Like several American whiskey brands, Wild Turkey has maintained a steady, yet humble presence in travel-retail shops. From my research, the earliest Wild Turkey travel-retail exclusive was the 101-proof Kentucky Legend from the early 1990s, though it’s always possible other expressions stocked these vendors’ shelves prior. Since that time there have been a handful of travel-retail releases, such as Tradition, barrel-proof Kentucky Legend a/k/a “Donut,” Freedom, Heritage, and a series of Master Distiller Selections (one of which may be my favorite Turkey of all time).
In 2020, Wild Turkey introduced three new travel retail exclusives: the thirteen-year Father & Son, a non-chill filtered Rare Breed (still the current 116.8 proof), and Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. Each of these offerings were bottled as liters instead of the more familiar domestic 750ml or export 700ml volumes, as well as the inclusion of a collector’s box, all sharing a similar design aesthetic.
I reviewed Father & Son earlier this year. It was arguably the greatest surprise I’ve experienced to date in terms of actual flavor in contrast to expected flavor. I was anticipating a profile in line with the Japanese thirteen-year Distiller’s Reserve, but instead found something reminiscent of Master’s Keep Bottled in Bond. Needless to say, I was elated. Unfortunately, our hobby’s charlatans and unsavory profiteers took full advantage of the fairly priced release, as they recently have with Russell’s Reserve Thirteen-Year and certain single barrels of note. (Get ready to see more of this with Master’s Keep One. sigh)
While I’ve yet to taste the NCF Rare Breed, I was fortunate enough to acquire the travel-retail Kentucky Spirit. On the surface, there’s nothing particularly unique about this release save for its box and bottle size. Based on my experience with Father & Son, my hope was that I’d discover another surprise – perhaps another profile exceeding expectations. Not to spoil this review early on, but be careful what you wish for. Lighting rarely strikes twice, especially when it comes to luxury whiskey.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit (2020) – 101-proof KSBW – no age stated (reportedly eight years) – bottled 1/17/20 from barrel #1108, warehouse A (assumed Tyrone), rick 20 – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: warm toffee, sweet apple-cinnamon, herbal tea w/ orange, lightly roasted nuts, baking spice
Taste: (silky mouthfeel) vanilla, caramel drizzle, zesty oak, confectioners sugar, nutmeg, faint brown sugar
Finish: medium-long – toasted honey, elegant oak, singed lemon peel, lingering sweet & savory spice
Overall: So, yeah, this tastes like a solid Kentucky Spirit. All of the neo-classic Wild Turkey notes are here – vanilla, toffee, caramel, baking spice, etc. There’s nothing incredible or noteworthy making this bourbon stand out above countless other Kentucky Spirit bottlings – nothing odd or less desirable either. If that’s what Jimmy and Eddie were going for, well done.
All things considered, this Kentucky Spirit sips like Wild Turkey should, but nothing a diehard enthusiast should blink twice over. Unfortunately, I paid a small premium to purchase it and have it in my hands safely. I’m not miffed about it, however. Reviewing Wild Turkey expressions is what I do. They can’t all be exemplary. That being said, if you’re traveling abroad and an airport retailer isn’t stocking Father & Son or NCF Rare Breed and you want something pretty on your shelf, this isn’t an unreasonable purchase at retail price. It should also be noted that this is a single-barrel expression. Other bottles could exist from different barrels and rickhouses.
Rating: 3.5/5 🦃
Before signing off, I think it’s important to reflect on perspective – reality versus expectations. So often in whiskey – be it bourbon, Scotch, or whatever – we’re sold on exclusivity. Hell, even private barrel selections apply here. We’re inclined to believe that a certain bottle is worthy of our money because it’s unique, special, or rare in quantity. These factors blind what’s most important – actual level of quality. Not that most whiskeys of such nature are “bad” or even “sub par,” but there is a certain level of expectation that many times isn’t met.
You might say we’re buying a mirage. In our mind it appears a spectacular oasis, only to find that it’s the same old homey pond. More often than not we shouldn’t blame brands or vendors, they’re for-profit entities after all. We simply acted on impulse, failed to do our research, or fell to the power of FOMO. The brands and vendors didn’t make you purchase the bottle. They didn’t lie to you (at least the reputable ones). You jumped to conclusions, plain and simple. I’ve done it – we’ve all done it.
If there’s one thing to take away from today’s review, it’s this: Tasting is believing. I realize it’s not 2013. You no longer have time to research and sample new releases before they’re gone – not even Wild Turkey. If you see a desirable bottle on a liquor store shelf or for sale online, you either act immediately or lose out. But, maybe that in itself is a problem. Everyone’s finger is on the proverbial trigger – the safety is seldom engaged. Again, I’m guilty myself, but I’m setting a personal goal to think twice when it comes to future purchases. If we all did that, the profiteers would crawl back into their scummy holes and leave more specialty whiskey behind for the informed to share and enjoy.
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