In many ways, Wild Turkey Rare Breed lives up to its name. It’s a strange bird seemingly shrouded in mystery. And while it’s often reported that it’s a blend of six-, eight-, and twelve-year-old Kentucky straight bourbons, it has yet to state that on a label (at least of the last four issued). All we’re guaranteed is a “barrel proof whiskey […] uncut with water.”

The real question then becomes, does Rare Breed taste like a blend of six-, eight-, and twelve-year KSBW? While I can’t affirm for all releases, batch W-T-01-99 certainly does. In fact, batch 01-99 and its predecessor, batch WT-03RB, are in my opinion the last Rare Breed expressions for which you can taste distinctive twelve-year Wild Turkey bourbon in the blend. With 03RB still found on occasional retail shelves (with a little Turkey hunting, that is) is 01-99 honestly worth chasing down or paying a premium to acquire? Perhaps a tasting will reveal the answer.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed batch W-T-01-99 (2004) – 108.4-proof KSBW – reportedly an uncut blend of six-, eight-, and twelve-year bourbon – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: deep amber

Nose: (unquestionable maturity) rich vanilla, caramel/candy apple, brown sugar, sweet musty oak, baking spice (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg), a little “dusty Wild Turkey” tobacco & leather, herbal/floral notes, faint citrus, a pinch of dark chocolate

Taste: (less oily than expected) rich & spicy vanilla, honey-maple, brown sugar, musty oak, cinnamon, pepper, blood orange, light herbal/floral notes, clove tobacco, polished leather

Finish: long & slightly dry (spicy before sweet) – cinnamon, clove, vanilla extract, sweet musty oak, fading herbal/floral spice

Overall: Rare Breed batch W-T-01-99 is a surprisingly balanced sipper for an uncut barrel-proof whiskey of various ages. It’s also quite complex and displays the signature honey-maple richness found in Wild Turkey 101 Twelve-Year expressions. The only faults in this 2004 batch are in mouthfeel and finish, which I find a bit thin and somewhat dry. This is likely from the younger whiskeys in the blend. But in many ways, that’s simply Rare Breed. It is by design a combination of younger and older bourbon traits, and many folks honestly like that. In fact, Rare Breed has an almost cult-like following of its own (second to Wild Turkey 101, of course).

So how does batch W-T-01-99 hold up to batch WT-03RB? Well, depending on the year, they’re certainly more similar than I expected. Both have doses of the rich vanilla/honey-maple flavor found in Wild Turkey 101/12, plenty of musty oak and spice, and some tobacco and leather notes as well. As for the greatest differences, batch 01-99 has more of a dusty Turkey nose, a bit more complexity in taste, and a notably less bitter finish (though slightly dry).

While batch 01-99 is arguably the better whiskey, my recommendation would be to try 03RB before paying a premium for 01-99. If you’re a Rare Breed fan and love batch 03RB, then you’ll surely love and appreciate batch 01-99 even more.  All things considered, it’s a tasty and thoroughly enjoyable Wild Turkey sipping whiskey that’s (sadly) miles above the more recent Rare Breed batch 112.8.

Rating:  4.5/5 🦃