The Tasting Panel magazine

October 2015

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Page 38 of 140

38  /  the tasting panel  /  october 2015 LINE EXTENSIONS A lthough the history of Wild Turkey stretches back to 1869, when brothers James and John Ripy started making whiskey on a site near the current Lawrenceburg, Kentucky distillery, it wasn't until 1940 that the Wild Turkey name was hatched. On a hunting trip that year, distillery executive Thomas McCarthy pulled some warehouse samples of a 101-proof bourbon to share with his fellow sportsmen after their annual wild turkey pilgrimage. The whiskey was a resounding success, and for their outing the following year, McCarthy's friends begged him to bring more of "that wild turkey bourbon." Realizing he was onto something, McCarthy happily obliged. And thus, the legacy of Wild Turkey Bourbon began. Today, under ownership of the Austin Nichols division of Campari Group, and guided by the father-son team of Jimmy and Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey has spread its wings to include such innovative bourbons as Russell's Reserve, Kentucky Spirit and Rare Breed, to name but a few of Wild Turkey's legendary whiskies. But history is still being made this year with the launch of Wild Turkey Master's Keep ($150), a limited-edition barrel-proof whiskey with a nomadic past. Back in 1996, unlike today, there was a bourbon surplus and, as a result, storage space for aging barrels was scarce. Consequently, Jimmy's son Eddie decided to move some barrels of recently-distilled spirit from Wild Turkey's wooden warehouses to a brick warehouse formerly used to age Old Crow, in spite of the fact that his father had told him the whiskey would age differently. After a few years, Eddie noticed rust on the barrel hoops and moved the barrels back to the Wild Turkey warehouses. The bourbon finally peaked after 17 years, but its taste profile had altered, for in addition to Wild Turkey's signature vanilla and caramel undertones, it was brimming with candied citrus and a touch of smoke. Plus, rather than increasing, the proof had dropped to 86.8 percent. Non-chill-filtered and bottled at this cask strength, it is a rare, one-of-a-kind bird indeed. Even rarer is Russell's Reserve 1998 ($250), which has just been bottled after some of the original barrels from a 1998 distillation were dumped a few years ago and put into steel holding tanks. That locked it in as a 15-year- old bourbon, which was taken out of wood due to faster-than-normal evaporation. Originally intended for a "special occasion," and at 102.2 proof, non-chill filtered, and full of dried fruit, cherried smoke and a touch of tobacco, there are only 1,800 bottles of this one-time offering. That really makes it a special occasion. And finally, next January Wild Turkey will be launching its new single-barrel program with a new Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Rye (approximately $50), a six-year-old whiskey bottled at 104 proof and which will primarily be offered on-premise, with individual bottles avail- able this October. Thus, Wild Turkey continues to fly high. Wild Turkey's Master Distiller Jimmy Russell. WILD TURKEY SPREADS ITS WINGS AND EXPANDS ITS PORTFOLIO by Richard Carleton Hacker New Flock for Fall

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