Wild Turkey has seen its share of changes over the years. This isn’t uncommon. All distilleries have seen changes. Changes in regulation, ownership, leadership, branding, technology, and most importantly, product integrity. Some more than others, but for all it’s inevitable – time changes everything (and in business, time moves at the speed of light).
As much as I love to wax nostalgic about Wild Turkey, I often have to remind myself that it is a business after all. That said, Wild Turkey is special – not just to me, but in how they operate in comparison to many other distilleries. Regardless of ownership and corporate status, it’s very much a family business. The Russells have been the heart and soul of Wild Turkey for, well, decades.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades is in my mind, a true “passing of the torch” from Jimmy to Eddie Russell. While 2015’s Master’s Keep was the first Wild Turkey release to be solely credited to Eddie, the bourbon itself seems more of an experiment – outlier barrels demonstrating how hyper-aged whiskey can maintain grace under the right conditions. Decades, on the other hand, is a unique blend of eras. Containing straight bourbons aged from 10 to 20 years, it may be the only Wild Turkey (save for possibly 2012-2013 Rare Breed) composed of whiskey from all three known barrel-entry proofs: 107 (pre-2004), 110 (2004-2006), and 115 (2006-present). And so we have Jimmy’s classic 107 entry proof, as well as Jimmy & Eddie’s 110-115 entry proof that gives Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel it’s rich and bold profile. The box liner notes give a few additional details:
Barrels for this limited edition were chosen from the center and upper floors of Wild Turkey’s McBrayer Rickhouse. This harmonious mingling of liquid results in an extraordinarily enjoyable whiskey with the finesse and deep character of older bourbon anchored by the bold, balanced, and vibrant backbone of younger bourbon.
Decades truly is a fitting title for this special Wild Turkey release. The Russells (together) have seen nearly 100 years of distilling come and go. They’ve experienced numerous changes along the way, but one thing remains the same – they continue to make damn fine Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades (2017) – 104-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – NAS (reportedly 10 to 20 years) – bottled by Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY – batch #0001, bottle #19968
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color: rich amber
Nose: fruity vanilla, toffee, brown sugar, roasted almonds, caramel, musty charred oak, orange peel, “Certs” fruit candy, herbal/floral spice, hints of cinnamon & nutmeg
Taste: (very nice mouthfeel) “tangy” vanilla, toffee, sweet citrus, herbal tea, orange creamsicle, floral notes, lovely oak presence (perfectly sweet & musty), baking spice
Finish: medium-long & pleasantly warm, sweet citrus, vanilla, baking spice, sweet musty oak, faint leather
Overall: This is a beautiful bourbon whiskey and I’m honestly quite smitten with it. It has much of what I love about both Master’s Keep 17-year and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel in one uniquely flavorful and balanced profile. I really dig the fruity citrus notes – in particular the sweet/spicy orange, which reminds me of the Certs candies my dad would pass to me at church to keep me settled as a child. The oak intensity is near-perfect in my opinion, and there’s plenty of signature vanilla, toffee, and baking spice to keep it unmistakably Wild Turkey. I’m also very pleased with the proof and absence of chill filtration. It’s rich, it’s bold, and it’s tasty.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades is a fabulous bourbon whiskey that I believe will be sought-after in years to come. If bottle conditioning is a real thing, I can’t wait to see how Decades tastes after 25 years. And as for how it compares to 2015’s Master’s Keep – Decades is unquestionably my favorite of the two.
Rating: 4.5/5 🦃