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, nowhere does it say that on the label (at least of the last four issued). All we are guaranteed is what the label states – a “barrel proof whiskey […] uncut with water.”
The real question then becomes, does Rare Breed taste like a blend of 6-12 year old KSBW? While I can’t say yes 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 12-year Wild Turkey bourbon in the blend. That said, with 03RB still found on some 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 WT 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 here) 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 oilier 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 101/12-year expressions. The only faults I could find in this batch were in mouthfeel and finish, which I found relatively 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 some folks really like that. In fact, Rare Breed almost has a cult-like following of its own (second to WT 101, of course).
So how does batch W-T-01-99 hold up to batch WT-03RB? Well, they’re certainly more similar than I expected. Both have doses of the rich vanilla/honey/maple flavor found in WT 101/12, plenty of musty oak and spice, and some tobacco/leather notes as well. As for the biggest differences, batch 01-99 has more of a dusty Turkey nose, a bit more complexity in taste, and a notably less bitter finish (yet still dry). So while 01-99 is arguably the better whiskey, my recommendation would be to try 03RB before chasing 01-99. If you’re a Rare Breed fan and love batch 03RB, then you’ll likely love and appreciate batch 01-99 even more.
As for a grade, I’m giving Rare Breed batch W-T-01-99 a borderline B+/A-. It has traits of both B-grade and A-grade whiskeys, yet neither enough of one or the other to fully cross the line. All considered, it’s a tasty and thoroughly enjoyable Wild Turkey sipping whiskey that’s (sadly) miles above the most recent Rare Breed batches.