Happy Chanukah! I may not be Jewish, but I can appreciate any holiday you celebrate with family, friends, and a quality message. Growing up in the Deep South my exposure to Chanukah was minimal – scant even. I only knew it as “the Jewish Christmas,” which isn’t at all accurate, but it’s the definition most Southern kids are given. By the time I hit college in the mid-90’s, my exposure to Jewish culture (and Wild Turkey 😉 ) grew. I met folks from all over and learned a lot about life outside the Bible Belt. And, of course, there was Adam Sandler.
Years go by. And then one ordinary August day I was asked by spirits author and whiskey comrade Aaron Goldfarb if I’d ever tried any “Jewish Wild Turkey.” Jewish Wild Turkey? While I was vaguely familiar with the Jewish Whisky Company and their Single Cask Nation bottles, in all honesty I knew very little about the JWC’s operation and had yet to experience any of their releases. It wasn’t long after Aaron’s inquiry that I had the pleasure of sampling the JWC’s 2016 NYC Whisky Jewbilee, a fantastic single-barrel, barrel-proof KSBW selected at Wild Turkey. I also had the chance to interview the JWC’s founder, Joshua Hatton. Joshua is an industry “mover and shaker” of sorts – one who takes commendable pride in his faith and his whisk(e)y.
As an independent bottler, Joshua and the Jewish Whisky Co.’s mission is fairly straightforward – select and bottle the world’s finest whisk(e)y, from single casks at cask strength. And while not certified kosher, Joshua and JWC colleague Jason Johnstone-Yellin handpick casks that are “kosher by nature,” allowing their products to be enjoyed by consumers that adhere to particular tenets of faith. The JWC’s selections are arguably the purest whiskies on the market today, some highly sought after as a result.
Speaking of sought-after whiskey, the JWC’s Wild Turkey Whisky Jewbilee bottles have quickly become hot items (and with good reason too). After all, Wild Turkey hasn’t officially released a single-barrel, barrel-proof KSBW since 1998’s Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend (aka “Donut”). While Donut bottles can still be found on secondary markets, expect a hefty premium when the gavel strikes.
At present, the Jewish Whisky Co. is the only source for modern single-barrel, barrel-proof Wild Turkey KSBW. And as much as I would love for Campari to take note and bring back Kentucky Legend, I have great admiration for how the JWC is handling the exclusivity of their WT releases. Barrels are selected with great care, very similar to Russell’s Reserve private selections but with kosher standards in mind, and afterwards bottled by the JWC. The bottles themselves, at least for the Jewbilee releases, are more similar to decanters, with glass stoppers instead of the more typical plastic/wood/cork. JWC labels have a retro-art spin and state details such as age and bottle count that many Russell’s Reserve selects omit. And finally, they’re available direct and reasonably priced at around $100 each.
Well, I think that about covers everything except how this 2017 Chicago Whisky Jewbilee actually tastes. If you’re new to my blog, my apologies for the long introduction. You’ll soon realize that many of my whiskey reviews can seem rather epic in comparison to reviews on other sites. Hey, at least they’re unfiltered and “full word proof,” right? Now let’s pour some Jewish Turkey!
2017 Chicago Whisky Jewbilee (barrel #3426, rickhouse G, floor 6) – Wild Turkey KSBW at 61.0% ABV – aged nine years – distilled at the Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY – bottled by the Jewish Whisky Company, Bardstown, KY (1 of 150 bottles)
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color: deep rosy copper
Nose: (BIG modern WT w/ classic WT character) molasses, vanilla bean, rich & hearty oak, brown sugar, cherry pie filling, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, blood orange, leather, caramel/candy apple
Taste: (sweet & robust) intense cherry-vanilla, musty charred oak, honey-maple, brown sugar, chewy caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, leather, hints of chocolate
Finish: long, warm & flavorful – creamy honey-maple, vanilla, brown sugar, sweet musty oak, herbal tea, chocolate-covered cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, leather
Overall: This is without a doubt a very special bourbon whiskey. It’s my second Wild Turkey Whisky Jewbilee experience and I’ll have to say – though I’m unable to compare the two side by side, I believe this 2017 release to be just as good, if not a touch better, than the 2016 release. There’s just so much to love here. Bold and complex Wild Turkey character? Check. Intense, yet balanced flavor? Yep. A rewarding finish that warms you like a long hug? For sure! It’s everything you’d expect from a mature, undiluted, single-barrel Wild Turkey KSBW and more.
So the big question now is, how does this 2017 Chicago Whisky Jewbilee rate? This is no easy task, as in some ways we’re moving into the unknown. While there are plenty of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and Kentucky Spirit selects to compare, to date there are but two post-1998 single-barrel Wild Turkey releases bottled at barrel strength. These Wild Turkey Whisky Jewbilee selections are as inherently unique as the barrels they were chosen from. That said, there are more Jewish Whisky Co. selections in the works. The greater the number of JWC Wild Turkey releases, the finer the “floor to ceiling” of quality will be defined.
When I first tasted this 2017 Jewbilee I was leaning towards a 5/5 on my RB 101 Turkey Scale. Unlike some whiskey blogs, I actually use all 5 points of my rating scale on occasion. A 5/5 doesn’t translate to perfection, however. It simply means that the whiskey is as enjoyable as it possibly gets – every element in every phase lines up accordingly, with complexity and balance. And that’s exactly what we have here – but – I can’t help but reflect on Woodland Wine’s Russell’s Reserve SiB #16-490. Had that 42-count private selection been bottled at barrel strength, I truly believe it would’ve been one of the best single-barrel bourbons to roll out of a Wild Turkey rickhouse in years. What that tells me is that Joshua and Jason can’t kick up their feet and sit back just yet. They have to find a Turkey barrel to top Woodland’s #16-490 (Josh & Jason – if you need samples, you know where to find me).
All in all I can’t stress enough how special this 2017 Whisky Jewbilee truly is – on paper, in profile, and as an experience. If you’re one of the lucky ones that acquired a bottle, enjoy it with friends and family over the holidays. If you weren’t so lucky or found out too late, I’d recommend restraint if considering the secondary market. Joshua and Jason recently picked another Wild Turkey barrel, and I can assure you more will come. In the meantime, check out their podcast, seek out some reputable Russell’s Reserve private selects, and look forward to all the wonderful Turkey coming in 2018!
Rating: 4.5/5 🦃
To my amazing readers – I wish all of you a happy and safe holiday season. Shalom. Peace. Cheers!