Every so often I run across a bottle that has me scratching my head. Such was the case last year, when I had the fortune of picking up a rickhouse Q Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit from Big Red Liquors of Indianapolis, IN (thanks so much, Austin). At the time I’d never heard of, nor seen any Wild Turkey single barrels from rickhouse Q. I didn’t even know a rickhouse Q existed! Naturally, I was curious as hell so I dove right in …
Immediately, there was something familiar with the profile. It was Wild Turkey alright, but Wild Turkey with a distinctive kick. The private selection tag, which read “Floor 2: Nutty, Toasty,” seemed only half right. I wasn’t getting any nuts, at least nowhere close to other Wild Turkey pours I’ve had (and certainly not “nutty” in the Beam sense). I was definitely getting “toasty.” How’s that? Well, imagine you’re toasting bread, marshmallows, or, okay … nuts (I’ll concede this may justify the tag’s nut reference), you typically find a singed or charred note. That, along with a fair dose of peppery spice, delivered some serious deja vu to my palate. And then it hit me … this bourbon seemed eerily similar to the recent wave of Camp Nelson single barrels.
My initial theory was simple – rickhouse Q must be a Camp Nelson rickhouse. Unfortunately, the alphabetical sequencing didn’t exactly work (considering Q is the 17th letter and Camp Nelson has roughly six rickhouses in service). But who knows how Wild Turkey assigns rickhouse numbers?
There was only one way to solve this mystery – reach out to Eddie Russell. So I did. And what do you know? The Master himself replied, “It came from [Camp] Nelson. Q is only a year old.”
Wow. Thanks Eddie!
So the answer makes sense, but at the same time it opens a Pandora’s Box of sorts. As it turns out, Q is a Tyrone (on-site) rickhouse. This particular barrel was moved from Camp Nelson (rickhouse unknown) to the second floor of rickhouse Q sometime prior to May 2016 (which makes rickhouse Q a little more than a year old, but anyway). What that means is that you can’t always go by the rickhouse noted on your label or private selection neck tag. Apparently, barrels are relocated from time to time. Moonshine Grill’s “Cheesy Gold” is another good example. Its tag states rickhouse A, but only because it was pulled in 2014 from a now forgotten rickhouse and stayed tucked away in Tyrone A for another four years.
Geographical location and rickhouse aside, what matters most is how the bourbon tastes. While I’ve appreciated this Kentucky Spirit selection for some time now, I’ve yet to review it formally. Now it’s time to dig in and see what this Q-barrel really has to offer. Let’s pour!
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit – “Floor 2: Nutty, Toasty,” selected by Big Red Liquors, Indianapolis, IN – 101-proof KSBW – no age stated (rumored at least eight years) – bottled 5/24/2016 from barrel #547, warehouse Q, rick #31 – distilled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: (fragrant modern WT) vanilla extract, toasted marshmallow, apple butter, charred oak, tangerine peel, nutmeg, cake frosting, sugar wafers, cream soda, hints of herbal spice
Taste: caramel toffee, vanilla, creme brulee, peppery oak, sweet ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, dried herbs, faint maple and citrus
Finish: medium-long w/ pleasant earthiness – vanilla, pepper, nutmeg, oak char, black licorice, sassafras, confectioners sugar, leather, diminishing spice
Overall: Well, well, well … this is one delicious Kentucky Spirit. Am I surprised? Not entirely. As stated previously in this post, I’ve been enjoying Big Red’s “Floor 2: Nutty, Toasty” for months now. Even so, I’d taken for granted how “Camp Nelsony” it actually is. In many ways I’m reminded of Elixir Spirits’ “No Dressing Necessary” (CNF), though Big Red’s selection has a slightly earthier vibe. Truthfully, there’s a little bit of everything in this pour – core Turkey notes, dry herbal spice, sweet citrus and a splash of soda pop, to name but a few. Very much a standout over the typical bottle of Wild Turkey 101; very much comparable to recent Camp Nelson Kentucky Spirit private selections.
Rating: 3.75/5 🦃
There’s a lesson here if you didn’t catch it earlier. When it comes to Wild Turkey single-barrel expressions, you can’t judge a book by its cover. For those who hold certain rickhouses or barrel locations holy, be mindful. What you’re sipping and what you think you’re sipping may be two different things. I’m not saying it negatively, and I’m sure barrel relocation isn’t a practice unique to Wild Turkey, but it happens.
What’s more important is to take Kentucky Spirit and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel for precisely what they are – single-barrel whiskeys. While it’s fun to dissect rickhouse traits and make note of profile commonalities (believe me, I do it all the time), that doesn’t mean a specific barrel from a specific location should fit your personal hypothesis. You want a single barrel purchase to meet your expectations, but at some point consistency equals predictability. I don’t know about you, but I like a surprise every now and again.