I was recently asked by an associate why I hunt vintage Wild Turkey bottles. It was more than curiosity – it was a question seemingly laced with confusion. Perhaps there was cause for alarm. I mean, my preferences had changed rather quickly, and with laser focus too. Thankfully, the answer is quite simple. It’s the profiles. I say profiles with an “s,” as there is no one single “vintage Wild Turkey” profile.

Vintage or “dusty” Wild Turkey expressions do have a lot of similarities, however. The core notes (vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, musty/funky oak) are richer than many modern whiskeys, the mouthfeel uniquely oilier, and the supporting notes can be remarkably complex depending on the bottle. In some cases, such as with Beyond Duplication or “Cheesy Gold Foil,” the herbal/floral spice notes can really steal the show (yet the bourbon remains amazingly balanced). And it’s whiskeys like this 1987 Wild Turkey 101 eight-year that remind you that a once standard shelf bourbon is a true quality pour in comparison to many top-shelf modern allocated bottles.

But the bottom line is this: I hunt old Wild Turkey bottles to drink the whiskey contained within. I’m not keeping a bottle museum or hoarding them like gold bullion. I genuinely love it. There’s a lot of hype in the bourbon world right now. Old Turkey gets its fair share nowadays. Just remember that Wild Turkey was always made for the everyman. It was made to be enjoyed – at the campfire, on the back porch, at the local grill, with friends, family, or all by your lonesome.

And while I agree that there should always be a premium on most any antique or out-of-production item, just remember this stuff won’t keep forever. Pay or trade reasonably with the enjoyment of consumption in mind. If you have it and love it, sip it and share it. I’m honestly not trying to preach. I just have a true appreciation for the brand and its expressions – past, present, and future. This isn’t Pappy. This is the Mighty Gobble.

Wild Turkey 101 (1987) – 50.5% ABV KSBW – aged at least eight years – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: rosy copper

Nose: molasses, vanilla bean, warm baking spice (clove, cinnamon), pie crust, musty oak, sweet herbs, hints of floral perfume, citrus, Papa’s cedar chest, faint leather

Taste: (near perfect mouthfeel) creamy yet spicy vanilla, brown sugar, chewy toffee candy, herbal/floral notes, sweet musty oak, cinnamon, clove, faint tobacco & leather

Finish: medium-long, full & warm with sticky vanilla, caramel toffee, musty oak, fading spice

Overall: Excellent. While not as complicated as some other ’80’s and ’90’s Wild Turkey 101s I’ve had, it shines in the core profile notes and maintains a nice balance between sweet and spicy. In comparison to today’s Wild Turkey … well, almost no comparison really. This is a fantastic bourbon for sipping, sharing, and thoroughly enjoying on a relaxing evening – nothing more, nothing less.

Rating:  4.5/5 🦃