In January 2018 I posted a wish list composed of ten things I wanted most from Wild Turkey. Considering that was nearly two years ago, I thought it might be fun to look back – see what’s been done and what’s left to do (or if anything should be done at all). As you know, a lot can happen in two years, so it should be interesting to see where things stand here at the end of 2019.
Let’s start by taking a glance at 2018’s wish list (in descending order of importance):
10. Permanent Labels on Private Barrel Selects
9. Age Statements on Private Barrel Selects
8. Barrel & Rickhouse Info on Retail Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bottles
7. More Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye Private Selects
6. Hyper-Aged Wild Turkey Straight Rye
5. Russell’s Reserve 10-year at 101 Proof
4. “Throwback” Labels
3. Wild Turkey 101 12-Year
2. Rare Breed Rye
1. Barrel-Proof, Single-Barrel Wild Turkey KSBW
Well, how about that? Some of these wishes have been granted, or at least partially. Not that I’m taking credit. Not at all. There’s been plenty of folks pushing for these ideas and changes over the years. But regardless of who, how, or why they happened, the good news is that some eventually did. Here’s what’s been completed (or nearly completed) thus far:
Permanent Labels on Private Barrel Selects – Around September of this year, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections received a revised set of labels. The new reverse label states the dates the whiskey was distilled, dumped, and bottled; the rickhouse where the barrel was pulled; and the group or name of the selection itself. For the most I’ll consider this item satisfied, though I’ve yet to see a TTB approval for a label of similar intent for Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. This should be addressed.
Age Statements on Private Barrel Selects – We don’t have age statements expressed in the typical numeral fashion; however, we can now calculate the exact age of Russell’s Reserve barrel selections using the dates mentioned in the paragraph above. Of course, Kentucky Spirit needs the same. Again, this should be addressed.
Rare Breed Rye – This is a biggie. I don’t think I have to remind anyone about what hit the TTB a few weeks back. That’s right – we’re getting Rare Breed Rye! Rumor has it the expression will be a blend of 4-, 6-, and 8-year Kentucky straight rye whiskey, full barrel proof and non-chill filtered to boot. This may be the only item on 2018’s wish list I can check off 100%, but in hindsight, it may very well be the best one.
That leaves seven unfulfilled wishes to discuss. Maybe some aren’t necessary or no longer carry the weight I felt they did in 2018? Let’s take a look at what might be removed, or at least tabled for a later time.
Hyper-Aged Wild Turkey Straight Rye – While I’m still genuinely interested in how hyper-aged Wild Turkey rye whiskey might taste, after Master’s Keep Cornerstone’s release I think we have a good idea going forward. No it didn’t cross the twelve year mark, but at 9-11 years and 109 proof, it’s undoubtedly impressive. In fact, I’d argue it’s impressive enough to warrant tabling this wish for several years. Besides, current Wild Turkey rye stocks (which number far less than their bourbon stocks) might appreciate some quiet years of maturation.
Russell’s Reserve 10-year at 101 Proof – Who wouldn’t love ten-year-old Wild Turkey bourbon at 101 proof? But here’s the thing – we already have an expression that’s arguably as good (if not better) with Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon private selections. At an average of nine years of age (some occasional few crossing the ten-year mark) and 110 proof NCF, I honestly don’t think you’d find much improvement over Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel with a ten-year, 101-proof batch. Greater consistency? Sure. Overall improvement? Unlikely.
At this point we’ve cut 2018’s list in half. Here’s what remains:
- Barrel & Rickhouse Info on Retail Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bottles – This is a no-brainer in my opinion. If Four Roses can do it, why can’t Wild Turkey?
- More Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye Private Selects – Please, please, please. We haven’t seen a single-barrel rye selection in years (at least I haven’t). Based on Cornerstone’s success, I’m confident demand for rye private selections would be remarkably high.
- “Throwback” Labels – We saw this recently with RTD (“ready-to-drink”) products in Australia. I think it’s time we see the same on domestic 101 bottles. In essence, Wild Turkey could have a widely available limited edition release based solely on design (and make every fan happy).
