In January 2018, I published my first “Wild Turkey Wish List.” I’m happy to report that four years later, another wish has been granted – the return of Wild Turkey 101 12-Year. After a ten-year hiatus that seemed like forever, the fan-favorite expression is finally making its way back to retail shelves. There is, however, a catch. It’s an export-only product. Great news for our friends in Australia, Japan, and Korea, not so much for Wild Turkey fans living in the States.
Not to derail my own post, but I think this needs to be said. I’m tired of Americans whining about special whiskey expressions earmarked as exports or travel-retail exclusives. The second I posted pictures of 2022’s 101/12 to social media, the complaints rolled in. It seems we, as Americans, feel entitled to every single batch and barrel a Kentucky distillery has to offer. Sorry, that’s not how it works – especially when many of your large distilleries are owned by foreign companies.
Admittedly, there was a period in my whiskey journey that I harbored similar feelings. It took some time for me to understand that whiskey – even bourbon, America’s spirit – is a very small part of a global community. Besides, were it not for the export market, bourbon might be long forgotten by the masses. It should also be noted that the U.S. sees a large variety of products that export markets do not. Instead of complaining about the few things we don’t have, we should be grateful for the bounty we do.
If you’re expecting a slow, suspenseful build-up with this review, think again. 2022’s Wild Turkey 101 12-Year is phenomenal. It truly is. No, it’s not the “Cheesy Gold Foil” or “Split Label” profile. Anyone expecting a modern bourbon (from any producer) to taste like its dusty forebears is starting off on the wrong foot.
As for what it is … Imagine Master’s Keep Bottled in Bond’s profile with a little more sweetness, or possibly Wild Turkey Father & Son with more “oomph.” Of course, I’m painting with very broad strokes. For a finer, more detailed picture, a proper tasting is required, and I’ve already filled my glass. (Thank you, Andrew.)
Wild Turkey 101 Distiller’s Reserve (2022) – KSBW at 50.5% ABV – aged 12 years – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: (mature, layered) intense medicinal cherry, fragrant oak, salted caramel, leather, spiced citrus, warm baking spice, hints of cedar & autumn potpourri
Taste: (silky mouthfeel) vanilla spice, heady cream soda, charred oak, brown sugar, singed cherry, clove chewing gum, nutmeg, light cinnamon
Finish: long & flavorful – cherry cola, antique leather, “caramelized oak char,” molasses, tobacco, blood orange, faint sassafras & licorice
Overall: Bullseye! This is everything I wanted from a revival of a cherished expression. Being a fan of mature, oak-laden bourbon, with its woody cherry, antique leather, and fragrant cedar-like spice, it stole my heart from the very first sip. From nose to finish, 2022’s Wild Turkey 101 12-Year is complex, well-balanced, and thoroughly enjoyable. Dare I say it’s as remarkable as Russell’s Reserve 13-Year? For a 101-proof bottling, it sure as hell comes close. And given that I’m sipping barrel-proof whiskey less often, this is damn near perfection – a world-class profile at a classic, sweet-spot proof.
Rating: 4.5/5 🦃
I Pile on Praise
While the flavor of Wild Turkey 101 12-Year earns high marks from me, the packaging deserves equal accolades. Rarely do I comment on a whiskey’s bottle or a box it’s housed in, but this may be the best overall presentation of any Campari-produced Wild Turkey expression.
Starting with the bottle, it’s the new 101 “embossed Turkey” design, but with a fancy gold “Aged 12 Years.” The box is constructed from thick cardboard wrapped with a textured faux-wood indigo print. That may not sound luxurious, but it looks and feels it (it also takes up half the space of a Master’s Keep box). Despite a snug seal, it opens effortlessly via a cloth pull-handle, revealing the bottle resting firmly in a velvety cushion. The inner-lid liner notes, which are printed on a material that mimics the inside of a charred oak barrel, read:
My son Eddie and I have dedicated our lives to distilling real Kentucky bourbon. You could say it runs through our veins.
We’ve been doing things the right way since day one, staying true to the traditions and processes that have been used for over 100 years. Because good things take time, this 12 year old bourbon is no exception.
I’ve been told this bourbon is a bit like me, aged longer for more character. I like to think there’s a story in every bottle. Feel the Spirit of Kentucky, with its rolling hills, rugged wilderness and bold colours. Taste the richer, more generous flavours you only get from a bourbon matured at the highest level of char possible.
Go ahead and close your eyes. Smell the bourbon first, then let the flavours roll in your mouth. That’s the real way to taste the true character of this 12 year old Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon.
I’ll admit – I’m a sucker for good copy. While those words aren’t exactly what Jimmy might say in conversation (especially that last paragraph), it’s relatable and sounds somewhat “Jimmy-esque.” It’s marketing, but it’s quality marketing, and I’m a fan.
I will, however, nitpick on one thing – the absence of “Beyond Duplication.” Over the years, this phrase has become synonymous with 101/12. For this revision, Campari opted for “Distiller’s Reserve,” the name of the 91-proof, thirteen-year export. As such, one can only assume this Distiller’s Reserve replaces the former.
And now, the big question: What’s the price and is Wild Turkey 101 12-Year worth purchasing? A friend of mine paid about $115 (USD) in Korea. If you can find it in that ballpark – even with a shipping expense on top – it’s a buy. Granted, it’s a 700ml bottle, and there are some twelve-year Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon selections out there for $80, but 101/12 is its own thing. It’s also a batched product, which means you may be sipping bourbon older than twelve years (knowing Turkey, you probably are).
Shortly after publishing this post, I learned that the suggested retail price in Japan converts to roughly $60 (USD). If you can find it for that price (insanity!), it’s a steal. Thank you, @bourbonstreetksbar.
Wrapping up, I’d like to say congrats to the Russells for another stellar whiskey. I’d also like to commend Campari for not just bringing back a legendary, well-loved release, but bringing it back with style and elegance. Without question, the new Wild Turkey 101 12-Year is a home run. I sincerely hope it sticks around. If so, maybe we’ll see it again in the States one day. After all, just because I’ve stopped complaining, doesn’t mean I’ve stopped wishing.
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