Maybe it’s just me, but Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit seems to be suffering from an identity crisis lately. With so many amazing Russell’s Reserve Single Barrels out there (particularly private selections), it’s sometimes hard to reach for Kentucky Spirit when your budget only allows for a single bottle. Yet Kentucky Spirit is still around. The once “Blanton’s-esque” pewter-top, ornate-boxed beauty introduced in 1994, is now a wood-top, upper mid-shelf staple that’s far too often passed over. But the fact remains and bears repeating, it’s still around.
Prior to the introduction of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Kentucky Spirit was Wild Turkey’s only continuously available single-barrel expression (Kentucky Legend was also a single-barrel release, though very short lived and limited in production). Yet ever since RRSiB made its debut in 2013, WTKS has gradually become less attractive. Maybe that’s one of the reasons behind the new bottle and label design rolling out in the next few months. After all, Kentucky Spirit has been using the same exact bottle, label, and light wood cork stopper for well over ten years now. It’s also the last Wild Turkey expression stating Austin, Nichols Distilling Company (an assumed name of Wild Turkey Distilling Company) as its producer of origin. According to TTB filings (2016 and 2017), that will also be changing with the upcoming redesign.
So what does Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit have to offer over Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel? A different recipe? Certainly not. Wild Turkey has but a single bourbon recipe (and a single rye recipe) and I don’t think that’s changing anytime soon. Different maturities? Nope. They’re both non-aged-stated single-barrel expressions, though reportedly they’re aged about 8-10 years. What about price? Sometimes, but not always. You can find WTKS and RRSiB priced similarly at many retailers, though WTKS is more often $5-$10 cheaper (which isn’t a huge difference at the super-premium level).
All in all, there’s three primary factors that separate Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit from Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and the first is profile. Eddie Russell states Kentucky Spirit is more representative of Jimmy’s profile preferences, while Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is essentially Eddie’s. The second factor is proof. WTKS is 101 proof, while RRSiB is 110 proof. And the third and final primary difference is chill filtration. WTKS is chill filtered, while RRSiB is not. I’ll refrain from discussing the effects of chill filtration in this post. Just know that it sacrifices flavor to achieve “shiny whiskey.”
And that brings me to today’s review – a Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit private selection by Jamie Farris of Hattiesburg’s cherished Lincoln Road Package Store. As many of you are well aware, Jamie’s barrel picks are somewhat regulars on my blog. But while I’ve reviewed several of his Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections, I’ve yet to review a single one of Jamie’s Kentucky Spirit selections. The time has come to break that streak and give this hand-picked barrel from Mississippi’s finest purveyor of quality spirits a proper tasting. Let’s pour …
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit – selected by Jamie Farris of the Lincoln Road Package Store, Hattiesburg, MS – 101 proof KSBW – no age stated (rumored at least eight years) – bottled 6/16/2015 from barrel #2472, warehouse A, rick #4 – distilled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: (“delicate” modern WT) honey, vanilla, graham crackers, nutty toffee, caramel, toasted oak, nutmeg, brown sugar glaze, baking spice
Taste: creamy vanilla, caramel, nutmeg, brown sugar, sweet oak, baked goods, leather, faint herbal & floral spice
Finish: medium-long – creme brulee, vanilla, honey-oak, caramel, toffee, nutmeg, orange peel, faint cinnamon & cedar
Overall: This lands about where I feel a modern Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit should. While rooted in the WT 101 profile, it’s more delicate – sweeter with subtle (less bold) spice. It’s a balanced and easy sipper, though truthfully I’d appreciate a little more complexity (Total Wine’s #2003 selection is a good example). But maybe that’s just it – maybe this is the identity that the new (soon to be revised) Kentucky Spirit should embody.
Think of it this way … imagine Wild Turkey 101 as a highway with two toll road exits. You can keep driving straight and enjoy everything that’s great about quality Wild Turkey without any additional expense. But for those that like a little adventure and don’t mind paying for it, you have two choices to make. You can take Exit 1, pay a premium, and have a cremier, bolder, and fuller-proof single-barrel experience with Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. Or, you can take Exit 2, pay a slightly smaller premium, and have a potentially sweeter and more finessed single-barrel experience with Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. The choice is yours.
As for Lincoln Road’s Kentucky Spirit #2472, I’m quite satisfied. Was I hoping for more? Honestly, yes. Jamie has an incredible palate and consistently selects excellent barrels, but truth be told, this particular selection isn’t grabbing my attention like a few other WTKS I’ve had. But don’t get me wrong. It’s a fine bourbon. I just wish there was a little more depth and complexity, similar to what you find in Jamie’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel offerings. It’s possible that when tasted at full proof this was a considerably better barrel. Hard to say, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if that were the case. As-is it’s still a respectable pour and that’s ultimately modern Kentucky Spirit in a nutshell. Rarely extraordinary, always damn solid.
Rating: 3.5/5 🦃