The first time I tried Wild Turkey 101 12-year, I was completely mesmerized. It was a 1992 “Cheesy Gold Foil” and within milliseconds of nosing I was in love. My journey into dusty Turkey was only beginning. I soon realized how difficult finding such incredible expressions could be – well, difficult if you have a limited bourbon budget (as most of us do). Thankfully, I had a kind and knowledgeable bourbon friend to guide me. I sought out a more accessible alternative – his answer arriving like a dream come true … 2000’s export Wild Turkey 101 12-year.
From roughly 1999 to 2012, Wild Turkey periodically released 12-year 101 exclusively to foreign markets, primarily Asia. After the 750 ml “Split Label,” there were three distinct label designs issued as 700 ml bottles within this time period, all covered briefly in a post last September. Regardless of label variety, the quality of these bourbons cannot be overstated. I wouldn’t necessarily call them equivalent, but I’ve only had one export 101/12 that I found slightly disappointing. It was a sample from the early 2000’s, but based on unknown factors like environment and storage conditions, it’s hard to say if what I tasted was true to what was originally bottled.
It’s always a good idea to consider these elements when seeking out vintage whiskeys. Low fill levels, faded/stained labels, and damaged seals are all potential red flags. I’m not claiming all vintage bottles should be factory-new or pristine to warrant a purchase, but don’t let the allure of a “bargain” cloud your judgement either. While the overall quantity of dusty bottles is finite and diminishing daily, there’s still plenty of export Wild Turkey 101 12-year releases to be found. If a particular bottle doesn’t seem right, move on. You can always find another (at least for now).
Thanks to the generosity of a bourbon friend across the pond, I have a 2007 Wild Turkey 101 12-year to enjoy. Cheers Lee! I’ve sipped a fair number of 12-year Turkeys, but never an ‘07 (at least that I can recall). I’m curious how this one measures up to my most recent 101/12, a 2012 “transitional label.” Will the ‘07 have a robust, classic Wild Turkey backbone – or – will it lean more dusty herbal/floral? At this point it’s anyone’s guess. Let’s have a pour and see what this foreign bird has to offer.
Wild Turkey 101 12-year “Uni-label” (2007 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: (rich, classic WT) dense honey-maple, vanilla extract, caramel, sweet herbal & floral spice, musty & funky oak, nutmeg, clove, hints of leather & wet tobacco
Taste: (notably creamy) caramel chews, toasted vanilla, light butterscotch, thick honey-maple, sweet herbs, musty oak, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, blood orange, leather & pepper
Finish: long, warm & flavorful – creme brulee, caramel, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, charred oak, tobacco, leather, sweet pepper, faint citrus
Overall: Hot damn do I love Wild Turkey 101 12-year! While this 2007 is no Cheesy Gold Foil, it’s close enough to a late-90’s Split Label that I’d argue these 700 ml exports are still a very reasonable deal (even at today’s rising prices). Every time I sip 101/12 it gets me thinking … Why in the hell does Wild Turkey refuse to re-introduce 101 12-year as a semi-regular release? Why? l’d honestly like to know.
Let’s take a look at some past excuses, shall we?
Wild Turkey’s low entry proof caused many barrels to proof below 101 as they aged.
The entry proof has increased – twice. It’s 2019. I think we’re good now.
Mature, age-stated bourbons only sell well in Asia.
That’s so 1995. Next!
Since Wild Turkey 101 12-year was discontinued domestically, the number of special limited edition releases has increased.
True, but with those limited editions came price increases, allocations, and frankly, an LE or two (or three) that aren’t necessarily “better” than good ol’ 101/12.
And last but not least …
There’s currently a 13-year Wild Turkey KSBW expression produced for Asian markets.
First off, it’s 91 proof (yawn). Second, by the time an American goes through the ridiculous hassle to obtain a bottle, he/she is likely upside down on their investment. And speaking of worth, it’s chill-filtered and rather muted in flavor in comparison to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (even with the considerable difference in maturity).
You know what? I think we can do better, Wild Turkey. In fact, I know we can do better.
I’m not pointing fingers. I’m not trying to give anyone a hard time. I’m just saying … look at the bourbon secondary market. What’s selling? 8-year and 12-year Wild Turkey 101 … for substantial premiums. I’m not suggesting that you have to change Wild Turkey 101 from what it is today. No. Non-age-stated Wild Turkey 101 is fine (amazing for the price, really). All I’m saying is that an annual release of Wild Turkey 101 12-year would be a wise move. Hell, I’d argue that you wouldn’t be able to keep it on a shelf.
Look, I know I speak for a somewhat small (yet significantly growing) bourbon enthusiast population. We’re not nearly as large as the demographic buying handles of 101 (even though we frequently do so ourselves) – but – we’d happily buy 101 12-year at a premium by the case. We would. Seriously … WE WOULD.
Alright, so I’ve said my peace (for now). My glass is empty and I’m left with that sinking feeling that I’m getting close to spending more time, energy, and resources than I should be looking for another bottle of Wild Turkey 101 12-year. Based on how satisfying this 2007 release is, it’s worked its way up on my whiskey wish list. It sure would be a lot easier if Wild Turkey would just start bottling this stuff again. Anyways …
They say, “It’ll find you.” Unfortunately, when it comes to 12-year Wild Turkey you won’t have as easy of a time finding it (sigh).
Rating: 4.5/5 🦃