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!