I think it’s about time I review a Wild Turkey 101 12-year “Split Label.” After all, I’ve reviewed an export “Pseudo-Split Label,” two Beyond Duplications, and three different “Cheesy Gold Foils,” so this one is arguably overdue. The funny thing is, I’ve had an open Split Label nearly the entire time – just sitting there diminishing as I sip away blissfully. Maybe subconsciously I was simply trying to enjoy the whiskey instead of experiencing it critically. Nice try, brain! I have a blog to keep up with and readers to satisfy, so let’s cut the slack, slap down the notepad, and get bourbon curious (right Minnick?)!
Wild Turkey 101 12-year … to the experienced, those words conjure images of deep rosy pours, wafts of immense perfume-like spice, and seemingly never-ending waves of complex flavor. If only it were still around as it once was. Unfortunately, 2013 saw the last of the now legendary WT 101/12 bottled up and shipped overseas (as it had been an export-only expression since 1999). It was replaced by the 13-year Distiller’s Reserve, a lower-proof, lighter and more refined aged offering (also export-only). While a decent pour in its own way, it has very little in common with the beloved 12-year 101-proof WT.
Today I’ll be tasting a 1997 Wild Turkey 101/12 Split Label export bottle with what appears to be Japanese (sorry, I’m no linguist) on both the front and back labels. The bottle style, volume, label design, and box are all true to the domestic release of that time. I’ve heard the Russell’s affirm all 1980’s-1990’s WT 101/12 expressions to be the same bourbon whiskey. If factual, there should be very little core profile difference between a 1989 Beyond Duplication and a 1997 Split Label. Can that truly be? Let’s have a pour and find out!
Wild Turkey 101 12-year “Split Label” (1997 export) – KSBW at 50.5% ABV – aged at least 12 years – bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color: deep rosy copper
Nose: sweet molasses, honey-maple, vanilla bean, rich musty oak, flame-roasted marshmallows, fragrant herbal & floral spice, tobacco, polished leather
Taste: thick maple syrup, honey, rich vanilla, clove tobacco, musty charred oak, blood orange, sweet herbs, floral perfume, licorice, antique leather
Finish: warm & flavorfully long – honey-maple, vanilla, oak, clove tobacco, leather, licorice, hints of ripe citrus
Overall: Well, it’s certainly not late 80’s Beyond Duplication or early 90’s Cheesy Gold Foil, but this ’97 Split Label is most definitely a mighty fine 12-year Wild Turkey KSBW. The signature core WT 101/12 notes are there in spades, though the heavy “perfumey” spice that essentially dominates BD and CGF (while present) is dialed back in comparison. Out of all the WT 12-years I’ve had, I’d put this bottle slightly closer in profile to early 2000’s export 12-year, but with an oiler mouthfeel and a bit more complexity.
Nitpickings aside, this Wild Turkey 101/12 Split Label is without doubt a top-quality bourbon whiskey. It’s such a shame this expression is no longer produced. Truth be told, even if WT 101/12 were brought back I just don’t see how it could taste the same. With changes in facilities, a higher entry-proof, and newer warehouses (just to name a few), there are too many factors of considerable influence. I’m not saying a new WT 101/12 would be bad – I actually think it could be excellent – it just wouldn’t have the same profile as dusty WT 101/12.
In conclusion, my advice to whiskey enthusiasts is to enjoy these Wild Turkey 101/12’s while you still can. While Beyond Duplication and Cheesy Gold Foil may be the pinnacles of Wild Turkey’s 12-year expressions, the Split Label will get you pretty darn close. A-