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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Great blog and great review DJ. I totally agree with your ‘Rave’ and ‘Praise’ sections and loved the review part as well. Thanks for this info!
But… I have to disagree with the ‘Rant’ segment. Don’t take it personal, but IMO this is a bad take for a couple of reasons. Firstly, just because you don’t want to be personally inundated with complaints after you share information about a new release is not relevant. If you don’t want to deal with reader complaints then you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing. Easy for me to say I know, but to me it just comes with the territory. Secondly (and more importangly) it’s generally a bad decision by Wild Turkey/Campari to not offer their best quality products in the home country of the product. This is not new. It was also poor form when they removed age statements from the US products in the 1990’s while retaining age statements abroad. I imagine that if/when the hightest quality Scotch offerings are not available in the home UK market, there is similar consumer blowback. I’m sure there are plenty of examples in the Scotch world where this happens, but it doesn’t make it right then either. Export country-specific brand variations are necessary (and usually a good thing to keep things interesting) but not offering the most popular premium products in the home market is the wrong decision and should be discouraged by we the buying public. Call it American entitlement if you want, but I feel that’s a bit of a lazy take on the situation.
Anyway, my own rant is over now 🙂
I’m still a big fan of yours and look forward to what you are up to in the future! Keep up the great work and Cheers!
Thanks for reading and commenting, Larry. Glad you enjoyed (most of) the review. 🙂
But let me clarify one thing – and this is important – I never said I had a problem with people communicating with me. I reply respectfully to everyone – always have. My issue is with “Americans whining about special whiskey expressions earmarked as exports or travel-retail exclusives.” *Not* people complaining *to me,* but people complaining about this in general, anywhere. Responses to my social media posts are merely what prompted my rant.
Second, to say that Campari is placing their best products overseas is inaccurate. Russell’s Reserve 13 is a great example, as well as an enormous volume of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and Kentucky Spirit private selections we have that they don’t. I’d argue those are some, if not THE best, in the company’s catalog.
Also, Campari didn’t remove domestic age statements, Pernod did, and so did many other distilleries in/around that same time. The fact of the matter is that from the 1970s to the 1990s, most Americans didn’t care about bourbon. It was a dying category. Many distilleries went out of business. Some were saved by foreign ownership, like Wild Turkey when Pernod purchased them in 1980. Were it not for the export market, bourbon would be a shadow of what it is today. And that’s a fact. I should also add that Campari has added age-stated expressions, such as the aforementioned Russell’s 13 and Russell’s Reserve private selections (which have included age statements since late 2019). Besides, the only age statement Pernod removed was the “8 years” from 101. That’s it. Just that single expression.
We, as Americans, should be grateful to have what we have. There are bourbon fans in countries all over that have only a fraction of what we do – often just the 81 proof and maybe 101. They’re people – bourbon geeks – just like you and me. Sharing is what this hobby is all about. If countries like Australia and Japan (the two leading WT markets after the U.S.) get occasional special offerings, fine by me. If it weren’t for them years ago, who knows if the brand would even be around.
Thanks again for your feedback. It means a lot to me. Have a wonderful weekend and sip plenty of Turkey.
These are good and fair responses to my comments. Thanks for clarifying the bit about the social media response, and that you have no issue with the feedback to you specifically. Make sense and apologies for implying otherwise!
Also yes true, it wasn’t Campari in the 90’s, I knew this as soon as wrote it, but it’s the Wild Turkey brand and, for the point I was trying to make, it doesn’t really matter whether it was Campari or Pernod or someone else.
I’m not an American spirits historian, but I feel that the notion that international markets indeed “saved” bourbon needs a bit more research and debate than what we can do here. The sales and finance analysis at the time would actually tell that story.
I’ll concede that “saving” is arguably an overstatement. That said, had foreign companies not purchased certain distilleries, like Wild Turkey, the brand likely would have died. So foreigners saving bourbon, maybe not (it’s debatable). Foreigners saving brands, for sure.
Great distinction there about the difference between saving “brands” versus saving bourbon. As usual, you are on top of things. Very nice and interesting discussion we had here. Thanks for clarifying several things that I may have blurred the lines on. Cheers
Think you as well. I appreciate and respect your perspective. Great conversation!
Need help dating my bottle of 12 year 101 proof beyond duplication bottle it has a laser code on but do not know how to decipher can you please help? I am currently living in Japan and came across this sealed in case everything just cannot date it the code is L 2033FF 10:48
Happy to help. That’s 2012.
Do you know if this will be sold in airports?
I hear you on the whining. Let’s not forget Japan helped bolster the bourbon market for decades while interest was low in the States. They’ve earned some special releases. But I’m not going to lie, I can’t help but be jealous. I can barely find Rare breed or retail RRSib on the shelf in my area. I probably won’t have the chance to buy another special or super premium Wild Turkey product for years to come given the persistent insanity here. I’m not losing sleep over it, but the jealously remains.
From what I’ve been told, it’s not a travel-retail release, but an export to Australia and several Asian markets. I hear ya on the jealousy. It is a beautiful whiskey.
Thanks for reading and commenting, William.
