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