Originally Published September 19, 2017; Last updated February 28, 2020
What follows is a comprehensive Wild Turkey timeline ranging from the early 1800’s to present day. It’s a work in progress and I welcome any and all suggestions and corrections. While I’ve spent a fair amount of time compiling this information, it simply would not have been possible without the hard work of others. I especially want to thank Redditor u/Kumori for his Wild Turkey Timeline and for providing detailed sources. A list of references follows this timeline.
(* = approximate time)
1830* – Brothers James and John Ripy (French Huguenots) arrive in America from Ireland.
1840-1850* – The Ripy family opens a general store in Tyrone, KY (named in honor of Tyrone, Ireland).
1850 – Fitts, Martin & Clough is established as a wholesale grocer in New York, NY.
1850-1859* – A distillery operating as Old Moore is built in Tyrone, KY, in the general area that would eventually become Wild Turkey Distillery.
1855 – Fitts, Martin & Clough is reorganized as Fitts & Turner.
1861 – Robert F. Austin joins the firm of Fitts & Turner resulting in Fitts, Austin & Turner.
1862-1864 – Fitts, Austin & Turner is reorganized as Fitts & Austin.
1869 – Thomas Beebe “T. B.” Ripy (youngest son of James Ripy) begins distilling whiskey at Cliff Springs Distillery in Tyrone, KY.
1872 – James Ripy dies.
1873 – T. B. Ripy builds a new distillery, increasing capacity from 600 bushels to over 1,200 bushels per day.
1878-1879 – James E. Nichols purchases an interest in Fitts & Austin (formerly Fitts, Austin & Turner) resulting in the creation of Austin, Nichols & Co.
1881 – T. B. Ripy partners with J. M. Waterfill and John Dowling to build the Clover Bottom Distillery in Tyrone, KY.
1883–1885 – T. B. Ripy acquires ownership of additional Kentucky distilleries, including Belle of Anderson Distillery and Old Joe Distillery.
1885 – T.B. Ripy buys out his partners and becomes the sole owner of Clover Bottom Distillery; production increases to 1,500 bushels per day
1888 – James P. Ripy (brother of T.B. Ripy) purchases the Old Moore Distillery in Tyrone, KY from J. W. Stephens; the construction of T.B. Ripy’s Queen Anne style mansion is completed
1891 – Old Moore Distillery is demolished and replaced by a new distillery, Old Hickory Springs; James P. Ripy partners with Ike Bernheim and production of J. P. Ripy whiskey begins
1893 – T.B. Ripy’s whiskey is the choice selection from over 400 whiskeys to represent the state of Kentucky at the World’s Fair Exposition in Chicago, IL
1902 – T.B. Ripy dies; his distilleries are assimilated into the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Co. (AKA the Whiskey Trust)
1905 – T.B. Ripy’s sons purchase the Old Hickory Springs Distillery site from their uncle, James P. Ripy, and establish Ripy Brothers Distillery
1919 – The 18th Amendment (Prohibition) puts an end to many distilleries, including the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Co. and Ripy Brothers Distillery
1933 – The 21st Amendment (Repeal of Prohibition) enables the Ripy family to restore and rebuild the distillery located on their property
1934 – Austin, Nichols & Co. enters the wine and spirits industry
1935* – Construction of the new Ripy Brothers Distillery is completed in Lawrenceburg, KY; the Ripys begin to produce whiskey under contract; the Old Ripy whiskey brand (now a property of Schenley Distillers) is introduced
1939 – Austin, Nichols & Co. ceases grocery distribution and shifts all resources to wine and spirits sales
1940 – Austin, Nichols executive Thomas McCarthy envisions the Wild Turkey brand and its signature 101 proof; Ripy Brothers Distillery enters into a production agreement with Schenley Distillers
1942 – Austin, Nichols & Co. markets Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon sourced from Ripy Bros. and several other Kentucky distilleries (likely Barton, Beam, Bernheim, and/or Schenley)
1949 – Alvin and Robert Gould purchase the Ripy Brothers Distillery
1950 – Ripy Brothers Distillery is renamed Anderson County Distilling Co.
1950* – Wild Turkey 101 Rye sourced from Baltimore Pure Rye in Maryland (mash bill is reportedly 65% rye, 23% corn, 12% barley)
1954 – Jimmy Russell begins employment at Anderson County Distilling Co.
