The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2015

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september 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  65 1976 was a simpler time. People knew their neighbors, there were only three major television networks and Star Wars hadn't yet revolutionized moviemaking. Spirits were also simple. The first commercially-produced flavored vodka wouldn't be introduced to the American market for another ten years, never mind the more recent proliferation of flavored amber spirits. But it was in 1976 that Wild Turkey's Master Distiller, Jimmy Russell, first released a true American original, Wild Turkey Honey Liqueur. Honey was a natural complement to the vanilla and spice notes found in Wild Turkey Bourbon, a characteristic of the #4 alligator char barrels used in its aging. Far from following any market trend, Wild Turkey's exceptionally smooth blend of pure honey and bourbon whiskey was the first of its kind. Today, this smooth blend is known as Wild Turkey American Honey. Master Distiller Jimmy Russell walked through the doors of Wild Turkey for the first time on September 10, 1954—and a bourbon legend was born. The longest-tenured, active Master Distiller of any whiskey producer in the United States, Jimmy now shares the title of Master Distiller with his son, Eddie, and the expertise of this father-and-son team is part of what makes American Honey so special. Sharing Wild Turkey's high-rye mash bill and patient aging in #4 alligator char barrels, American Honey features citrus and vanilla notes with hints of caramel. It begins with the smooth taste of pure honey and finishes with the bold taste of Wild Turkey straight Kentucky bourbon. As a premium product, American Honey stands out because of its position- ing in the market. The target consumer is a little older—late twenties to early thirties—and consists of men and women who are looking for more than just a flavored shot to knock back.American Honey is ideal for sipping on the rocks or as an ingredient in cocktails. Of course, it has its more practical uses as well. "If I'm working in the yard on a hot day, I take one part American Honey and four parts lemonade and top it off with soda water in a tall glass with ice," says Russell. "It's very refreshing." It can also be used in a Whiskey Mule with ginger beer, lime juice and bitters. Simple flavors that let American Honey shine through are the best. "One man I talked to said he liked to have a drink of American Honey before he goes to bed," says the Master Distiller. While Russell can't vouch for this sleep remedy, he does recommend American Honey as an after-dinner tipple. Simply chill and enjoy. The heritage of American Honey certainly helps it stand out in an ever-more crowded flavored whiskey category. Not content to chase the "flavor of the day," Russell and his team take the long view focusing on products that will have lasting and authentic appeal with consumer audiences. A cultural trend in America towards spicier foods and ingredients like Sriracha sauce, Thai food and other pepper-amped cuisines were becoming part of the American flavor landscape. It was in this spirit that in the fall of 2014, Wild Turkey introduced American Honey Sting. The experience is not a "see if you can drink it"–type challenge, but a subtle spiciness that adds a delicious juxtaposition to American Honey's sweetness. Originality and authenticity have been a part of Wild Turkey's heritage for decades. Under the watchful eye and expert palate of Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, American Honey will continue to be a true American original created by a true American legend. PHOTO COURTESY OF WILD TURKEY AMERICAN HONEY

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