Humble pie, eating crow, the ol’ foot in the mouth … all ways of saying what I soon may be experiencing in regard to Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. Well, maybe.
Many of you might recall my post from several weeks ago titled, “R.I.P. Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit.” It was in many ways a rant, though my intention was never to complain (okay, maybe a little). In truth, my sole objective was to shed light on what I consider specifics of the expression requiring attention. Without that attention, my concern was (and remains) that Kentucky Spirit might be seeing its final days.
Well, it just so happens that shortly after publishing my opinion, a friend of mine informed me that the newly redesigned Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit bottles had been found in a town near mine. At first I scoffed at the idea of running to an out-of-the-way store just to grab the same old Kentucky Spirit housed in a Rare Breed bottle. Three minutes later I was on Google Maps recalculating my afternoon drive. 🙂 Such is the life of a Wild Turkey fanatic! Here Campari – take my money.
Oh, and money I did spend. While my purchasing experience with Kentucky Spirit has typically ranged from $45 to $55 (specifically “retail shelf” or non-private-select bottles) this new-style Kentucky Spirit offering was priced at $65. That’s right – $5 more than the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel sitting next to it.
I’m honestly not sure what this new pricing is all about. You go from an iconic “Turkey tail feather” bottle design – one claimed as prohibitively costly (at least purportedly) – to essentially a Wild Turkey Rare Breed bottle redo and charge more? I just don’t get it. At least the presumed savings established by killing the old-style bottle isn’t being passed to the consumer. In fact, the consumer is shelling out even more. Again, I just don’t get it.
Pricing aside, I’m still excited to see what this Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit has to offer. Right off the bat there’s two things catching my eye. First, the label states it’s from rickhouse A. Knowing which rickhouses are in season this year, I’m 99% sure this is Camp Nelson A.
Second, it was bottled in 2019, which means – in theory – that this whiskey could’ve been distilled at the new facility which opened in the Spring of 2011. I’m doubtful though, as Eddie Russell has mentioned that it took a few months to get things where he and Jimmy Russell wanted. Kentucky Spirit is traditionally cited as an 8-year (or so) expression; however, with no official age statement, it’s still possible that this bourbon is “Wild Turkey 2.0.”
At this point there’s only one thing left to do … taste the damn thing! Bottle designs, price, and facilities are all interesting to chat about, but it does nothing for the soul. I think it’s time to see what this whiskey is truly made of. It’s time for a pour!
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit – 101 proof KSBW – no age stated – bottled 1/14/2019 from barrel #0440, warehouse A (assumed Camp Nelson), rick #7 – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color: deep amber
Nose: (“elegant” modern WT) vanilla cake frosting, honey, apple butter, herbal tea & lemon, light oak char, tangerine peel, nutmeg, hints of brown sugar
Taste: vanilla, butter toffee, caramel drizzle, Bit-O-Honey candy, orange peel, sweet oak, nutmeg, herbal & peppery spice
Finish: long & sweet w/ lingering spice – silky caramel, vanilla, lightly toasted oak, nutmeg, clove, hints of leather & pepper
Overall: Let’s be honest – this isn’t as complex or layered as the average Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel private selection, or arguably, many standard retail Russell’s single-barrel offerings. That being said, this Kentucky Spirit excels at giving enthusiasts a standout single-barrel representation of Wild Turkey 101. All of your core Wild Turkey bourbon notes are here in excellent form: vanilla, caramel, toffee, sweet oak, baking spice, etc. In fact, it’s everything you love about Wild Turkey 101 but with a fine-tuned and slightly sweeter vibe.
Unfortunately, everytime I start mentally comparing modern Kentucky Spirit to Wild Turkey 101 I can’t help but reflect on the significant price gap. Admittedly, this Kentucky Spirit is a classier pour – but – $65 versus $25? Yeah, I’m just not getting $40 worth of difference here. It’s a tasty pour, and honestly, I find myself reaching for this particular Kentucky Spirit bottle quite often. Yet even if you factor out Wild Turkey 101 you still have to contend with Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel being confusingly cheaper. It doesn’t take a Mensa-level brain to handle the math. $65 101-proof chill-filtered single-barrel KSBW versus $60 110-proof NCF single-barrel KSBW … the seesaw is most definitely tilting.
I suppose there’s an argument for profile, as it’s my understanding that Eddie Russell designates beforehand which barrels are suited best for each of the two Wild Turkey single-barrel options. As skilled and experienced as Eddie may be, that doesn’t mean one couldn’t dilute Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel from 110 to 101 proof and get pretty damn close on occasion. Hell, you might just end up with something better than the average Kentucky Spirit (barrel depending, of course) due to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel being non-chill filtered.
Which brings me to my final point …
Here’s your humble pie back. I’m not eating crow or putting my foot in my mouth either – at least not yet. I’ll concede that this 2019 Kentucky Spirit is damn good – yes, it most certainly is. On the flipside, its expense remains unjustified with so many quality alternatives out there. From everyday Wild Turkey 101 to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (and expressions in between, such as Rare Breed), it’s going to be a hard road for Kentucky Spirit to get back to its glory days.