Excellent perspective and review as always. If the reported MSRP for Japan is accurate, that is insane! I am still waiting to see it land here in Japan, and so far have not seen or heard a whisper from my big box local stores, or standby online sites (hurry up Campari and get it imported already! 😉
The discussion on the role bourbon has and continues to play outside of the US is fascinating to me. I have heard stores from older Japanese people that back in the 70s/80s you could go into a bar and simply order “bourbon” and would be assured to receive Wild Turkey. Patrons commonly had their own bottle at the bar they would drink from on every visit (basically bottle service, a practice that continues in Japan to this day). Japan was certainly a reliable stronghold of bourbon lovers back in the troubled times of the glut years.
Old releases are well known and famous now (like Tradition, Master Distiller Select, 17 year, and others), but flew under the radar at the time of their release. Now export markets are getting a highly coveted release in the form of the 12 year. Along with that, it is important to observe that we have not received RR 13 year, RR selections, W.B. Saffell, and have not received Masters Keep One (we received the past versions, but not the most recent one). Bourbon releases are a balancing act, Campari needs to keep up interest abroad as well as domestically. Im in the camp of “the US gets tons of unique things, so it is fitting for Asia to get its own special product once in a while”. Also, if the 12 year was released in the US it would be sold out instantly and tatered/secondaried to hell and back.
Love this comment. Couldn’t have said it better.
Great post David, and great discussion all round.
We don’t get RR13, RR98/02/03 or any private selections here in Australia. We do get MK but in small quantities.
I am super stoked we are getting WT 101/12 which is slowly starting to pop up on selected bottle shops, retailing around AUD$130-140. Can’t wait. I’m sure they will be very popular!
I’m sure they will. So happy for you guys. Let me know when you finally taste it. Cheers!
Well David, as always I thoroughly enjoy your zeal for Wild Turkey.
My best mate and I have been hiking the Victorian high country in Australia for decades.
We always take a fine Bourbon to ward off the cold.
I can remember many a night spent with WT Tribute, 17 YO Japanese edition ( my two favourites by a mile ) scored from Japan at great cost, American Spirit and the old 101 Rye (sigh)
The magnificent 12 YO with any danged label, absolutely faultless.
I absolutely adore Turkey from the 90s and early 2000s.
I suppose all things change though.
Russell’s Reserve tall bottle, and the early RR Rye kept the light of WT burning bright with gorgeous complexity.
In recent years though, I have felt a certain tiredness creeping into the Turkey stable.
The standard 101, 86 Proof Rye, and RR offerings as we’re available in good old Australia we’re a bit mundane.
You my friend, by courtesy of your rants, raves and whatever have contributed to the reinstatement of a WT staple, worshipped by many earthwide.
David, I’ll raise a glass of the new WT 12YO 101 in your honour next time I’m in the wilderness.
It may not be the same as the old Dustys, and Funkys, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Keep the light burning.
Thank you so much. I think you’ll love the new 101/12. It’s not the old profile, and no one should expect that, but it’s excellent in its own way. Cheers to you!
Excellent news David, especially since I live in Japan! No sign yet but a whisky buddy in Tokyo says September with a price point of 9000 yen which is currently just under $70us.
I fly home to Canada for a few weeks vacation Sept 6 and it would be nice to bring a couple of bottles if it hits the shelves by then.
Definitely awesome news. Pretty stoked for you too.
Truly a pleasure to live as an American in Japan.
I’ve read many of your articles which leads me to search and discover rare finds (split labels, donuts, and GCF’s…oh my), and the ease of which most can be attained is rather astonishing. WT 8-year 101 is so readily available I’m still surprised to find 1L for less than $24 at current exchange rates.
I enjoy tremendously the blog, brother! Take care, and kanpai.
Thanks so much, Laurence. Truly a pleasure to have an American in Japan who enjoys the blog! dj
Well, I’m just found two of these bottles at a retail store (LOTTE MART) in Gumi South Korea for $95.23 (129,800 KR). I’m happy to report that they are both safe and sound in my possession and one will be heading back the Texas this coming February. Thanks for flavor profile and nose. I’m be comparing them with what I get when I open the bottle.
Excellent news! You’ll enjoy it.
Hi DJ, great review, thanks. You blog was a first place where I found out about new 101 release (big fan of Turkey bourbon). What are your thoughts about 101 12yo compared to Rare Breed? Is it worth to spend money & time to get your hands on it? It’s pretty easy to find rare breed here (EU) but I’m afraid we won’t get 101 12 yo here anytime soon. The only option is to find someone who can take it from a trip abroad. Is it worth such efforts? Cheers, Andy
Hey Andy. Rare Breed is an excellent expression, no doubt about it, but the new 101/12 is next-level amazing.
Great review and opinion piece as well. I just ordered several bottles of this from an overseas retailer and cannot wait to taste and enjoy it. Thank you for your informative, erudite and passionate writing. I was fortunate to meet the great Mr. Jimmy on my first trip to Kentucky, and it was a thrill to be able to tell him how much joy he has brought to my life. A true legend!
Thanks Peter. You’ll love this one. And I’m so glad you were able to meet Jimmy. He really is the best of bourbon.