Wild Turkey 101 – Review


a wild turkey strutting for a mate
a wild turkey?!
photo courtesy of DanielJames

Tasting Notes
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Both a fair description of Wild Turkey 101’s taste and an interesting footnote in its recent history.

On May 9th, 2000, a huge seven story warehouse in Anderson, Kentucky became engulfed in flames, and thousands of gallons of Wild Turkey bourbon subsequently spilled into the Kentucky River. Several hundreds of thousands of fish across 66 miles of the river died. The good people at Wild Turkey reportedly paid $256,000 to help restore the population of our gilled friends.

Apparently the fish were not accustomed to drinking like a fish.

Anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of sampling some “Kickin’ Chicken” would argue that the most devastating loss was the loss of bourbon. Wild Turkey has been winning the hearts and palettes of whiskey aficionados and amateurs alike for decades.

Wild Turkey’s history can be traced back to 1869, when the Ripy family opened their distillery, on what has come to be known as “Wild Turkey Hill”. Its famous name originated from a group of friends’ annual Wild Turkey hunting trip in 1940, when Ripy distillery executive Thomas McCarthy brought along some of his company’s wares. His hunting buddies enjoyed it so much, that the following year they asked him to bring more of that “Wild Turkey” bourbon, and the rest is history.

Wild Turkey 101 thumbnail
photo courtesy of charmingman

With a distinct rye-heavy mashbill aged for 8 years, Wild Turkey 101 is a unique bourbon with an easily recognizable taste. Its low price belies the quality of what you will find in the bottle.

Contrary to popular belief, its name is not a nod to its educational value for those unfamiliar with Wild Turkey, but rather a reference to its alcohol content. At 101 proof (50.5% alcohol by volume), the “Dirty Bird” is one of the bolder mass-market bourbons you’ll find.

Despite a trend toward lower proof whiskeys in the ’70s and ’80s, the Wild Turkey folks did not compromise on their flagship bourbon (instead, they released an 80-proof red-headed step-child version). Even after being acquired by the spirits conglomerate Pernod-Ricard in 1980, they stuck to their guns. In fact their motto is “Uncompromising since 1855”. Keeping true to form, the whiskey that made them famous retains the same kick it had 50 years ago.

Wild Turkey has a wonderfully inviting nose of honeysuckle and leather, lulling you into a false sense of security. Its powerful taste first hints at sweet berries and vanilla but quickly moves to a spicy and peppery wallop. The finish is rather long, with echoes of oak. The “chicken” definitely packs a punch – or a kick, rather, so this bourbon is not recommended for the novice, despite its popularity at frat parties.

According to Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, Wild Turkey is still made “the old fashioned way”, meaning (among other reasons) that they don’t sacrifice quality for quantity by distilling at higher proofs and then watering it down.

You can pick up a 750ml bottle for yourself for the reasonable price of about $14-18. It is widely available, in nearly every liquor store and bar. If you wander into some place without the sense to stock it, high tail it out of there.

Rating: 86/100

Know any other euphemisms for Wild Turkey?
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One Response to “Wild Turkey 101 – Review”

  1. Brbnizgud Says:

    Wild Turkey. One of those old staple bourbons that you can count on. I’ve been drinking this particular bourbon for many seasons (I won’t say how many…just trust it’s been a while). While I’ve always liked Wild Turkey, my tastes lean toward the older variants when they were age stated. Unfortunately, as bourbon sales have increased over the years, the distillery’s, in order to stretch profits and bourbon, have dropped age statements and proof on domestic brands. To the credit of Pernod Ricard (owners of the Wild Turkey brand), they have not dropped the house 101 proof offering while Russells Reserve did see a drop of proof from 101 to 90 a number of years ago. Jimmy Russell once told me that he feels the best aged whiskey is between 8 and 12 years old so you can assume that a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 will have some age to it. That along with the mashbill makes this a decent bourbon. Not great but certainly a good pour in a pinch. I would rate this 7.5/10.

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