- Wild Turkey 101 12-Year – This one’s sentimental to me. I just love the 101/12 profile. Always have; always will. If there’s one Wild Turkey expression I’d like to see return, it’s this one.
- Barrel-Proof, Single-Barrel Wild Turkey KSBW – Again, another no-brainer. And again, if Four Roses can do it, why can’t Wild Turkey?
All five of these items are important enough to remain on my 2020 list. I think they speak for themselves, so I’ll spend the remainder of this post focusing on new wishes. There’s only three and they are:
Improved Labeling for Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit – We presently have a bottled on date; why not a barreled on date? At least then we’d be able to determine the age of the whiskey. Also, let’s go ahead and exchange the rack number for the floor number (alternatively, leave the rack but add which floor). It’s a minor squabble, especially in comparison with needing the barreled on date, but a valid one nonetheless. Finally, Kentucky Spirit private selects should have a permanent labeling similar to the revised Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel labels. It’s not quite as necessary since the current label contains basic barrel info, but it should eliminate the need for pesky hang tags.
A New “Craft” Distillery for Experimentation – In July of this year, Jim Beam broke ground on a new “craft” distillery designed specifically for master distiller Fred Noe and his son, distiller Freddie Noe, to experiment with different recipes. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Wild Turkey needs this.
Let’s be honest, Beam is really strutting its stuff right now. Just look at the Knob Creek product line alone … Knob Creek Quarter Oak, Knob Creek 12-year, and let’s not forget the seemingly common 13-15-year Knob Creek Single Barrel private selections at a mind-blowing $60 retail (or less). Freddie Noe has a distiller title with three limited edition releases squarely under his belt; Bruce Russell remains a brand ambassador. Am I missing something here?
Yes, we’re living in the New Golden Age of Wild Turkey but we won’t be for long if we play things too conservatively. I’m not saying we have to go “bleeding edge,” but we must keep up with the competition. Having a small experimental distillery would allow for new possibilities without interrupting mainline production. And who knows? Maybe Eddie and Bruce have a few aces up their sleeves. Knowing their immense passion for bourbon and rye whiskey, I’d sure as hell bet on it.
NCF for Expressions Over 100 Proof – It’s 2019 (almost 2020) … Why in Gobble’s name are we still chill filtering 100+ proof whiskey? Why? Cosmetics? Look, if you want “pretty whiskey” let’s showcase liquid sex appeal with Longbranch and Wild Turkey Bourbon (81 proof). Go ahead and chill filter Russell’s 10-year Bourbon and 6-year Rye while you’re at it. But please, there’s no need to chill filter Wild Turkey 101, 101 Rye, Kentucky Spirit, or Rare Breed. Hell, I’d argue they’d sell even better if you touted NCF on their labels. They’d certainly taste better, that’s for sure.
There’s a reason Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is non-chill filtered. Critics are keen on it. Enthusiasts are keen on it. Eddie Russell himself is keen on it. So let’s go ahead and apply the obvious logic to other 100-plus Wild Turkey expressions (especially Rare Breed). Chill filtration simply isn’t necessary with higher proof bourbons, so let’s not keep pretending that it is.
And that’s it for my 2020 Wild Turkey Wish List. Here’s a recap of the eight (in ascending order of importance):
- Barrel-Proof, Single-Barrel Wild Turkey KSBW
- NCF for Expressions Over 100 Proof
- Wild Turkey 101 12-Year
- More Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye Private Selects
- A New “Craft” Distillery for Experimentation
- Barrel & Rickhouse Info on Retail Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bottles
- Improved Labeling for Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
- “Throwback” Labels
So what do you think? Did I forget something? As always, I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you on social media and Patreon, of course. Until then, cheers and Happy Turkey Tuesday! dj
I feel like I remember hearing that barrel proof Russell’s Reserve single barrel was happening. Am I wrong?
