Great Whiskey Challenge??

So this is what I feel like after the first round of the Great Whiskey Challenge of 2012.  See I got almost everything wrong based upon price, but based on flavor I still contend I’m spot on.  Here is how it broke down.

Remember I said:

All in all for those that are keeping score for me the whiskeys stacked up this way:

  1. Whiskey A:  ”A” is for Amazing!
  2. Whiskey B:  was the runner up.  A nice middle shelfer.
  3. WhiskeyD:  This one was good, but not my kind of good.
  4. Whiskey C:  Bottom Shelf all the way, “Meh”

Well here were the actual whiskeys and how they ranked based on price.

From Rob Wallace:

To answer your question regarding the price order:

C. Eagle Rare 17 lists at $67.95. It is in the top 10 highest priced bourbons in the Idaho Price Book, and was the high end for this round.
D. Wild Turkey Rare Breed lists at $38.95-middle shelf
A. Wathen’s Single Barrel lists at $26.75-lower middle shelf
B. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut lists at $24.95- low end for this round

So what I want you to notice is how I got everything totally wrong!  Is a matter of fact I couldn’t have been more wrong if I intentionally tried to be wrong.

That said, how wrong was I?  See whiskey is all about flavor and personal preference.  I have long said that there are gems on the lower shelves and that some of the higher priced ones weren’t all they were cracked up to be.  One other thing that plays in here is the Wathens, which I said was the best of the lot was a single barrel bourbon.  This particular barrel from which my sample was drawn must have been a honey barrel.  That is the kind of whiskey people always hope to get when they buy a single barrel bourbon.  Had my Wathens I had when I did the single Barrel showdown been from this barrel it would have made it into the latter rounds.  This whiskey was absolutely amazing. And that is what you get with single barrel bourbons, there is a great variation from barrel to barrel.

The Wild Turkey Rare Breed I’ve had a bunch of times, and really loved it.  Like I alluded to in the post by that time my palate may have been fried.  I think this may have been the case.  The Eagle Rare 17 is shameful.  I have a bottle of the 10 that was complete garbage IMO and this one isn’t much better.  Don’t know who is drinking this stuff, but it isn’t and it won’t be me.  Finally the Jim Beam Devil’s Cut.  I said in my review of this bourbon that it tasted like a much more expensive bourbon, and this proves it.  Great stuff, and most of the time you can find it below $20 for a fifth.  

Well, this proves two things, I’m an Idiot, and that you need to follow your taste buds when it comes to good whiskey, the price doesn’t always follow quality.  Can’t wait for round two.


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Categories: review, Whiskey

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27 Comments on “Great Whiskey Challenge??”

  1. February 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Wow what a great example of form over substance.

    Don said “you need to follow your taste buds when it comes to good whiskey, the price doesn’t always follow quality.”

    Amen Brother Galligan! I wud expand that assessment to include most other things–like beer for instance–as well. It doesn’t matter a whit how much it cost or how fancy its packaging or PR is (a sideswipe at Jim here), if you don’t like it.

    Given that you have no legal/physical/medical reasons for not consuming a particular product, there are only 2 real tests that matter: 1) do you like it, & 2) can you afford it? All other considerations are tertiary at best.

    • Don
      February 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      It was fun to do this, and quite an eye opener too. I always knew that there were gems on the lower shelves, but this really shows that it is true. Take away all the packaging and what you think you “know” about a particular product, and the “truth” is revealed. It’s fun, and I’m looking forward to round two.

  2. Michael
    February 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Just proves you’re honest and like what you like. We need more of that and less of those who follow the ad or label blindly.

    • Don
      February 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

      I agree Michael, I do like what I like. I’d like to think that I’m not affected by fancy packaging or reputation, but I think we are all to some extent. The fun thing here is there are no preconceived notions going in, just a blank canvas and a bunch of whiskeys. Really hard to beat that!

  3. February 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    I concur on the Eagle Rare. I’ve had the 10 and thought it was awful, which was surprising given the price.

    • Don
      February 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      I’ve always heard that the Eagle Rare 17 was so much better than the 10, but truth be told it still doesn’t live up to what a $67 bottle of bourbon ought to be!

  4. February 14, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Overpriced whiskey is an epidemic. I like this much better than had you somehow managed to rank them in exact order of price. Keep it real, Don!

    • Don
      February 14, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      Well Scott, I got no choice on this challenge but to keep it real. Can’t sugar coat what you don’t know. I will say that the Devil’s Cut for how cheap it is, is really a great bourbon.

      • February 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

        I just picked up some Devil’s Cut for about $24. It is pretty nice. It’s full-flavored, and the finish is smooth and lasts for days. At that price you can’t go wrong. This is my new go-to (particularly because beer soaks up most of the adult beverage budget ’round here). Thanks, Don!

