I’m making it a personal goal to review each Wild Turkey core expression in 2021. Looking back, my blog covers them all (the majority multiple times over), though they’re spread out over years. Focusing on each expression in a single calendar year is a great way to build a narrower snapshot of where Wild Turkey stands in terms of profile quality and consistency. It may even have some historical value down the road. Either way, I get to sip some fantastic whiskey and write about it. Win, win.

Today, I’m tasting a recent bottling of Rare Breed Rye – February 2021 to be exact. When Rare Breed Rye first hit shelves in May 2020, it took the Whiskeysphere by storm. For the first time I can recall, there was genuine Turkey fever. From Instagram to YouTube, Rare Breed Rye was a hot commodity. As a result, it sold out quickly and was inevitably flipped on whiskey secondary markets. Thankfully, those shenanigans didn’t last long, as more and more Rare Breed Rye eventually returned to stores and stocked new locations. It also lived up to the hype, unlike many new American whiskey expressions that see an initial surge of interest, but drop sharply as enthusiasts discover disappointment in their investment. For Rare Breed Rye the message was clear: It’s here to stay.

As strange as this may sound, the best thing about Rare Breed Rye is its youth. I struggle to even type that word, as it’s often viewed as a negative; however, for Rare Breed Rye, and many other barrel-proof rye whiskeys, astonishing magic can be accomplished in four years. Mingle that four years with the right combination of six- and eight-year whiskey and that magic “levels up.” This is the key to Rare Breed Rye – the proper balance of youthful zest and well-aged confectionery spice. More importantly, the relative youth allows for the whiskey to be produced more often. Whereas Russell’s Reserve Six-Year Rye requires barrels at least six years of age, Rare Breed Rye needs only so many in a single batch. And though unconfirmed, it’s likely the expression’s primary element is four-year whiskey. As Wild Turkey continues to expand their rye production, Rare Breed Rye should become much easier to acquire (and hopefully less expensive in the process).

Background established, I think it’s best to move along and pour this beautiful bird. Outside of a new laser code, there’s nothing visually different about this 2021 Rare Breed Rye in comparison to the inaugural 2020 release. The bottle, label, volume, and proof are exactly the same. As for the whiskey itself … Let’s find out!

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye (2021) – 112.2 proof, NCF – no age stated (reportedly a blend of four-, six-, and eight-year straight rye whiskeys) – distilled and bottled by Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: amber

Nose: herbal tea & lemon, sweet orange blossom, honey, frosted animal crackers, ginger snaps, dense confectionery spice

Taste: (sweet & savory) thick caramel glaze, holiday citrus, lemon squares, cream soda, freshly baked pastry, black pepper

Finish: long w/ waves of lingering spice – sticky vanilla, orange zest, charred oak, candied almonds, cinnamon, ginger, pepper

Overall: Delicious. Just … delicious. I honestly don’t see what more one could look for in a barrel-proof Kentucky rye priced at $60. Rare Breed Rye has it all – sweetness, spice, and a fair share of complexity for its reported age. Interestingly, it’s not as pepper-forward as I was expecting, at least based on my experience with the initial 2020 release. In fact, it almost seems a little more fruity – still loads of spice – but definitely a considerable dessert-like citrus presence to be appreciated. But then, it’s probably just my palate today. When I compared a 2020 Rare Breed Rye to this 2021 on Patreon, they were quite comparable.

There’s a part of me that sincerely wants to rate Rare Breed Rye 5/5. I won’t, as I know there are other Turkey rye whiskeys that have unique – arguably superior – profiles (particularly certain Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye bottlings). But, for $60 you’re getting an uncut NCF straight rye whiskey from the most experienced master distillers in the business. Period. Not to mention it’s ridiculously tasty and versatile. Neat sipper? Damn right. On the rocks? Go for it. Cocktails? Sure thing. Soda mixer? I ain’t rolling my eyes. This is quality, folks, and as I’ve learned from today’s tasting, consistent quality. You don’t need to pay $100+ for some bulk-produced, mysteriously sourced NDP rye. Everything you need is right here.

Rating: 3.75/5 🦃


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