Of all the Master’s Keep expressions to date, Voyage has proven itself the most difficult to cover. I’m not exactly certain why that is. There are factors that surely play a role, such as a noteworthy price increase for the series and the decision to go with a rum finish this year, but neither I’d consider a roadblock. I suppose some of it is pressure; the last thing I want is to convince someone to purchase a $275 whiskey and end up dissatisfied. I’ve already seen one YouTube video where the reviewer expressed strong feelings of disapproval after tasting Voyage – going so far as to say he was “pissed off” about the money spent. Reading over the video’s comments, I gathered a strong sense of distrust for the state of premium whiskey in 2023.
And then there’s the word … hype. We’ve all used it – sometimes positively, but more often than not, negatively when related to bourbon. It seems when someone gives a favorable review to a whiskey that’s considerably expensive – particularly a brand or critic you don’t care for – it must be hype-driven. And to some, the favorable reviewer is either “on the take” or has questionable motivations. Being a diehard Turkey fan writing a Turkey based blog, it’s only natural to assume I wear blinders. But, if you look back on my years of reviews, I’d argue I’ve landed on both sides of the coin. I have no desire to change that for Master’s Keep or any Wild Turkey release.
Which leads me to Voyage. Full disclosure, I paid retail price for this bottle, so when you read my opinion on pricing please understand that I’m not blowing smoke. Also, I must admit that I’m a recent rum convert. For the first several years of my whiskey journey I had an aversion to rum. It didn’t matter if it was aged or not – didn’t matter who made it or how special it claimed to be – I just didn’t appreciate the flavor profiles that rum offered. Times have changed. I now enjoy well-aged, un-dosed rum. Some of that is simply palate development, which happens to most of us, given time. The rest I attribute to my affection for cigars, with which rum pairs extremely well. Regardless, I’ll come right out of the gate and say that if you don’t like rum, Voyage is a try before you buy. There’s plenty of bourbon character to explore there, but the rum notes are certainly present.
Before diving into my tasting, I should touch on Voyage’s specifications. Essentially, it’s 10-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey finished in Appleton Estate ex-rum casks and bottled at 106 proof (NCF). We lack the specifics of where the bourbon was aged (campus, rickhouse, floor), but we know that it was finished in Kentucky for five weeks in casks that once held 14-year-old pot still Jamaican rum. It might also contain whiskey older than 10 years, though if that’s the case it would likely be stated in the box liner notes similar to Revival and other Master’s Keep releases. Finally, it’s worth noting that Voyage is a collaboration between two Campari masters: Wild Turkey’s Master Distiller Eddie Russell and Appleton Estate’s Master Blender Joy Spence. Considering their reputations, I have confidence that each contributed to making Voyage the best it could be.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Voyage
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Ex-Rum Casks
Age: 10 years
Misc.: Distilled and bottled by Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color: rich copper
Nose: (dense, sweet) molasses, blood orange, tropical trail mix, grilled pineapple, fruitcake, hints of lemon & honey
Taste: (silky, syrupy) chewy caramel, dried fruit, brown sugar, sweet charred oak, singed orange peel, waves of spice
Finish: medium-long w/ vanilla spice, toasted sugar, rum & cola, dark citrus, sweet sassafras, white pepper
Impression: As far as rum-finished whiskey goes, Master’s Keep Voyage is about as good as it gets. The rum and bourbon notes play well together, though not always in conventional harmony. It’s like jazz – you know the tune, you know the players, but there are twists and turns with every verse and chorus. And depending on the day, Voyage can be more rum-forward or more bourbon-forward. For example, if you sip a straight bourbon before Voyage, the rum notes stand out. If, however, you start off sipping rum then switch to Voyage, the bourbon notes become more prevalent. It’s what I like to call “enigmatically balanced.” You can’t quite explain what makes it so, it just is.
Time to tackle the elephant in the room … Is Master’s Keep Voyage worth $275? I can’t answer that question for you, though I’d happily buy another. It’s an individual’s call. If you can afford a $275 whiskey and like both rum and Wild Turkey bourbon, go for it. If you’re “rum curious” and pleased with past finished Master’s Keep expressions, I’d consider it a safe gamble. But as stated earlier in this review, if you don’t like rum, consider trying before buying. Like other finished whiskeys, Voyage is not for everyone. But chances are you’ll enjoy it. After all, Eddie Russell doesn’t place his name on bottles haphazardly. He commits.
As for how Voyage ranks among the nine Master’s Keep releases to date, I’d say it falls somewhere in the middle. It’s better than 1894 and One, but falls a bit short of crowd favorites like Master’s Keep Bottled in Bond and Unforgotten. Voyage’s hefty price tag in comparison to the majority of the series, which retailed for $150-$200 (Decades could even be found as low as $89), makes it a considerable purchase. That being said, I’m not one to factor price into my assessment of the liquid. They’re mutually exclusive in my opinion. I realize other reviewers see things differently – some even factor price into their scores, adding or subtracting points accordingly. While critics are free to do as they feel best for their audiences, I prefer to judge a whiskey based solely on the tasting experience. You don’t gauge the quality of an artist’s music based on the price of admission. Why do it for whiskey?
George William Curtis once said, “It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.” I couldn’t agree more. Congratulations to Eddie Russell for yet another well-crafted Master’s Keep, and cheers to Joy Spence for selecting casks that brought out the best of both worlds – Jamaica and Kentucky. In an age of meaningless spirit-related collaborations, far removed from the liquid itself, it’s satisfying to find one that truly shines – both in your glass and on your shelf.
Enjoy this blog? Please consider supporting it via Patreon. In return you’ll receive access to exclusive rewards and weekly whiskey content. Thank you! dj