Sometime around 1992, the folks at Austin, Nichols & Co. decided to remove the eight-year age statement from their flagship bourbon, Wild Turkey 101. It was an unfortunate change, but not an uncommon one at the time. It was the 1990s, and lighter spirits like vodka and gin had been surging in popularity since the 1970s. As for brown spirits, blended whiskeys like Crown Royal Deluxe and Seagram’s Seven Crown were top sellers.
It seemed the demand for age-stated Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey in the U.S. had reached an all-time low. Thankfully, the market was much different overseas. American whiskey was popular in Japan and age statements remained extremely important (still are). As a result, Wild Turkey 101 maintained its eight-year age statement and can still be found regularly on Japanese shelves today.
Wild Turkey 101 8-Year (1994 export) – 50.5% ABV KSBW – “distilled in Kentucky,” bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color: rich copper
Nose: (spice-forward) cinnamon, clove, fresh-baked bread, vanilla, oak char, herbal notes, light citrus, rickhouse funk
Taste: vanilla extract, brown sugar, grandma’s spice cabinet (cinnamon, clove, ginger), mixed nuts, sweet funky oak
Finish: medium in length, sweet & spicy – candied nuts, fading vanilla & cinnamon
Overall: Wow! This one threw me curveball. I went into this tasting expecting a profile similar to 1991 Wild Turkey 101/8 … surprisingly not the case. Cinnamon isn’t a commonly found dominant dusty Wild Turkey note for me. One might find waves of it in earlier Rare Breed batches, certainly in some Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel releases, but you rarely hear of cinnamon as a forward note (especially when it comes to dusty 101).
This Wild Turkey 101/8 is so unique, that I’m not quite sure how to rate this pour. To me, the spice almost makes it a bit unbalanced … almost. It’s somewhat hard to judge balance when the dominant notes are so excellent in flavor. That said, I like Wild Turkey best when the rich vanilla/toffee and spicy herbal/floral notes counter each other enough to let the musty/funky oak shine through. I’ve found this best experienced in 1980’s to early 1990’s Wild Turkey 101/8.
But don’t get me wrong. This is fantastic whiskey. If you’re a huge spice fan – particularly cinnamon – then you should seek out a 1994 bottle of Wild Turkey 101/8. You’d likely consider it a stellar bourbon.
Rating: 4/5 🦃