I prefer a little time before writing a formal review of a new Wild Turkey release. Unfortunately, some recent secondary-market shenanigans have spurred me to share my feelings a bit early regarding the new travel-retail exclusive, Wild Turkey Father & Son.
What is Father & Son? It’s a thirteen-year, 86-proof Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey bottled as a liter and sold at select travel-retail outlets. No thanks/thanks to COVID-19, things didn’t go exactly as planned and an unknown number of Father & Son cases landed in the hands of a European distributor. Many of those bottles were later sold on Must Have Malts, a reputable online retailer, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I was fortunate enough to purchase a bottle for 65 Euros (about $79). A liter-worth of thirteen-year Wild Turkey bourbon is surely worth that retail price, not to mention the exclusivity, fancy packaging, etc. to give it additional appeal. Of course, there’s the expense of overseas shipping and handling. Such is the world we live in. But to be completely honest, I initially hesitated on pulling the trigger. After all, the 90-proof Russell’s Reserve Ten-Year is right down the street for $35. Based on my experience with the Japanese thirteen-year Distiller’s Reserve, those profiles are comparable. I reasoned Father & Son would repeat that observation – possibly even taking a step down at 86 proof.
Spoiler: I was wrong.
But, before opening another window on your browser to scour the secondary, I think it’s important to read this entire post. I have much to say about Father & Son, as well as the state of the bourbon marketplace today. I’ll stop right here and jump to my tasting notes. Besides, I’m going to need a drink with all that I have to say.
Wild Turkey Father and Son, “Jimmy & Eddie Russell’s Choice” (2020) – 86-proof, thirteen-year Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey – distilled and bottled by Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY; supplied for Campari Australia Pty Ltd
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: (mature, woody) fragrant oak, medicinal cherry, leather, potpourri, apple-cinnamon, heady dark citrus & honeysuckle
Taste: (thin, yet velvety mouthfeel) toasted vanilla, English toffee, earthy spice (licorice, sassafras, clove), cherry pie, hints of grapefruit
Finish: medium long, oak-laden finish – burnt honey, black tea, spiced oak char, dry herbs, diminishing leather & cracked pepper
Overall: I’m sincerely impressed. Wild Turkey Father & Son is excellent; more importantly, it steers free from repeating the profile of the thirteen-year Distiller’s Reserve. This is most definitely its own bourbon – a distinctly mature and fine bourbon at that.
Maybe I’m off, but I highly doubt there’s only thirteen-year whiskey in Father & Son. Come to think of it, it tastes pretty damn close to the seventeen-year Master’s Keep Bottled in Bond. Father & Son may not be as robust or captivating, but for an 86-proof whiskey, it sure as hell gets my attention – promptly.
If you can find Wild Turkey Father & Son for retail price (or thereabouts), it’s a definite buy. At least, it earns my recommendation. This is undoubtedly a special whiskey – one that will make you appreciate the complexity Wild Turkey can achieve at a lower proof with the right barrels. Father & Son is what Master’s Keep 1894 should’ve been. I just hope our Aussie sisters and brothers can find it. They deserve it.
Rating: 4.25/5 🦃
Fear & Folly
As mentioned in my introduction, it’s come to my attention that Wild Turkey Father & Son hit secondary markets immediately after it was listed on Must Have Malts. I’ve seen screenshots of individuals asking $380. Then it rose to $450. Where it’s at now, I can’t say. I’m not on Facebook. But I can say this – please don’t pay hundreds of dollars for this bourbon. It’s simply not worth it. At best it’s a notch above Diamond Anniversary. It’s not quite Master’s Keep Decades’ level and it’s certainly not Master’s Keep Bottled in Bond or Russell’s Reserve 2003. I believe all of those, save for maybe Russell’s Reserve 2003, can be found for much less than $450.
The state of the bourbon secondary market is ridiculous. Each day I hear about certain MGP-distilled NDP releases, like Smoke Wagon, selling for entirely unreasonable amounts of money. That’s right, MGP, who pumps out whiskey like a well-oiled machine. It’s great whiskey, but nothing rare. And let’s not forget Buffalo Trace. At this point I’m convinced Buffalo Trace could release distilled water in a Blanton’s bottle and it would be allocated. It’s not Buffalo Trace’s fault, but the lengths people will go to acquire horsey-topped, non-age-stated, 93-proof mediocre bourbon is astounding. And now … Wild Turkey. (Sigh.) Forget Pappy. Forget BTAC. Forget Birthday Bourbon. All you need to make tons of money on the secondary is a black magic known as FOMO.
The fear of missing out is a powerful thing. It drives. It haunts. It leads to irrational thought, and more often than not, profound buyer’s remorse. I’m guilty of it just as many of you reading. Not always with bourbon, rather many things in life. But, as you get older or just more experienced in your particular realm of interest – in this case, whiskey – you begin to see the error of your ways. More so than that, you realize that there are people out there willing to capitalize on your fear. They have no interest other than making a fast buck. Some even resort to counterfeiting bottles. This is the unfortunate side of our hobby.
Some of you might be thinking, “It’s just supply and demand. The market is what it is.” And to that I’ll respond with, I get it. But, that doesn’t mean the secondary market represents our hobby well. Sure, there are legitimate licensed entities (specialty shops, auction houses, etc.) that sell whiskeys – particularly vintage bottles – outside of the typical retail marketplace. They guard the consumer, guarantee their product, and provide safe ways to acquire hard-to-find bottles. I’m supportive and grateful they’re around. But when Joe Monday snags an exclusive bottle (a bottle he’s never even tasted) off a foreign website for $79, then instantly flips it (not even in-hand) for four or five times its retail price, that’s more than being opportunistic. It’s exploitative. It’s precisely what we don’t need.
Yet, we let it carry on. We enable it. Like it or not, if this practice of exorbitant flipping continues someone (or some authority) will clean it up (possibly forever). It’s probably best if that cleanup starts with us, sooner than later. I don’t have the answers, but I don’t believe secondary markets are as healthy for this industry as some propose. I’m sure it gives producers a high to see their expressions valued multiple times over their retail prices. But that high only lasts so long. It eventually turns into expectation and desire, followed by a realization that their products are apparently (severely, yet artificially) underpriced.
In the end, whiskey flippers hurt consumers and we pay for it – even the ones who avoid it. One way or another, we all pay for this behavior. And frankly, I don’t see it changing. Pandora’s Blanton’s box is open. At best we can watch out for our close friends and associates – those within our whiskey clubs and social groups. Whenever we see this type of behavior, call it out and ask that it be shut down. You may place yourself in a position to lose your membership. If that’s the case, maybe it’s a group you shouldn’t trouble yourself with anyway. Maybe they don’t have your best interest in mind. Of course, that’s a call you’ll have to make.
I’ll close with this. If whiskey enthusiasm means more to you than money – if discovering, sharing, and finding common ground with your fellow enthusiast is what you’re in this for – avoid the flippers. They couldn’t be further apart from your passion and integrity.
Stay safe and look out for one another. Please.
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