high end/low end thing. We did “research” over lunch at a local pub to determine their selection. We then consulted the online price book the state of Idaho maintains to determine high/mid/low. You can safely assume the likes of Blanton’s would not be considered low-end.

    As for the purpose of the test, I can assure you mocking you is not the intent, merely a happy by-product. I think people often equate price with quality when evaluating, and this will simply remove any possibilty of that. I, speaking strictly for myself, love doing blind tastings. Found some beers and whiskies to be thoroughly enjoyable that I maybe would not have picked up due to labelling/price point.

    Plus, it’s always good to share whisky with your friends.

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Thanks for the clarifications Rob. Jeff made it sound like the low end stuff really wasn’t from the lower shelf. Still it will be interesting, and I knew you would enjoy mocking me too! 😉

    • January 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      Well said Rob. That’s why I never let a lower price prejudice my selections-some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted were on the “cheap” shelves.

      As for whisky, a certain cousin of my wife’s (he will remain nameless) from VA, brews some of the best corn likker (and Apple Jack) I’ve ever tasted and I guarantee that it doesn’t cost nearly as much as a “low-end” bourbon.

      • Don
        January 6, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

        When I started doing this blog I systematically went through all the lower shelf bourbons to see if there were any hidden gems. I found Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star. A 90 proof whiskey that runs about $12 a bottle. It is a wonderful bourbon and I drink it quite a bit. I also found that Old Crow is excellent for cooking. Every year my wife uses it to make her Bourbon Balls for Christmas. I also use it in barbecue sauces. It has a great sweetness and its lack of a strong finish makes it perfect for imparting flavor without overwhelming whatever you are making with it. I also found some crap, but by and large if you stay away from “blended” bourbons, you are going to get some pretty good stuff. I also like Rebel Yell, a 90 proof wheat bourbon whiskey that is very light, but has excellent flavor. It runs about $11 a bottle. I can find it under $10 on sale. So there are a number of good solid selections on the lower shelves. Just stay away from the blended stuff and it won’t be bad.

  13. Mark Moeller
    January 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    I think it will be quite interesting because from following you guys for a little while, not all of the whiskeys that are on the lower priced end coincide with lower quality taste and vis versa. There are many things that factor into the price a consumer pays for a spirit, but it is widely accepted that quality should be the largest factor. I am excited to see how this turns out and which whiskeys they chose to use. Good luck Don!

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

      Thanks Mark! Look at my comment above, and that will give you some insight into my view of the lower shelves. They’re not all bad!

  14. John
    January 6, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Well Angels Envy is pricey and I’m still looking for the flavor. Had an Old Taylor the other day and loved it again and it was only 10 a bottle last time I saw it on a shelf. You may find your tastes run cheap and you didn’t know it and will save mucho dinero in the future.

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

      I like the Angel’s envy, but it was a free sample. I have made my way through the lower shelves, and there are some gems in there for sure!

  15. January 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    Very cool.

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm #


  16. johnking82
    January 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    thanks for your address…expect a flaming bag of dog poo!

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

      Now I know who it is from!

      • johnking82
        January 7, 2012 at 6:44 am #

        in all honesty, you posted it by accident…but I bet you get some stuff sent to you (of the beverage kind) because of it.

  17. January 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Honestly, brother, there’s no ill intent here. Rob suggested it, I loved it, and we ran with it. Come to think of it that’s pretty much the same scenario for starting the brewery…anyway, it’s winter in Post Falls Idaho, state paperwork isn’t back yet so we can’t brew, what else do we have to do?

    As for mocking you, that won’t happen from me. There won’t be a gotcha whiskey sent. If I were to to compare it to Rum, the low end would be Bacardi or Myers. Nither would be my preference but I’d never knock someone for favoring either one, and I’ve had many a drink made with each that I’ve enjoyed. There’s a chance you might prefer a less expensive bottle over one that costs a couple hundred more, but that’s a good thing in my book.

    Rob and I were talking over lunch and decided that since this appears to be popular and you have bravely accepted the challenge, that you should be rewarded (beyond just receiving random flights of booze in the mail). There will now be a fifth flight made up of your favorites from the original four. The flight will still be blind but you’ll know the entries, and presumably enjoy them.



    P.S. We knew Fred would want to compare note so your flights and his will not be the same. – ha ha Fred :p

    • Don
      January 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

      You said they “will” not be the same, as in the future they “will” not be the same. Am I to presume that this first flight is identical?

      OK, I know nothing about Rum. I’ve had Rum and Coke, and about 5 years ago I got drunk with a neighbor on Captain Morgan Brown Rum and Coke. The next day I wished I was dead. So your comparison is a bit lost on me. Bacardi and Myers would be like Beam and Turkey? (White and 101) or better?

      Sounds like a great “experiment.” Why do I feel like Eddie Murphy in Trading Places? 😉

      • Rob
        January 6, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

        Looking Good, Billy Ray!

  18. Chris
    January 10, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Don, do you drink Irish whiskey much? I love me some Jameson, but other then that I’ve only tried a few other brands. Is there anything out there in the Irish variety that’s worth a drink?

    • Don
      January 10, 2012 at 11:48 am #

      I’ve only had the Jamesons and Bushmills. They are like the Bud and Coors of Irish Whiskeys. I prefer the Jamesons by a long shot. But a nice Irish Whiskey and a cup of coffee makes for a great night cap in my opinion.

      • January 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

        I agree on the Jameson’s vs. Bushmills, but its been many years since uisgebeatha was my drink of choice (trying to give my liver a break) and things have changed. I do recall that Bushmiill’s was always pricier than Jameson’s though.

  19. January 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    I don’t know of many Irish distilleries. There’s Bushmills and Jamesons, Cooley and Locke’s, but Cooley either is or has been bought by Beam. I believe the others are part of a some sort of distillers conglomerate and are all produced under the same roof. It’s kind of sad.

  20. Kid Carboy Jr.
    January 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    I will be very curious to see this outcome. Good luck!

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