A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer. – Bruce Lee

Palates, much like opinions, are fickle things. I would like to believe that a true whiskey enthusiast strives to maintain an open mind, entertains all possibilities, and when necessary, embraces doubt. After all, doubt isn’t innately a bad thing. To question is human. Our nature is immersed in subjectivity and crowded with influence. So when a fellow whiskey associate questioned the integrity of his newly-acquired dusty Wild Turkey Beyond Duplication, it was wisdom that called him to action. Moreover, it was with great humility and rare generosity that he then offered not one, but no less than three individuals generous samples of which to gather their honest opinions.

My sample arrived one beautiful afternoon, carefully packaged with an elegant stemmed dessert wine glass (pictured above). Scientific analysis has its perks, of course. After unpacking I set my tasting plan in motion (of which I had pre-designed while the sample was in transit):

First, I would refrain from referencing any tasting notes from the 1989 Beyond Duplication (export) I’d previously sampled from another associate. Any comparison of notes would not take place until this tasting was completed (actually, note referencing did not even occur until I sat down to type this review). Second, I would take each phase slowly and carefully – committing myself to complete honesty of opinion. While this is my usual process, the goal was to remain consciously aware of potential bias (this is a legendary pour after all). And finally, I would compare the BD sample side-by-side to a 1997 Wild Turkey 101/12 “Split Label” sample to see if one might be notably better than the other (more complex, balanced, etc.). The purpose of the side-by-side was simple. I consider the Split Label to be a top-quality pour; however, it personally falls behind both BD and “Cheesy Gold Foil” in complexity. If something were wrong with this particular BD bottle, even something minor, it should reveal itself against another 101/12.

It may not be the most scientific plan, but we are talking about whiskey. Overthink it and the fun gets lost at sea like a Jefferson’s limited edition. On to the tasting!

Subject sample: “Georgia” – Wild Turkey Beyond Duplication (1989 export) – 12-year KY straight bourbon whiskey at 101 proof – selected from “600 special barrels” – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a stemmed dessert wine glass after a few minutes rest …

Color: deep rosy copper

Nose: (lovely) rich vanilla-honey, maple syrup, sweet musty oak, floral perfume, fragrant tobacco, old leather, ripe citrus, maraschino cherry, herbal spice

Taste: (very complex) thick vanilla, sweet & musty charred oak, maple syrup, honey, blood orange, pipe tobacco, leather, clove, herbal/floral essential oils, hints of zesty citrus

Finish: long/medium-long, pleasant warmth, full of immense flavor – rich vanilla, musty oak, honey, citrus, fading herbal/floral spice

Overall: Yep – this is definitely old 12-year Wild Turkey 101. Tastes exactly how I expect Beyond Duplication (export) or Cheesy Gold Foil from the late 80’s or early 90’s to taste.

Rating:  5/5 🦃

In a side-by-side comparison with a 1997 Wild Turkey “Split Label” (export): While the typical core Wild Turkey 101/12-year notes (rich vanilla, honey-maple, herbal spice) are present in both whiskeys, the Beyond Duplication sample is literally saturated in sweet musty oak and fragrant herbal/floral perfume notes. Both are top-quality pours, but the BD is notably more complex and has a more unique and oilier mouthfeel.

Important – the notes stated below are provided for write-up reference only (to understand my palate and review style). They were not used in any way at the time of the subject sample tasting.

The full review for this particular whiskey can be found here.

Reference sample: “California” – Wild Turkey Beyond Duplication (1989 export) – 12-year KY straight bourbon whiskey at 101 proof – selected from “600 special barrels” – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: dark rosy copper

Nose: (I could literally nose this all day) immediate tobacco, musty oak, leather, spicy vanilla, sweet maple syrup, blood orange, herbal tea, floral perfume, musk

Taste: (unique “light” oiliness) maple syrup, caramel/candy apple, pronounced rye spice (a liquid bouquet of floral/herbal notes), charred vanilla, antique leather, sweet musty oak

Finish: initial slight warmth, then … BOOM! – punchy & strong, long in duration with slowly diminishing oak, cinnamon, pepper, rich vanilla

Overall: Well, it really doesn’t get much better than this – fantastically tasty, complicated, and balanced. A 5/5 whiskey in every possible way.

Rating:  5/5 🦃

In closing, I genuinely appreciate any opportunity to taste top-quality dusty Wild Turkey bourbon. This time was certainly no exception. In fact, this ’89 Beyond Duplication was everything it should be – nothing more, nothing less. So what brought on the doubt? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can say that it happens. Remember, palates are fickle things and the essence of this hobby is almost entirely subjective. My opinion is no better or worse than any other whiskey enthusiast’s, so long as you’re passionately honest.

* Photo (c) 2017 D. Shew