Remember when you could walk into a shady liquor store and find long-forgotten Wild Turkey bottles coated in dust? Remember when dusty Turkey was easily found on secondary markets and traded for bottles like Weller 12 and Elmer T. Lee? Remember when your buddy could fly to Japan and come back with suitcases full of Donuts and CGFs at a mere fraction of today’s values?
Ah, the good old days. Apparently, those days are gone. If you’re looking for vintage Wild Turkey in 2019, prepare to pay a sizable sum.
You may have noticed that my reviews have focused more on modern Wild Turkey releases lately. It’s not that I don’t have dusty Wild Turkey expressions in my cabinet. I do, but now that it’s not so easily found I’m trying to be mindful, yet liberal with what I have left – sharing it with family, friends, and supporters. Besides, there’s plenty of damn fine modern Wild Turkey out there. While many vintage Wild Turkey expressions are exemplary, don’t buy into the myth that the only great Wild Turkey is dusty Wild Turkey.
Still … dusty Turkey is incredible.
And speaking of both sharing and dusty Wild Turkey, today’s pour comes from a cool bourbon friend from across the river in Georgia. Thanks so much for your generosity, Jonny! It’s been a little while since I last sipped 1980’s Wild Turkey 101. And come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve tasted a 1986 release. If so, I’ve yet to formally review one. Seems like now’s as good a time as ever! Let’s pour!
Wild Turkey 101 8-Year (1986) – KSBW at 50.5% ABV – aged at least eight years – “distilled in Kentucky,” bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: (good ol’ dusty WT) cherry cordials, vanilla creme, herbal spice, floral perfume, sweet musty oak, honey, nutmeg, pipe tobacco, leather, clove, hints of dark chocolate
Taste: (notably oily) toasted caramel, dense vanilla, rich honey-maple, charred oak, tobacco, apple peel, sweet clove, blood orange, sassafras, licorice, herbal & floral spice
Finish: long & immensely flavorful – sticky caramel & vanilla, cinnamon, pepper, herbal spice, leather, clove, hints of citrus & funky oak
Overall: Outstanding! Virtually everything I look for in vintage Wild Turkey is found within this glass – fragrant herbal & floral spice, funky oak, and plenty of vanilla and honey-maple to balance it all out. And to think this bourbon was easily found “on the cheap” in 1986. It’s astounding Wild Turkey made it through the Glut Era, honestly. Not that Pernod Ricard didn’t lose money. Like every other corporation invested in the bourbon industry at the time, they most certainly did. But thankfully, Jimmy kept doing what Jimmy does best. Today’s pour is a resounding testament to that.
Before I wrap up, I have a message to every whiskey enthusiast reading this post. If you’re fortunate enough to own vintage Wild Turkey – or any vintage bourbons – please share them with others. Yes, there’s a lot of money to be made selling older bottles right now. And justifiably so. They’re some of the best whiskeys ever bottled. But if you stop for a second and think about it, you might just have a far more rewarding experience if you were to open those bottles, sip them and share them with others. In fact, this blog wouldn’t exist had someone not taken the time to do so for me. My first dusty Turkey tasting is forever etched in my mind – a vivid, seemingly surreal memory. My most sincere thanks to you, Chris.
So today, I challenge you. If you have a collection of vintage bourbon, find someone passionate about modern whiskey and share your prized expressions with them. You never know what could happen. Your thoughtfulness might just be the spark that leads to something they never imagined. It surely did for me. Cheers!
Great review! Can’t agree more on sharing vs selling. The best WT I have had was a sample of a 1984 decanter, shared with me by a total stranger. It’s always more satisfying to kill a good bottle with friends than to make a couple hundred bucks selling it.
Thanks Scott! My thoughts exactly!
Good advice I reckon David.
Last month I cracked a my last bottle of Tribute Japanese edition, and my last 17 Yo Japanese edition as well.
Firstly, a good friend and I enjoyed them around the campfire deep in the Australian wilderness.
On returning home, I invited a couple of other Wild Turkey worshippers around to my home to enjoy them as well.
One friend was almost in tears over the 17 Yo which he declared the finest Bourbon ever.
I’m not sure I can even argue with him.
Of course both corks were completely stuffed, so it needed electricians tape to secure the bottle tops.
David, I’m telling the truth.
Tribute, and 17 year old Japanese Edition are without a doubt the absolute greatest.
They have ruined me forever.
Completely perfect, and I don’t use that word lightly.
Now last month as well, I finally secured a bottle of Revival.
I wasn’t over excited by the 17 Yo Masters Keep.
It was ok.
The Decades was just ok, and the 1894 was rank.
I wasn’t overly positive about the Revival, but I remembered your positive review.
So in I went…
Well Im completely shocked.
Revival is the finest Of the Masters Keep range by a mile, and the finest recent release in years.
Complex and just so well made.
I’m in heaven.
And I’m all the more happy, because now I’m sure Eddie Russell can make great Bourbon just like his Legendary father.
I am dying to get hold of the Cornerstone Rye.
The wait is killing me.
Thanks for the fine Wild Turkey musings David.
Keep up the excellent work.
Wow. Thanks for the amazing comment. Yes, the 17/101 and Japanese Tribute are legendary pours. Possibly never to be topped. And Revival … with the Sherry influence, may not be for everyone, but for me (like you) … incredible. Have you tried W. B. Saffell yet?
Haven’t had the pleasure of trying the W.B Saffell yet.
As soon as I find it, I’ll buy it for sure.
I was grateful to finally find the Revival as I was sure it wasn’t going to reach Australian shores ever.
$200 AUD but worth every cent.😱
I think you’ll love Saffell. And yes, Revival is worth every penny! Cheers!
I have two bottles of Saffell and several different rock houses of WTKS tail fan bottles waiting for the right occasions to open and share them. They may not be dusty, but I know they’ll be exceptional when the right people and moments present themselves.
I honestly believe W. B. Saffell will be one that folks will regret not buying more of. Killer bourbon and an excellent job by Eddie.
I have a recently inherited bottle of 1986-1989 wild turkey. Someone down the line mistook it for a twist top and broke the cap off the top of the cork, then gave up on it (I guess no cork screw) and shelved it away. Now I have it. I’m not a whiskey connoisseur so it’s wasted on me. I don’t drink it so wouldn’t know good from bad. And I don’t have friends that drink it either so I’m looking for suggestions to put it in the hands of someone who would appreciate it. To be clear it’s unopened still have the cap just cork top broken and seal still intact. Thanks Thom
Unfortunately, with a broken seal and stopper, I’m doubtful you’ll find many buyers – at least buyers willing to pay what it’s worth. I’d pull that broken cork out (as it’s likely not 100% airtight) and enjoy it while you have time. Cheers and good luck!