Wild Turkey export releases compose an interesting market worthy of any whiskey enthusiast’s exploration. There are two primary reasons for this recommendation. First, there are several age-stated expressions that continued after Wild Turkey dropped ages from domestic releases. And second, there remain a number of unique duty-free and export-only special editions never released in the United States. Wild Turkey 13-Year Old Distiller’s Reserve is one of those export-only special editions.
Sometime around 2014, Wild Turkey ceased production of the export 12-year WT 101. While to my knowledge there has never been an official statement as to the exact reasons, it’s been inferred through interviews with the Russell’s that maintaining an adequate supply of 101-proof, 12-year whiskey had become quite difficult (as many barrels reduced downward in ABV upon aging). In its place came Wild Turkey Distiller’s Reserve, a 13-year KSBW at 90 proof. The reverse label of the bottle gives a little insight into the release (as with all whiskey marketing, please take it with a grain of salt):
Born from the father & son distilling genius of Jimmy & Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey 13 Year-Old Distiller’s Reserve is Kentucky Straight Bourbon of the highest character. This special release bourbon has been carefully selected from he distillers’ favorite reserve, barreled at a lower proof, and slowly matured in the low floors of the fabled “B” warehouse where cooler temperatures, high elevation and greater air circulation combine to create a bourbon of exceptional quality.
If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve heard similar descriptions before – most recently with 2015’s Wild Turkey Master’s Keep (a 17-year KSBW at 86.8 proof). Master’s Keep, while considerably lower in ABV, is a full-flavored whiskey with plenty of complexity. How does Distiller’s Reserve line up? Is it reminiscent of the older 12-year 101, or possibly closer to Master’s Keep? Let’s have a taste and find out!
Wild Turkey Distiller’s Reserve (2014 export) – KSBW at 90 proof – aged at least 13 years – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: vanilla, brown sugar, cherry syrup, honey, sweet & funky oak, herbal/floral notes, hints of citrus
Taste: vanilla, toffee, honey, sweet herbal/floral notes, light funky oak, caramelized sugar, a pinch of cinnamon spice
Finish: medium, “tingly” vanilla, toffee, fading herbal spice & sweet oak
Overall: Well folks, this is basically the same profile as Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary. In fact, I had to do a side-by-side comparison to confirm. While Diamond has a touch more spice and mustiness, the two are strikingly similar. And it only makes sense, as there are several parallels just on paper. They were both bottled in 2014, at or very near 45% ABV (Diamond is 45.5%), and are each age-stated at 13 years (Diamond touts a blend of 13-16 years, but that’s legally a 13-year age statement). And labels aside, the profiles speak for themselves upon tasting – these are without a doubt relative whiskeys.
What does that mean? Well, if you’re a fan of Wild Turkey Distiller’s Reserve there’s no reason to buy this bottle from overseas vendors or pay secondary market prices for it. Just find a domestic retailer with WT Diamond Anniversary for sale (there are still plenty of them out there). If you’ve always wanted to own or at least try WT Distiller’s Reserve, consider how much you liked Diamond first. It may or may not be what you imagined (as the 13-year WTDR is not at all the same profile as the older 12-year export 101’s). But all in all, Distiller’s Reserve is a perfectly fine bourbon whiskey. It’s a more delicate profile in comparison to most Wild Turkey expressions, but it’s a profile I sometimes appreciate from time to time. Price and international exchange hoopla not factored, I’m giving this whiskey a fairly straightforward B.
Photo courtesy K. R. Oberleitner (2017)