In my experience, eight years is where the magic really starts to kick in for Wild Turkey 101. While age statements have been dropped from domestic 101 since 1992, the export market, particularly Japan, continues to see eight-year labels on bottles (albeit they’re 700ml bottles). I’ve had the pleasure of having both 1990’s and 2000’s export 101/8’s (some of which I’ve already reviewed), and they range from very good to excellent.

Sometime around 2011 the color “bird in profile” Wild Turkey 101 label ended for all markets. It was followed by the cream-colored label with the “monochrome bird” which saw its end in early 2015. I thought it would be interesting to compare some of the last of each of these 101 eight-year export labels. You see, even though these bourbons were released within five or so years of one another, due to changes in barrel-entry proof they contain somewhat different whiskey.

For this side-by-side comparison I’ll be sampling a 2015 Wild Turkey 101 eight-year export, which entered the barrel at no less than 110 proof (more likely 115 proof based on interviews with Eddie Russell). I’ll also be tasting a 2010 101 eight-year export, which undoubtedly had a barrel entry-proof of 107. Considering my past reviews of various non-age-stated Wild Turkey 101, I’m confident the profiles will be different. But what about the overall quality? There’s only one way to find out. Let’s pour!

Wild Turkey 101 8-year (2015 export) – 50.5% ABV KSBW – aged at least eight years – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: copper

Nose: vanilla pudding, caramel toffee, brown sugar, musty oak, baking spice, sugar cookies, hints of citrus

Taste: (surprisingly silky mouthfeel) spicy vanilla, toffee, brown sugar, nutmeg, musty oak, light citrus, faint pepper

Finish: medium-long & chest-warming – baking spice-forward, vanilla, oak, sweet herbs

Overall: While I wouldn’t call this bourbon wholly complex, it’s notably complex in comparison to the 2015-2016 domestic Wild Turkey 101. I’d say it rivals some of the better modern (post-2012) Kentucky Spirit bottles I’ve tasted. One could also compare it to a spice-forward Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon, but nothing that would rival an above average private selection. This 101 eight-year’s profile is certainly more of the modern Wild Turkey character, but the extended aging has removed the younger grainy notes and refined the ethanol found in recent domestic 101. It’s a nice and tasty “no-frills” whiskey.

Rating:  3.5/5 🦃

Wild Turkey 101 8-year (2010 export) – 50.5% ABV KSBW – aged at least eight years – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: copper (slightly darker than 2015’s color)

Nose: rich vanilla, maple, brown sugar, herbal tea with honey, sweet musty oak, slight cherry-orange fruitiness, faint herbal & floral notes

Taste: sweet & spicy vanilla, molasses, honey, musty oak with light classic “Turkey funk,” cinnamon, hints of clove & sweet herbs

Finish: medium in warmth, long in flavor – sticky vanilla, maple, sweet musty oak, fading spice

Overall: I’ve been enjoying a lot of 2000’s Wild Turkey expressions lately and this profile fits right in. Even though it’s 2010, and the end of that decade, it tastes similar to the mid-2000’s domestic Wild Turkey 101. As stated earlier, based on the bottle date and the age statement this whiskey was distilled and barreled at the classic 107 barrel-entry proof. That likely explains the darker color (less dilution) and notes more commonly found in older Wild Turkey bottlings. But just because it’s older Turkey doesn’t make it better Turkey. It’s not “dusty” in profile (it doesn’t taste like ’80’s or ’90’s age-stated 101), so I want to make sure I don’t give the wrong impression. It’s just a different profile – one more commonly found in 101 of the 2000’s. It’s classic everyday Wild Turkey 101 at eight years of age.

Rating:  3.5/5 🦃

In summary: While the labels, dates, and profiles are different, these two age-stated Wild Turkey 101s excel as everyday bourbons. If you can find either of them at retail price, I highly recommend picking them up; however, if you live in the United States you’ll need to factor in international shipping. That kills the deal in my opinion. If you want the modern 101 eight-year profile, just find a Kentucky Spirit private selection that’s received positive reviews. Alternatively, you could opt for a standard Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon and be just as satisfied.

As for the pre-2011 label Wild Turkey 101 eight-year profile, my recommendation is to hunt or trade for mid-2000’s domestic 101. It’s great sipping whiskey, but nothing amazing or worthy of “dusty bottle” pricing. If you really want to blow $100 on age-stated Turkey (yes, people are asking that much for these 700ml bottles), just find a store selling Diamond Anniversary. At least then you’ll get a full 750ml of a thirteen- to sixteen-year Wild Turkey bourbon. You might also make the store manager very happy. See, win-win.

Photo courtesy K. R. Oberleitner (2017)