You know you’re a genuine fan of something when you lose count of how many times you’ve enjoyed it.  Just ask any Beatles fan how many times they’ve listened to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – or any Star Wars fan how many times they’ve watched The Empire Strikes Back – or any Grateful Dead fan how many times they’ve purchased junk food in the middle of the night at 7-11.  They’ve lost count – especially the Deadheads.  And that’s exactly where I’m at today with Wild Turkey 101 (not 7-11).

I’m on the record saying Rare Breed batch 116.8 is my new Wild Turkey 101.  It’s not an entirely true statementI still regularly purchase and enjoy WT 101.  Besides, 101 is typically $20 cheaper than Rare Breed and that’s a reality that’s hard for anyone to ignore.  In fact, I just picked up another bottle of WT 101 only a few days ago.  I’ve yet to try a bottle with a 2017 laser code, so I thought it might be refreshing to review this flagship standard once again.

As I was envisioning this review I knew I wanted to touch on the “Swiss Army Knife” qualities of Wild Turkey 101.  I was going to taste it neat, of course, but why not try making some notes with ice as well?  Sounds fun. And then I got to thinking that I should probably stress 101’s ability at making cocktails, like my personal favorite, the Old Fashioned.  Well, it just so happens that as I was starting this review, Ryan Oberleitner of Signdedrinks posted a comment on Reddit that drives that concept home.

When one Redditor asked which rye whiskey is best for an Old Fashioned, Oberleitner responded with a virtually perfect answer.  Here’s what Ryan had to say (posted with permission, of course):

Wild Turkey 101 bourbon is the best bang-for-the-buck cocktail whiskey, period.  Why?

1. It costs about the same or a little more than most other suggestions like Rittenhouse, Old Grand Dad BiB, or cheap-sourced MGP rye like Bulleit – and – is cheaper than more expensive ryes like WT 101 Rye and Knob Creek Rye.

2. Unlike all of those previously mentioned products which are all right at around 4 years old, Wild Turkey 101 bourbon is a blend of 6-8 year old whiskeys.  Yes, it leans heavily towards the 6-year component but that’s at least 50% older or greater than the whiskey in those other products – and – that age gives it a lot more depth which will add complexity to your drink.

3. We’ve all heard rye-heavy, spice-forward whiskeys work best in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan.  Yes, i agree, that is true. Now go taste some Wild Turkey 101 and tell me it’s not bold and spice forward – probably even more so than a lot of other barely-legal, low-rye, rye whiskeys.  There’s just something about WT 101 that makes its spice presence front & center and to me, mashbill be damned, it is a spicy AF whiskey.

TLDR; WT 101 or GTFO.

It’s hard to deny any of these points.  Personally, I’m a rye guy when it comes to cocktails and usually enjoy my Old Fashioneds with Wild Turkey 101 Rye or Russell’s Reserve 6-year Rye.  So, I gave Ryan’s suggestion an immediate spin and he’s right. Wild Turkey 101 bourbon does a damn fine job. So much so, I think when making a bare-bones Old Fashioned (whiskey, bitters, water, sugar, and ice), WT 101 absolutely nails it.  I should add, however, that when you start adding sweeter elements like liqueurs or muddled fruit, it’s probably best to use a 4 to 6-year rye.  That is, unless you prefer overly sweet cocktails.

Yes, Wild Turkey 101 is the Victorinox Swisschamp XAVT whiskey (Google that bad boy).  It can do everything a bourbon can do – arguably what most rye whiskeys can do – and do it all just as well or better for the money.  So now it’s time to see how a September 2017 WT 101 batch performs. Everybody ready?

Wild Turkey 101 (2017) – KSBW at 50.5% ABV – no age stated – rumored recipe of 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color:  rich amber

Nose:  stove-top vanilla pudding, charred oak, toffee, warm baking spice, caramel, Apple Jacks cereal, hints of maple & orange, faint leather

Taste:  bold vanilla, butter toffee, caramel, sweet & rich oak, nutmeg, grated cinnamon, hints of molasses

Finish:  long & warm – toffee, vanilla, caramel candy, sweet oak, roasted almonds, slowly diminishing baking spice

On the rocks:  The core notes, like vanilla, toffee, and caramel, stay sweet and somewhat creamy considering the addition of ice.  The oak and spice mellow out a bit more but keep their overall presence.  While I prefer a neat pour, I can easily see why folks appreciate 101 on the rocks.  It maintains its boldness and flavor far greater than many other whiskeys served similarly.

Overall:  Maybe it’s the realization that I’ve become somewhat of a modern Turkey junkie, but this Wild Turkey 101 seems a notch up in quality from the last several 2016 bottles I’ve had.  While modern WT 101 has always been bold, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word balanced to describe it. Dusty and classic 101, often.  But modern 101?  Well until now, I don’t think I have.  I’ll have to say, this is a nicely balanced pour.  Particularly complex?  Not really.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  This 101 is definitely not lacking in flavor.  It tastes as great a 6-8-year whiskey should (arguably better than many whiskeys several years older).

In closing, I’m glad I decided to take a look at a recent bottling of Wild Turkey 101.  With so many quality options out there, like Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and Kentucky Spirit private selects, it’s easy to forget the core expressions.  I feel that Wild Turkey just keeps getting better and better. It’s certainly no glut era.  Hell, it’s no glut era for any distillery (thank goodness – we don’t need that), but the improvement in quality is notable.  And thanks to some new info from Bruce Russell himself, fans of Wild Turkey 101 have something cool to look forward to in 2018.  According to Bruce (per Reddit) this year’s 101 batches contain barrels 7-10 years of age instead of the typical 6-8.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll surely be buying (more than) a few.  Cheers!

Rating:  3.5/5 🦃