As for the rest of the list, my top three would be NCF, 12/101, and more RR Rye picks. The “off the shelf” RR Ryes are rock solid, especially the recent ones, but I’d love to taste some private picks just to get some off-profile variety.
Either way it’s shaping up to be an exciting 2020 for Wild Turkey!
It’s supposed to, but it’s staying on the list until I see it. And I’d love to not only have RRSiB Rye selects, but pick ‘em too! Is that greedy of me? 🙂
101-12 for the upvote. Come on WT, you can do it!
So for “Barrel-Proof, Single-Barrel Wild Turkey KSBW” you mean to say something under the Wild Turkey brand name? Like a single barrel Rare Breed, basically? I suppose in order to see the main line flavor profile at barrel proof as opposed to the more curated Russell’s barrels? I imagine they probably think Russell’s Reserve single barrels satisfy this desire, but I can agree with you that it’d be fun to see a WT branded one—perhaps at a slightly lower price??
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is 110 proof; rye 104 proof. I’d like to see private selects of those undiluted.
Either brand name is fine with me so long as it’s barrel-proof, single-barrel, and NCF.
Agreed! I wonder if/how many WT barrels get upwards of 60% ABV given the relatively lower entry proof they use. It’d be fun to try some of those if they exist (assuming they make the grade quality-wise).
A good many actually. Depends on the floor. I’d say most are 115-125. I’ve seen as high as 132 or so.
Solid list, I concur with everything.
Most important to me is the Non-Chill Filtering. Do it to the 81 if you must, but everything else should be NCF.
If Russell’s Reserve 10 year was 101 proof and non-chill filter it would sell through the roof.
You would think NCF would be the most attainable- Eddie & Jimmy want it, enthusiasts want it, and it would actually save the company money.
Hopefully we see that change in 2020.
As always, thoughtful and insightful. I’m on team NCF, but I have a feeling the 101 flagship brands (101 Turkey and 101 rye) will not be considered for it because they are mass market appeal bottles while things like Rare Breed and Russells Reserve are more geared to the enthusiast.
Im excited about the Rare Breed Rye, and while WT typically escapes the bourbon hype machine of today, this label is generating some noticeable buzz in the Reddits and discussion forums, which is nice to see. This actually makes me think back on how well WT has handled their stock and product lines in the current market. You already know this, but if you want a particular WT product, its usually as easy as heading to your local store. Even limited editions are pretty easy to find if you want it (I was happy to find a local store stocking Cornerstone even in Japan). The same cannot be said of other major producers such as Buffalo Trace (the worst offender), Four Roses and even Brown Forman. Beam and maybe Heaven Hill have done better, but certainly have their limited products that you just cant find. WT on the other hand is always there for a reasonable price, and with the Rare Breed Rye, I know there will be enough to go around when it is released.
As for the other points, I hope 2020 sees them all come to light! Its a new decade and a great point in time for WT to really step up their game in the modern whiskey world.
Thanks so much! And thank you for taking the time to comment.
Yes, I doubt 101 and 101 Rye will get NCF … but it doesn’t hurt to ask! 🙂
Rare Breed Rye has a lot of promise on paper. We know it’ll likely be younger in comparison to Rare Breed (KSBW), but rye can really shine in that 4-8 year area – especially at full barrel proof. You make great points about availability. Hopefully, things will stay this way.
Haha, maybe I spoke too soon! I was listening to the Bourbon Pursuit interview with Eddie from almost a year ago, and there was a ton of great information in there. I usually expect such Q&As to be quite limited in terms of historic/technical information, but Eddie was very honest and forthcoming in his answers. From the underlying reasons of the barrel entry proof increase to why they chill filter so many of their offerings and the lack of single barrel-barrel proof, he hit on a ton of issues. He also made it very clear that if it was up to him they wouldent chill filter anything but the ~80 proof offerings. Maybe someday we will get the 101 NCF!
That is a fantastic episode. I like the Russell family one as well. Also, check out One Nation Under Whisky’s time with Bruce, as well as Dads Drinking Bourbon. All great podcasts.