1955 – Anderson County Distilling Co. is renamed J. T. S. Brown & Sons
1958-1959 – Wild Turkey labels are changed from Brooklyn, NY to New York, NY
1960* – Wild Turkey 101 Rye sourced from Michter’s/Pennco in Pennsylvania (confirmed mash bill is 65% rye, 23% corn, 12% barley) – supplementary rye sourced from Maryland and Illinois through at least 1979
1967 – Jimmy Russell is promoted to Master Distiller at J. T. S. Brown & Sons
1969 – Liggett Myers Tobacco Co. acquires Austin, Nichols & Co.
1971 – Austin, Nichols & Co. purchases the J. T. S. Brown & Sons Distillery (now Wild Turkey Distillery) in Lawrenceburg, KY; the first series of Wild Turkey decanters are produced
1972 – Wild Turkey labels are changed from New York, NY to Lawrenceburg, KY
Prior to 1973 – Wild Turkey bourbon at 86.8 proof is introduced
1974 – Wild Turkey bourbon at 80 proof is introduced
1974* – Wild Turkey 101 Rye distillation is moved to Lawrenceburg, KY (the mash bill is changed to a reported 52% rye, 36% corn, 12% barley)
1976 – Wild Turkey Liqueur (presently known as Wild Turkey American Honey) is introduced; Wild Turkey acquires five rickhouses in McBrayer from Four Roses Distillery
1980 – Austin, Nichols & Co. is purchased by Pernod Ricard from Liggett Myers Tobacco Co.
1980* – Wild Turkey “Beyond Duplication” 101 12-year bourbon is released
1981 – Eddie Russell begins work at Wild Turkey as a relief operator (Eddie states his actual title as “General Helper”)
1984 – The first steel fermentation tank is installed at Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., thus beginning the phaseout of cypress tanks (by the mid-1990s, only steel fermentation tanks would be used by Wild Turkey)
1985* – Wild Turkey 101 12-year bourbon changes to the “Cheesy Gold Foil” label for the domestic market
1985 – Boulevard Distillers & Importers, Inc. files with the Kentucky Secretary of State as an FCO (foreign corporation); Austin, Nichols’ parent company, Pernod Ricard, begins using “Boulevard Distillers” as a trade name for Wild Turkey
1989 – The last series of Wild Turkey decanters are produced
1990* – Wild Turkey 101 12-year Cuvee Lafayette is released exclusively in France
1991 – Wild Turkey Rare Breed is introduced, the first batch being “W-T-01-91”
1991* – Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend (non-age-stated, 101 proof bourbon) is released as a Duty-Free exclusive
1992 – Wild Turkey 101 8-year bourbon loses its age statement domestically and is reintroduced as Wild Turkey “Old No. 8 Brand” (Wild Turkey 101/8 continues to be released outside the U.S., its glass is embossed with an “8 Years Old”); 1855 Reserve (“From the Makers of Wild Turkey”) is released to foreign markets, the first batch being “W-T-01-92”
1992* – Wild Turkey 101 12-year bourbon changes to a “Split Label” design for the domestic market
1994 – Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is released with its signature pewter top; Wild Turkey Tradition (non-age-stated, 101 proof) replaces the Duty-Free Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend (see 1991)
1996 – 1855 Reserve discontinued, the last batch being W-T-01-96; Wild Turkey runs low on warehouse space and begins storing barrels in the brick rickhouses of the former Old Taylor Distillery (Stone Castle)
1998* – Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend (single barrel at barrel proof, AKA “Donut”) is released as a Duty-Free expression
1999 – Wild Turkey labels are changed from a forward-facing turkey to a turkey in profile; the use of “Old No. 8 Brand” on Wild Turkey 101 labels ends; Wild Turkey Rare Breed labels are redesigned to include a turkey
1999* – Wild Turkey 101 12-year bourbon is discontinued domestically; Wild Turkey 101/12 continues as an export with a “Pseudo-Split” label (turkey “in profile”)
2000 – A fire destroys Warehouse J at Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky; bottling moves to Lawrenceburg, Indiana (a Pernod Ricard facility)
2001 – Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve (10-year bourbon at 101 proof) is introduced; Wild Turkey 101 17-year bourbon is released in Japan
2002 – Wild Turkey Freedom (non-age-stated, 106-proof bourbon) is released as a Duty-Free exclusive; Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit stoppers are changed from pewter to dark wood
2003* – The official Wild Turkey web URL is added to bottle labels
2004 – Barrel-entry proof changes from 107 to 110 for both mash bills (bourbon and rye); Wild Turkey Tribute 15-year bourbon released (101 proof in the U.S.; 110 proof in Japan)
