81-proof Wild Turkey Bourbon may not be a whiskey enthusiast’s favorite pour, but in times like these any Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey within arm’s reach is undoubtedly comforting. There was a phase early in my whiskey journey that I scoffed at Wild Turkey 81. Well, maybe not scoffed, but I certainly didn’t give it the credit it deserved.

I’ve had the privilege of tasting so many incredible bourbons over the years that I’ve finally reached the point where whiskey snobbery has no place in my life. I’m not saying I’m foregoing honesty – if something tastes bad I’ll damn sure tell you – I’m saying that I’m done with bitching about entry-level mixing and/or well bourbons from major producers. Jim Beam White Label, Four Roses Yellow Label, Evan Williams Black Label, the list goes on. None of these are “bad” pours. And for 90% of the world, they do the trick just fine.

Have you ever taken a moment to examine a current Wild Turkey Bourbon label? Have you noticed whose name is on it? Eddie Russell. Why not Jimmy? Well, that’s because the 81-proof Wild Turkey Bourbon (a.k.a. Wild Turkey 81) is Eddie’s baby. Jimmy’s former (pre-2011) 80-proof Wild Turkey Bourbon was crafted with whiskey rarely older than four years, but 81-proof Wild Turkey Bourbon consists of whiskey aged five to eight years. It’s essentially Wild Turkey 101 diluted twenty points. And that’s not just speculation or back label jib-jab. That comes from Eddie Russell himself.

Still, who’s keeping track of specs with a $20, non-age-stated, 81-proof KSBW? Surely not the grand majority of folks buying it. Wild Turkey Bourbon is more often than not destined for ginger ale, cola, or an Applebee’s seasonal cocktail. And I’m willing to bet there’s nary a complaint when that happens.

In this spirit, and considering the suffering and grief this world is in, I’m going to enjoy this pour. Really enjoy it. Will I miss the boldness and complexity one finds in Wild Turkey 101? Damn right I will. But that’s not what this review is about. This review will focus solely on what’s in my glass today – not what was in it so many times before. This is my challenge: to disconnect completely from predisposition and preferences. And this is my goal: to give you my honest opinion, 100% whiskey snobbery free. At least, I’ll try my best. Let’s pour!

Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (2019) – 81 proof – NAS (label states “up to five to eight years”) – distilled and bottled by Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: amber

Nose: vanilla, toffee, honey, tangerine/lemon peel, nutmeg, hints of oak & floral spice

Taste: vanilla, caramel drizzle, delicate oak, confectioners sugar, honey, faint dandelion

Finish: medium-short – vanilla, toffee, light herbal spice, nutmeg, muted oak

Overall: Look – I’m not going to spin this as a bottle a whiskey enthusiast needs on his/her shelf. It’s not. Wild Turkey 101? Absolutely. Wild Turkey Bourbon? Not really. But I’ll say this – it honestly depends on the company you keep. Sometimes all folks are looking for is a refreshing beverage – an easy-sipping cocktail or simple mixed drink. They could care less about mash bills, yeast, and the number of years spent in new charred oak. They just want something that tastes good and makes them enjoy life that tiny bit more. Wild Turkey Bourbon checks that box every time. It’s just as good or better than any other lower-proof Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey out there.

Considering the state of the world at the moment, if this were the only bourbon produced by Wild Turkey I’d buy the hell out of it. From a hip flask to a much needed Hot Toddy, Wild Turkey Bourbon has just as much effectiveness fighting the doldrums of the coronavirus as any other whiskey. And frankly, we all need a little more whiskey at the moment. There’ll be plenty of time for snobbery when all this is behind us. For now, enjoy time with friends and family (even if only via technology). Enjoy the luxury of good health, as there are many without it. And most importantly, enjoy whatever whiskey you damn well please. Cheers! dj

Rating: 2.5/5 🦃

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