Friends … They bring out the best in this hobby. I’ve been fortunate to have more than my fair share of friends in whiskey enthusiasm, and two of those friends are Joshua Hatton and Jason Johnstone-Yellin of Single Cask Nation. But for all those years exchanging emails, bantering on social media, and recording podcasts, I’d never met them in person until this year.
Turkey & Take-Out
Back in September, I traveled to Kentucky to select a few Wild Turkey and Starlight Distillery barrels. The timing couldn’t have been better, as it turned out Joshua and Jason were staying in Lexington to pick a few Turkey barrels themselves. Thanks to Ryan Alves and Justins’ House of Bourbon, the stage was set for an epic meetup. All I had to do was land at SDF on time, check in to my hotel, and find an Uber willing to drive from Louisville to Lexington (and back). Thankfully, everything went according to plan.
We gathered in the speakeasy of Justins’ downtown Lexington location. In attendance was Joshua, Jason, Ryan, myself, and two Turkey buddies of mine, David James and Brent Rogers. And before us, sat a long row of remarkable whiskies – a row so long, that I was sure I’d have to pick and choose (I was wrong). We each took a seat and the corks started popping.
First up was a Single Cask Nation thirteen-year Mackmyra, a Swedish malt whisky. While I fail to recall my tasting notes, I remember it being the most unique pour of the evening (arguably the most unique malt I’ve tasted to date). That was followed by a SCN Black Button Bourbon selection and a ten-year SCN Wild Turkey barrel (Tyrone D). And we were only getting started! Many big-name pours would grace our glasses – King of Kentucky, Heaven Hill 17, Wild Turkey 17/101 (export), and more.
Sometime into our festivities, we realized we needed sustenance. Our poison of choice was Chinese take-out, and it damn sure hit the spot (thanks Ryan). Then it was back to tasting and talking as if the world outside Justins’ didn’t exist. And that’s what makes friendship in this hobby so rewarding. It’s not so much what you sip, but why you sip it and who you share it with. When you’re engaged in earnest fellowship, even if just for a short time, you remove yourself from the stresses of life and the cares of the world. You have time to reset and reconnect – not just with acquaintances, but with the hobby itself.
As the evening began to wind down, Joshua looked at me and asked, “Have you reviewed those last two Turkey barrels?” Mind you, he wasn’t asking out of expectation, but out of pure curiosity. That brings me to today’s post, which truthfully, has been long overdue.
Each year I look forward to Single Cask Nation’s Wild Turkey releases, and each year I’m surprised and impressed with Joshua and Jason’s selections. Some barrels are better than others, but that’s largely dependent on one’s profile preferences. They’re all well-aged Turkey bottled at full barrel strength (non-chill filtered), so the bar is set fairly high before a stopper is even pulled. I tend to think of these bottlings as single barrel barometers. Since Wild Turkey doesn’t bottle private barrel selections at barrel proof, SCN releases are an unaltered snapshot of what the distillery has to offer annually.
As for 2022’s SCN selections, I’ll be tasting a nine-year bourbon from McBrayer’s rickhouse B and a twelve-year bourbon from Camp Nelson’s rickhouse A. Having selected barrels from each of these campuses semi-recently (not to mention sipping these two whiskeys over the last few months), I’m already familiar with the nuts and bolts of each profile. What I lack confidence in is ranking one over the other. I’ll give it my best effort, but don’t be surprised if I end up with a draw.
Single Cask Nation (2022) – barrel #21-0036, McBrayer rickhouse B, floor 4 – non-chill filtered Wild Turkey KSBW at 56.10% ABV – aged nine years – distilled at the Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY – selected and bottled by J&J Spirits, Bardstown, KY (one of 168 bottles)
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: dessert wine, honey butter, apple jelly, candy corn, cellar oak, light baking spice, faint mustiness
Taste: vanilla syrup, raisin bread, “grapey funky oak,” boozy cake frosting, malty corn, hints of Necco Wafer candy
Finish: long & sticky – fruit rollup, caramel drizzle, gumdrops, grape Now & Later candy, dried apricot, crisp pear, white pepper
Overall: An excellent example of the unique complexities Wild Turkey’s maturation campuses garner. The first time McBrayer made news was Master’s Keep Decades, though it was a batched whiskey of significant age (ten to twenty years). Then came a range of McBrayer B Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon selections in 2021, most, if not all of which, aged for eight years. But Single Cask Nation’s bottling is special – not only because it’s barrel proof and nine years old, but because it’s an exemplary selection with extraordinary character. Surely one to be remembered in the years ahead.
Rating: 4.25/5 🦃
Single Cask Nation (2022) – barrel #19-0069, Camp Nelson rickhouse A, floor 3 – non-chill filtered Wild Turkey KSBW at 55.90% ABV – aged twelve years – distilled at the Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg, KY – selected and bottled by J&J Spirits, Bardstown, KY (one of 101 bottles)
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: cherry pie filling, rich vanilla creme, Jordan almonds, sweet oak char, holiday citrus, Twizzlers candy, nutmeg
Taste: vanilla pudding, cocktail cherry, fruity maple, butter toffee, singed honey, spiced orange, hints of brown sugar & cinnamon
Finish: long, rich & flavorful – intense candy apple, Dr. Brown’s cherry soda, toasted caramel, charred oak, antique leather, pepper
Overall: Twelve-year Turkey isn’t something you find every day – especially a single-barrel expression. It’s long been a favorite of mine, as twelve years often brings out the best of what the recipe has to offer. The familiar vanilla and caramel one finds in Wild Turkey 101, becomes darker and richer. The spice is well-rounded, and the oak, while more forward in presence, is sweeter. As for this Single Cask Nation Camp Nelson A selection, I’m finding a great deal of cherry notes – cherry pie filling, cherry soda, etc. At the risk of annoying Jimmy and Eddie, it almost reminds me of a certain highly sought-after, mature wheated bourbon.
Rating: 4.25/5 🦃
Joshua and Jason have once again demonstrated their knack for finding exceptional Turkey barrels. Sure, it’s always possible they got lucky. But then, six straight years of luck? Not very likely. I mean, it is Wild Turkey (hard to go wrong there), but still. Much like our friendship, the whiskey is without question a cut above.
As for which of these two barrels is my favorite, it’s impossible to answer definitively (has been since I first tasted them). At this point, I’m sapped by the struggle. Both bourbons are fantastic, and I’m fine with that. Mood and day depending, each is arguably the best. It’s precisely what makes Wild Turkey’s single barrel program so appealing – the sheer uniqueness and high-quality variance. So long as that never changes, The House that Jimmy Built will remain unrivaled in my book.
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