  5. February 14, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Long ago I witnessed a similar dichotomy between two popular Irish whiskies, Tullamore Dew & Jamesons. Working at a liquor store I got my booze at cost and repeatedly tried to learn to like TD because it “was so much better” (and pricier). Yet, time and again, I returned to my Jamesons.

    I also have to wonder what a similar test for beer drinkers would turn up and how it might alter the opinions of some over the importance of packaging over substance (LOL.)

    • Don
      February 14, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

      It’s hard to beat a good Jamesons IMO.

  6. Andy
    February 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Absolutely love this challenge and your first set of results. I have spent the last year trying to teach friends and colleagues that the best bourbons are typically not the highest priced. I even had a store clerk sneer at me for choosing Ancient Ancient Age one day. (I know you are a fan of that lower shelf variety!) Fortunately, slowly but surely, I have had some friends start to buy with their test buds instead of with preconceived notions based on price.

    Eagle Rare is a Buffalo Trace product, but so is Ancient Ancient Age (and based on your review they clearly have different recipes and aging processes). I’m curious; what are your impressions of their signature product “Buffalo Trace Bourbon”?

  7. February 14, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Don, you’re not an idiot. You’re an every man’s drinker. You like what you like and that’s fine.

    • Don
      February 14, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Man, I try to be self deprecating around this joint, and nobody believes me! Oh well. You are correct Zac that I like what I like, and frankly I was surprised by the findings as well. No matter though, now I have another really good lower shelf whiskey I can enjoy.

  8. David T
    February 14, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    I’ve never tasted whiskey blind, but I’m a regular wine drinker and recently did two tastings where at each I tried to identify, blind, which grape made which single varietal wine of 8-12 wines… I was completely humbled both times only getting 2-3 correct. This again goes to show no matter what beverage is in the glass that blind tasting is a very education yet difficult task.

    • Don
      February 15, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      Well see for bourbon it is much easier because it is a mash bill of corn, rye and barley, and the only thing that changes is the amount of each, and sometimes distillers substitute wheat for the rye. So I’m not trying to identify grape varietals, that would be insane. I think you did well to get 2-3 correct!

  9. February 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    You didn’t like the Eagle Rare 17? Interesting. I bought a bottle of the 2010 ER 17 last January and it didn’t last very long. I really enjoyed it. Guess that’s why they make so many different whiskies. Tastes vary greatly.

    And speaking of whiskey….

    I was watching Justified on FX last night and one of the characters (a “bad guy” in a 3 piece suit) asked for a glass of Pappy Van WInkle. But then he chugged it. Made so sad. I wonder how much they paid FX for that blatant plug. Reminds of when I was watching some NBC show (Grimm) and the main character asked for a glass of Dead Guy Ale at a bar. I wonder if this is the start of a new trend.

    • Don
      February 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      Well G, when you take away all the labels and any preconception of how something is “Supposed” to taste, it just comes out. I really thought this was like a Four year old Jim Beam, or Old Crow, but I’ve had them before and liked them better. Maybe there is something about that batch I didn’t like, but it really didn’t do it for me in the least.

      • February 15, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

        I can totally respect your honesty. Sign me up for a blind tasting!

        I actually did try one whisky blind back in July. It was during that WhiskyCast Virtual Tasting. Gillespie fooled us all. We were all, “Hmmm…. definitely not an Islay.”, “Speyside. Definitely Speyside!”, and “This is a delicious Single Malt!”. Turns out that it was a Chivas Regal 18. A very good whisky, but not a Single Malt. We got schooled!

  10. February 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm #

    Don, I’ve been waiting for and looking forward to this post for a while, and I found it VERY interesting. Like most of the other Aleheads, beer is my big thing, but I am increasingly interested in the arcane and nuanced world of spirits. I feel like I should be taking notes from you, except the whole point of your post is essentially that you have to use your own taste to determine what is “good” for the most part.

    • February 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

      Very true. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what YOU like. But it never hurts to have a tour guide. 🙂

  11. February 16, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    It seems I’m always late on the posts I’d like to be early on.

    For starters, I reject the premise that you were in anyway wrong. Additionally, it doesn’t take long after meeting you to realize that you are of high intelligence, well-educated and well read. Furthermore, I’ve drunk with you and watched you with your drink, listened to you discuss your drink and I know that you have an excellent and discerning palate.

    This challenge would not have been offered to a nincompoop. It was offered to you because we respect your judgment and believe you have the stones to stand by your choices. I believe firmly that our decision was sound. I chalk your self-doubt up to seasonal affective disorder. It’s cold and dark up here, but spring is coming, brother, spring is coming. So is the second flight. Buckle up.


    • Don
      February 16, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

      Cant wait for the second one Jeff. When you coming down to Boise next?

  12. May 30, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    When do we get the next chapter of the whiskey challenge?

    • Don
      May 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

      Good question. I’m waiting too.

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