“Cheesy Gold Foil” … “Pewter Top” … “Split Label” … “Donut” … These are the names of legends. To the average person, gibberish I’m sure. But to the wise and weathered whiskey enthusiast these words stimulate the senses, stir emotion, and for the converted, invoke memories of grandeur. Today’s Wild Turkey stands on the shoulders of these rare giants, and the way it’s looking they’re not making many more of them.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend, known simply as “Donut” among whiskey enthusiasts thanks to its unique bottle design, was a late-1990’s Wild Turkey duty-free release. It remains one of the few true barrel-proof, single-barrel bourbons offered by Wild Turkey over the last several decades. (Kentucky Spirit is bottled at 101 proof and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is bottled at 110 proof). Originally sold in a decorative box, each donut-shaped bottle is labeled around the neck with relative barrel details. The reverse of the bottle reads:

Since the Wild Turkey distillery opened in 1855, privileged visitors have been given the rare opportunity of tasting our oldest and finest bourbon straight from the barrel. The creation of Kentucky Legend extends this tradition to a wider group of connoisseurs. This whiskey has been decanted from one specially selected barrel, filtered and hand bottled under my personal supervision at its original strength. The barrel has imparted its own subtly different flavor resulting in a unique hand made Kentucky Bourbon. True legends are rare indeed. – Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller

Needless to say, I’m very excited to have the opportunity to sample this highly sought-after Wild Turkey expression. Let’s pour!

Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend (a/k/a “Donut”) – 114.6-proof KSBW – no age stated – barrel D8-15, bottle #53 – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: deep rosy copper

Nose: (notably complex) rich caramel, vanilla bean, maple, honey, musty oak, blood orange, tobacco, antique leather, baking spice (cinnamon, clove, ginger), hints of floral perfume

Taste: (wow … speechless) BIG toasted vanilla, sweet musty oak, thick maple syrup, fragrant tobacco, intense spicy herbal/floral notes, honey, ripe citrus, leather

Finish: long, robust & chest-warming – sweet vanilla, charred oak, caramel, slowly fading spice

With a little water added: Tends to mute the best of its character and becomes more like a classic, yet average Wild Turkey 101 8-year. I’m not saying that classic Wild Turkey 101/8 is an average whiskey, I’m just saying that Donut is a bourbon that shines at barrel proof. Dilution is not recommended.

Overall: Impressive! Whatever filtration this whiskey experienced, it must’ve been minimal.

This is one helluva complex bourbon – particularly the nose. If given a considerable length of time (resisting the temptation to taste, which is ridiculously challenging I might add) one could write a novella of notes relative to the nose alone. By the time you sip, you’re on such a high from scent overload that the huge vanilla, oak, and intense spice nearly take you by surprise (I was literally speechless … all I could say was “mmm, mmm” and eventually expletives of sheer joy).

The finish is everything you’d expect at barrel proof – long, warm, and full of timeless Wild Turkey flavor.

“True legends are rare indeed.” Damn right, Jimmy.

Rating:  5/5 🦃