Believe it or not, this one came completely out of the blue for me. Until recently, I’d never even heard of the export-only limited edition Wild Turkey Master Distiller Selection. But as luck would have it, if you contribute to the right enthusiast websites long enough, good things come your way.
I don’t have a lot of information on this particular bottle, other than it was an Asian market release around 2006. According to a reputable source, it was limited to 6,000 bottles – all batched at barrel proof. It’s unknown (at least to me) if there were multiple batches or simply one large batch, though all bottles are numbered with batch and bottle identifiers. As with many Wild Turkey limited editions, the release is boxed and adorned with marketing fluff. For example, the reverse of the bottle reads:
Master Distiller Jimmy Russell’s vision of the “Ultimate Bourbon” has finally been realized. A bourbon taken directly from the barrel, with a long and powerful finish. At 107 proof Wild Turkey Master Distiller Selection 14 Year Old Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey tastes the way bourbon was originally intended.
But (yawn) we’ve seen this sort of language before – on many special (and even non-special) edition whiskeys, not just releases from Wild Turkey. The real test – the only test – is how it sips. And with that, on to the tasting!
Wild Turkey Master Distiller Selection (2006 export) – 107 proof KSBW, aged 14 years – batch no. MD-9206, bottle no. 5733 – distilled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color/Appearance: black tea (I rarely, if ever, comment on “legs” in a whiskey glass – this one is worthy of noting and something to be seen.)
Nose: (classic & “dusty” WT) immense herbal & floral notes, honey-maple, sweet tea, vanilla bean, rich & funky oak, tobacco, leather, blood orange, clove, licorice
Taste: (wow … just … wow) thick honey-maple, rich & sticky vanilla from another dimension, musty & funky oak, floral perfume, sweet herbs, blood orange, brown sugar, fragrant tobacco & leather, complex baking spice (cinnamon, clove, sassafras, nutmeg, etc.)
Finish: (in a word … beautiful) long, flavorful & pleasantly warming, rich honey-maple, classic vanilla, funky & sweet oak, herbal & floral spice fading out
Overall: One thought repeatedly comes to mind as I’m writing this review – this is beautiful whiskey. And it truly is. Yes, the bottle language has a lot of marketing flim-flam – I’m not going to lie. Whether or not this is actually Jimmy’s “Ultimate Bourbon” is highly contestable (and based on the interviews I’ve read with the Russell’s, this isn’t his preferred profile at all). But that honestly doesn’t matter because it is an amazingly beautiful pour of which I’ve enjoyed every breath, sip, and exhale.
Wild Turkey Master Distiller Selection is everything one could want in a top-quality Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. It’s undeniably complex with intense classic WT notes, as well as some notable dusty WT profile characteristics to up the ante. It’s near-perfect in maturity, with the oak staying right in-check with the subtle profile nuances from nose to finish. And speaking of the finish – this is one of those few bourbons in which the finish really gives you a “grand finale.” By that I mean that it maintains all of the complexity found when nosing and tasting – triumphantly fading out in the most enjoyable fashion. And that, to me, is the essence of balance. Not only do we have balance in profile from phase to phase, but there is balance in the weight of the phases themselves.
In closing, Wild Turkey Master Distiller Selection is easily in my personal “Top 5” WT whiskeys I’ve tasted to-date – more likely somewhere in the “Top 3.” Yes folks, it’s that exceptional (at least in my opinion). The trick now, as with most older Wild Turkey limited editions, is finding it and not paying more than it’s worth to sip it. I can’t give you a monetary value (that’s up to you), but I can give you a rating … as solid an A as one can give.
Photo Courtesy T. Baughn (2017)