Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Wild Turkey

It feels that every time I say ‘I’m done with distillery breakdowns’ there’s yet another distillery to that’s worth writing about as I would have enough samples for a review. So lets do hopefully one of the last distillery-focused reviews and this time look at whatever I got for Wild Turkey.

Super quick history. The brand has been established/introduced in 1940, located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and currently owned by Campari group. They used to be a bottler until about 1970 when the brand purchased a distillery and started producing their own spirit. Wild Turkey has surprisingly few brands under their names. Only Wild Turkey Bourbon/Rye in different proofs and Russell’s Reserve are bottled from their distillate. They technically also produce American Honey flavored whiskey but nobody talks about that one, so it doesn’t exist. Russell’s Brand is a fancy turkey influenced by their master distiller Eddie Russell, (as opposed to Jimmy Russell who is the original Turkey Master Distiller and not coincidentally Eddie’s father). A brand has been developed in early 2000s as more modern take on Turkey bottling. I’m running a little bit ahead of myself but Russell’s tends to be a little darker, cherrier and woodier vs regular Turkey. Whether or not that’s more modern take on the brand… that’s up to interpretation, but it is no secret that consumer taste preferences change over time and so do alcohol profiles change with them and one way to separate new vs old flavor profile and not upset fans is to create a new product line to accommodate that. Replacing existing popular brand with new flavor profile is typically not a move that works out well… see the New Coke debacle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Coke.

Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel, Deer Park Wine & Spirits SP, Warehouse F, Floor 5. Aged: 11/13/09 - 10/29/19
Let’s kick this off with a single cask… but of course with a disclaimer about uniqueness. So interestingly enough Russell’s Reserve has been well received by whiskey drinkers and is generally considered an excellent alternative take on the Turkey flavor profile with somewhat deeper flavors working well with the spice. Another interesting observation, that while I’m not aware of Wild Turkey single cask picks, Russell’s Reserve single casks are not too hard to find and tend to be excellent. All the single casks are bottled at respectable 55% abv which is a good compromise for both nerds and casual drinkers and tends to be around 10 years of age. On the nose, wood, cherry, brown sugar, tobacco backed by Wild Turkey spices. The spices themselves tend to be on the lighter side of the spectrum, with ginger, pepper and cloves in a sort of baking spice mix without being overwhelming. Unlike Beam there’s very little cinnamon in the palate which I welcome. The palate mostly continues the nose, with more brown sugar and baking spices this time. Aftertaste gets all the cherry and wood, candied spiced fruit, medium long and is rather amazing. As a testament of how much I personally like this. I believe I’ve have drank from this bottle perhaps 4 times (and gave away 2 or 3 samples) and it’s almost empty which is insanely fast rate for me and illustrates just how easy it is to consume. Incredibly, dangerously drinkable, this is a fantastic drinking bourbon. It doesn’t make me go ‘WoW’ but it certainly is excellent and well worth having a bottle.
Score: B+

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Batch WT-03RB 54.1%, 2012
Picked up a bottle of Rare Breed (which is Wild Turkey Barrel Proof variety) few months back. This happens to be a bottle from 2012 while it used to be single cask variety, it has been batched for over a decade. Well no matter, the proof is in the taste really. Supposedly this is a mix of older and newer iterations of Turkey spirits so it is somewhere between classic 80s Turkey and modern 2010+ Turkey. Intense and perfumey rye nose. Musty oak, nutmeg, little bit of pond in the woods musk, brown sugar, leather. The palate can only be summarized as butter-smooth with tobacco, honey, charred wood, brown sugar again. The aftertaste isn’t very long sadly as I wish it was much much longer, but we cannot have everything. Sweet and spicy, if a little drying, more cinnamon and ginger spice come to the forth, together with toffee. It’s a good one to be sure and aligns well with my palate. While this isn’t going to be blowing anyone away it still borders on great stuff and a fantastic drink pick. Obvious reminder about this being a bottle from 2012.
Score: B+

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye, 56.1%, 2020
Here we have a Rare Breed Rye which is a cask strength batched rye at high proof vs Turkey’s regular proofed rye. Similar to how Rare Breed bourbon is cask strength version of the regular Turkey bourbon. The brief version is this: It’s Rare Breed bourbon from above but in rye version, sweetness and spice up, corn funkyness down. Tasty, highly sippable, with every sip being an explosion of flavor, slightly malty and is full of brown sugar caramel without being overwhelming, but could be a little too sweet for some. The main downside is the aftertaste being little short and not that special compared to the nose and palate, the palate sweetness drops off quickly and it becomes nearly drying and slightly woody. This rye is very tasty and well worth picking up at MSRP if a bottle of rye is needed… but it’s just that, high proof Turkey rye with not much different going on inside compared to regular, but for many proof will be enough to be satisfied with the purchase.
Score: B
Addendum after a while: Over time, it somehow opened up nicely but becomes more reminiscent of some older Rare Breed up above, perhaps pushing its score into a B+ category as I actually enjoy sipping at it as a casual drink

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17 years, BiB, 50%, 2020
To cap off this review, lets sip on a small sample of Master’s Keep series. Their designation tends to vary slightly year to year, recently been called “Decades”, and even that got dropped too, but this particular one is stated at 17 years old, bottled in bond version. The nose is somewhere between Russell’s and Turkey… Super complex with deep woodiness, caramel, some corn, molasses. The palate is sweet oak, more molasses and wild turkey spices, its very reminiscent to me of older version of Rare Breed i reviewed above, which is very likely is due to timing (this expression is likely from the same general time when rare breed got distilled, but was in casks for longer). Extremely smooth and slightly sweet this is delightful. Aftertaste lasts quite a while and is mostly same as the palate with occasional pop of spice flavor. Slightly herbal, and perhave little wood-forward this may not be everyone’s bottle but it should be certainly up there on everyone to-taste list and overall I don’t mind it. Legitimately wish I had more of this, but then I recall the price… and yeah the price/value here isn’t nearly as good as Rare Breed. Nonetheless, more than worth trying at cost at a bar or at a friend’s house or even buying a bottle if found and there’s extra $200 or so burning a hole in your pocket.
Score: B+

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown