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 🦃