When it comes to Wild Turkey limited editions, I don’t think there’s one I’m asked about more than American Spirit. Many times I’ve been queried, and many times I’ve replied, “Very sorry, I haven’t tried that one yet.”
I haven’t been avoiding American Spirit. I just have so many wonderful Turkeys to enjoy that I rarely seek out a single dusty expression (and when I do, “Donut“ and “Cheesy Gold Foil” are usually at the front of the line). More often than not, I’m perfectly content purchasing Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel private selections. But sometimes fortune comes your way, as it did with this American Spirit (thanks again, Scott). I may not have the fancy box, but I definitely have the best part!
What makes American Spirit special enough to warrant so many inquiries? For starters, it’s the only bottled-in-bond Wild Turkey expression to date. It’s not the only bottled-in-bond whiskey ever produced at the distillery, however. I’ve seen bottles from the Anderson County Distillery days with DSP-KY-67 on the labels. They’re not the easiest bottles to find, but they’re out there. American Spirit is also the only 100-proof bourbon released under the Wild Turkey or Russell’s Reserve brand (as opposed to the signature 101 proof). Of course, one could argue this simply goes in hand with being a bottled-in-bond expression.
You may be wondering what “bottled in bond” means. While there’s very little a quick Google search can’t solve, I’ll gladly spare you the time and point you in the right direction. Here’s a quick definition courtesy of bourbon historian Michael Veach. The U. S. Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897 states in regard to said expressions:
All of the whiskey in the bottle comes from the same distillery, made in the same season, aged for at least four years in a government bonded warehouse, and bottled at 100 proof with nothing other than water added to the whiskey.
So without legal exception, American Spirit was distilled at Wild Turkey in a single season. It’s stated as fifteen years aged and bottled at 100 proof, so the label specs check out. As for the warehouse, according to Eddie Russell every warehouse owned and operated by Wild Turkey (on and off site) is government bonded. Taking all locations into consideration, the chance of narrowing down a particular maturation site for American Spirit (outside of Jimmy and Eddie’s recollection) is fairly slim.
I have a lot more to say about Wild Turkey American Spirit, but before doing so I think it’s best to provide some tasting notes for reference. Let’s pour!
Wild Turkey American Spirit, Master Distiller Selection (2007) – 100-proof, bottled-in-bond KSBW – aged fifteen years – distilled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color: rich copper
Nose: (classic WT) honey-maple, fruity vanilla, fragrant oak, caramel drizzle, orange peel, herbal/floral spice, nutmeg, hints of cinnamon
Taste: vanilla extract, honey-maple, caramel candy, sweet musty oak, nutmeg, peppery spice, faint citrus & leather
Finish: long, laced with spice – vanilla, nutmeg, caramel, butter toffee, oak char, leather, hints of clove, cinnamon & herbal notes
Overall: Signature Jimmy Russell. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had a Wild Turkey expression so true to Jimmy’s reported profile preference. Diamond Anniversary comes close, but it’s no American Spirit. While both are rooted in the classic Wild Turkey profile, Diamond is of a lighter variety. American Spirit, on the other hand, has similar notes, but with increased depth, ABV, and overall maturity. It’s a damn fine pour – not necessarily my personal favorite Wild Turkey expression – but a damn fine bourbon nonetheless.
Rating: 4.25/5 🦃
As I sit here sipping American Spirit, reflecting on my notes and gauging my impression, I can’t help but think of Jimmy. Just a week ago, generous patrons and friends delivered a special gift to Jimmy Russell for his and Eddie Russell’s 101 years of combined industry service. After gathering up samples of top-quality Wild Turkey expressions spanning the late 1970s to the early 2010s, they were labeled and placed in a custom-designed box meticulously crafted by the talented James Richards. A masterful work for the world’s longest-tenured master distiller.
And Jimmy – well, he couldn’t have been more thrilled about his gift. He sat in his living room that Sunday afternoon, admiring the box and going through each sample one by one. Jimmy had a lot to say about many of them, but none as much as American Spirit. In fact, he made it crystal clear – American Spirit is his favorite Wild Turkey expression. I think that’s important for us all to remember and take note of. Regardless of what you, I, or anyone else thinks of American Spirit, in Jimmy’s heart it’s his best.
What makes Wild Turkey American Spirit special? The answer is much simpler than nineteenth-century laws or double-digit age statements. It’s Jimmy Russell’s favorite bourbon. I think that says it all.
101st Anniversary box photos courtesy It’s Bourbon Night; Jimmy Russell photo courtesy Ryan Alves
Great post. It is interesting that they dropped it down to 100° and went for bottled in bond; as you stated, their usual “signature” is 101 and 15 years is certainly older than the required four years for BiB. I was listening to one of the Bourbon Pursuit podcasts yesterday (episode 42, April 2016, where they interviewed Matt Gandolfo, brand ambassador for Wild Turkey [at the time, not sure if he is still there or not]) where he mentioned that Jimmy was somewhat reluctant to go with barrels that were older than 13 years. This one must have been exceptionally good to go against his rule of thumb.
Great article! I really have to start seeking some historical bottles. These articles have really got me thinking in that direction. Maybe as Christmas presents to myself!
Gotta treat yourself every once in a while!
The comparison to Diamond makes me want to pick one up. One of my locals has it for $79 and I’ve been waffling for a while on whether it’d be worth it. Like you I gravitate towards bigger, bolder Wild Turkey expressions, but it sounds like it may be a nice “change of pace” bourbon.
$79 for Diamond is at least a one-time buy. Great price!
I was fortunate enough to get a bottle of American Spirit maybe 10 years ago or so and unaware of how few bottles were actually released. Only 6000 here in Australia. Although I haven’t had the fortune to sample too many limited releases this and the old Russell’s reserve pre 2005 101 proof are my very favourites to try on a special night.
The 101-proof 10-year Russell’s Reserve is a special pour for sure. I prefer it over American Spirit, though both expressions are of high quality.