Rating: 3.75/5 🦃
Based on your review I have to pick up a bottle of the 2019. It was the first WT I ever bought but have avoided it lately. It always seems a bit toned down to my taste. This sounds good tho!
Hopefully the store I use has picked an equally good barrel!
More often than not I find private selections generally better – at least more unique. If you get one, let me know!
I think the Camp Nelson profile works well bottled as Kentucky Spirit. Definitely worth sampling or perhaps purchasing if the price isn’t an issue for you.
I have to agree with your initial assessment and what I assume mostly still stands after this review. I did a single barrel pick at WT a few years ago. Once our barrel was picked, Eddie told us we could do it as a chill-filtered, 101 proof under the KS brand or a non-chill filtered, 110 proof under the RR brand and it was a no-brainer. More flavor and a higher proof usually means a better experience. Granted, I’ve had some excellent KS picks, but at the new price range I’ll be reaching for RR picks every time. Cheers!
I have to agree. I think it’s very likely they will finish off the Kentucky Spirit brand with this pricing. Unless this is a prelude to RRSiB becoming an $80 bourbon.
Oh, no! Didn’t think about RR possibly going up. Let’s hope not.
$65??? WTH yo?!? Sorry, but that’s a pass for me. I’ll pick up the last of the 2017 KS’s on the shelves for $42.99 and then stick with RR or plain ol WT101.
Could be a regional thing … I hope.
I just bought an old style bottle of warehouse A bottled in Jul 18. Debating whether just to bunker it because of the bottle. Do you know if the warehouse A’s from 2018 are from Camp Nelson? KS was the WT that really turned me onto the brand, so I’m hoping they keep it around, but the pricing is indeed hard to understand. $40 is about right for this bourbon
2018 A is most likely Camp Nelson. Nice find!
Let’s hope that doesn’t become the norm, or it’s RIP WTKS, indeed.
Yep. Not a good thing at all.
I have tried a few Kentucky Spirit vintages.
All quite good, but none of them in the same stratosphere as Russells Reserve at its best.
The tall 750ml bottle with the gorgeous etching.
I don’t remember the exact release date, but I remember the complete perfection.
It was a hot day in Melbourne and a mate and I had the bottle in the car while we worked.
When we knocked off we poured a good shot each.
It was literally warm, and the complexity near killed me.
It was indescribably perfect.
I haven’t had anything since apart from Tribute or American Spirit, and we all know what they cost.
I’m not optimistic when I consider Kentucky Spirit down the track.
I have a bottle of Platinum top just sitting there.
I might as well crack that and enjoy the reverie.
Even now, I reckon Russells Reserve is pretty decent stuff.
In Australia we have absolutely no access to independent bottlings from small outlet’s in the States, so it’s standard RR releases or nothing.
Not that I’m complaining.
Also I’m a huge fan of non chill filtration.
Excellent comment Andrew. Hell, this is a mini post! LOL
My heart goes out to you Aussie’s. Thankfully I’m aware of a few RR private selections making it your way. Hopefully there will soon be many more!
I was wondering if you are able to shed some light on this:
Is all Wild Turkey chill filtered unless otherwise indicated, for example RR Single Barrel Bourbon and Rye?
Secondly. Why chill filter in the first place.
Isn’t good Bourbon all about flavour.
I for one love a good old gutsy Bourbon full of sediment, and that’s why my second favourite Distillery on earth is Ardbeg, because of their mindblowing un-chillfiltered peaty monsters.
P.S I enjoyed your rant regarding R.I.P Kentucky Spirit.
Honest and balanced.
Wild Turkey has been (unfortunately) chill filtered now for many years unless otherwise stated (such as RRSiB and Decades). Ardbeg is a personal favorite, and I suppose NCF has much to do with that. I can say that if Eddie had his way there’d be a lot more NCF WT expressions. Campari would be wise to listen. 😉
I saw a bottled in Nov 2013 bottle on the shelf at a store today, and have to ask- do you think that will have the 107 entry proof juice in it? I’ve read WTKS is anywhere from 8.5 to 10 years old, so if it was bottled in 2013, and 10 years old, it would have been distilled 2003 which would be the 107 entry proof. But if it’s only 8.5 year old, then it’s probably a 110 entry proof. Either way, you think this is worth picking up?
Probably not. More likely 110. I’d buy!
One of my favorite sippers. I do enjoy this bottling.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit needs a complete Makeover. Non Chill Filtered finished in used recharred barrels.
But then it would’t be a straight whiskey. I’m all for a makeover, though.
Sure it would remain a KSBW. A Double Oaked or Finished variation. Masters Keep Revival Oloroso Sherry Barrel Finish for example. I’m so curious to see what a Double Oaked Turkey would taste like.
You can label it “KSBW finished in …” but it’s technically not straight bourbon at that point. I like the idea of more finishes – even proposed them on a Zoom with Campari a few weeks ago. But you have to remember that WTKS is 100% Jimmy. A finished whiskey isn’t representative of his profile or legacy. But new expressions? Absolutely!
Respect to the Original. Just a little wishful thinking. Big Love Rarebird. Cheers!
Thanks! Your idea is a good one. Maybe just not for WTKS (though you’re right – a makeover is justified).