Some bottles I take for granted. For whatever reason – lack of excitement, greater attention to alternatives, or simply lost to the ever-increasing tide of new releases – I move on. Inevitably, regret kicks in. Not because of monetary reasons, but because I fail to realize the sentimental value of a whiskey. Such is the case with Diamond Anniversary.
When Wild Turkey’s Diamond Anniversary rolled out, it was a disappointment for many whiskey enthusiasts. Sure, there was positive press and praise in mainstream media. But among the bourbon geeks … let’s just say there were more yawns than yays. And I get it. At $125 it was expensive for the time, the packaging resembled a Booker’s box (when Booker’s was seemingly everywhere for $50), and most notably, it was 91 proof instead of the brand’s signature 101. Even with bourbon’s rising popularity in 2014, whiskey sat. $100+ whiskey from a majority of brands – especially Wild Turkey – sat longer.
Of all the limited-edition bourbons in Wild Turkey’s archive, Diamond Anniversary is arguably the most underappreciated. Eight years down the road and it’s seldom discussed. Hell, you hear more enthusiasm about an everyday ABC Russell’s pick than Diamond. Why is that? Aside from it being a bygone expression, and therefore, more difficult to obtain, it lacks the “collect ‘em all” pizzazz of a Master’s Keep or the dusty-esque allure of Tradition and American Spirit. It’s also haunted by lackluster reviews of years past.
As my last bottle of Diamond Anniversary nears its end, I’ve let all of that go. Forget price, packaging, and proof, this bourbon is delicious. And I don’t mean that casually, but rather, distinctly: Wild Turkey’s Diamond Anniversary is a delicious whiskey, gracefully shaped and structured by classic Turkey traits and well-balanced trails of mature spice. It’s a significant departure from Rare Breed and Wild Turkey 101, with their crowd-pleasing on-brand boldness, but therein lies Diamond’s beauty. In my daily quest to find the next-best Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel or Kentucky Spirit private selection, I passed over Diamond Anniversary time after time.
Outside of its flavor profile, Diamond occupies a unique position in Wild Turkey’s history. It was the first true limited-edition bourbon under Campari’s ownership. Yes, Tradition was released in 2009 (the year of acquisition), though it was surely in development under Pernod Ricard in the months, even years, prior. And one could argue 2013’s Forgiven Batch 302 was the first Campari Wild Turkey special-edition whiskey. True. It was. But Forgiven was a blend of bourbon and rye. 2014’s Diamond Anniversary was Campari’s first limited-edition straight bourbon.
Diamond Anniversary also stands alone. Its packaging, while sharing a similar bottle shape to Tradition and the Japanese 101-proof, 17-year bourbon, lacks the weight and heftiness of those releases. I suppose in light of its lower proof and delicate profile, it makes sense. Regardless, it stands out by not standing out. It’s also not part of a series, like the short-lived Forgiven that preceded it, and the ongoing Master’s Keep that followed it. It just kind of … is. And that’s a shame considering why this whiskey was crafted in the first place.
Sixty years is a long time. Sixty years in a single trade, all at the same workplace, is a genuine rarity. As is Jimmy Russell. In fact, it was undoubtedly an appropriate way to highlight Jimmy’s 60th anniversary at Wild Turkey. Looking back, Campari did a commendable job with Diamond Anniversary. There, I said it. Eddie Russell, whose signature wouldn’t grace a limited-edition straight bourbon until the following year, helped to craft this whiskey that, while not universally well-received at the time, holds up and sips damn fine in 2022. As for Campari’s role, the promotional video produced to celebrate Jimmy Russell’s 60th anniversary is my favorite whiskey video of all time. McConaughey may be cool on camera, but this is the real deal. (And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bring a tear to my eye every time I watch it.)
Well, look at that – my final glass. Going into this post, my original thought was to re-review Diamond Anniversary. I’d planned on taking new notes and reassessing its rating – maybe placing it side by side against a comparable Wild Turkey expression like Father & Son. I’ve changed my mind. Instead, I’m going to savor every last drop of this thirteen-year-old bourbon. I might even take it outside and enjoy a cigar. After all, I’ve never paired a cigar with Diamond. If ever there was a time to try it’s now, as the chances of finding a bottle at retail price are slim.
As it goes for many heritage bourbon brands, older Wild Turkey bottlings are now viewed as prizes (regardless of their taste or purpose). At best they find their way into the hands of thrilled Wild Turkey fans, at worst they’re fodder for secondary markets. But if you happen upon a bottle of Diamond Anniversary long forgotten on some out-of-the-way liquor store’s shelf, I highly recommend purchasing it. Let my regret encourage your reward, as I wish I’d thought twice when Diamond was regularly within reach. It may not be high proof or as robust as other Wild Turkey expressions, but its elegance and importance can’t be overstated.
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