2005 – Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon (90 proof) is introduced; Wild Turkey Heritage (a single-barrel bourbon at 101 proof) is released as a Duty-Free exclusive; Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit cork caps are engraved with the Wild Turkey logo
2006 – Barrel-entry proof changes from 110 to 115 for both mash bills (bourbon and rye); bottling moves to Fort Smith, Arkansas; Wild Turkey Master Distiller’s Selection 14-year bourbon released in Japan; Wild Turkey Liqueur is reintroduced as Wild Turkey American Honey; Russell’s Reserve bottles filled at Fort Smith, AR are embossed with “Jimmy Russell”
Prior to 2006 – Wild Turkey 101 12-year bourbon export label changes from “Pseudo-Split” to a “Uni-label”
2007 – Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye is introduced; Wild Turkey American Spirit 15-year bottled-in-bond bourbon is released
2008 – Eddie Russell named Associate Master Distiller
2008* – Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit cork caps changed from dark engraved wood to light engraved wood
2009 – Gruppo Campari purchases the Wild Turkey brand; Austin, Nichols & Co. is retained by Pernod Ricard; Austin, Nichols Distilling Co. continues as an assumed name of Campari; Russell’s Reserve labels are changed to a paper strip design; Wild Turkey Tradition 14-year bourbon released
2010 – The remaining barrels stored at the former Old Taylor Distillery (Stone Castle) are moved back to Wild Turkey (about 80,000 barrels of different ages had been matured at Old Taylor from 1996 to 2010)
2011 – The new Wild Turkey Distillery begins operations in Lawrenceburg, KY and replaces the old Austin, Nichols/Boulevard/Anderson County/Ripy Bros. Distillery; Wild Turkey labels change from a full-color turkey “in profile” to a monochrome (sepia toned) turkey “in profile;” The name “Austin, Nichols” becomes less prominent on Wild Turkey labels; Wild Turkey 81 replaces Wild Turkey 80-proof bourbon
2012 – Wild Turkey Rye (81 proof) is introduced; Wild Turkey 101 Rye is allocated to limited distribution
2013 – Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (non-age-stated at 110 proof) is introduced; bottling returns to Lawrenceburg, KY; Wild Turkey 101 12-year bourbon (export) is discontinued; Wild Turkey 13-year Distiller’s Reserve is released as an export-only expression; Wild Turkey Forgiven (batch #302) is released
2014 – Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary and Wild Turkey Forgiven (batch #303) are released; Wild Turkey 101 Rye distribution is increased (primarily as liter bottles); a new Wild Turkey Visitors Center (informally dubbed a “Cathedral to Bourbon”) opens to the public
2015 – Eddie Russell named Master Distiller; Bruce Russell begins as Brand Ambassador; Wild Turkey labels are changed from a monochrome turkey “in profile” to a redesigned larger black & white sketched turkey; Russell’s Reserve labels are changed to a larger “rustic” design; Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye introduced; Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17-year and Russell’s Reserve 1998 are released as limited editions
2016 – Matthew McConaughey hired as Creative Director for Wild Turkey
2017 – Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades is released; Campari Whiskey Barons Old Ripy and Bond & Lillard (reportedly distilled by Wild Turkey) are released in limited distribution; Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 1894 released as an Australian exclusive; Rare Breed’s bottle shape is redesigned with its label displaying the new black & white sketched turkey (see 2015); Jimmy Russell’s granddaughter, JoAnn Street, joins the Wild Turkey team as a distillery tour guide and brand ambassador
2018 – Wild Turkey Longbranch, a bourbon collaboration between Creative Director Matthew McConaughey and Master Distiller Eddie Russell is introduced; Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival, a 12-15-year bourbon finished in Spanish ex-Oloroso-Sherry casks, is released; Russell’s Reserve 2002 is released as an allocated limited edition (3,640 bottles total)
2019 – Bruce Russell named Global Brand Ambassador for Wild Turkey; Campari Whiskey Barons W. B. Saffell and Bond & Lillard batch #2 (reportedly distilled by Wild Turkey under Eddie Russell’s supervision) are released nationwide; Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit’s iconic “turkey tail feather” bottle is discontinued and replaced with a design similar to Rare Breed; Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Cornerstone, the distillery’s first limited edition rye whiskey, is released; Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon private selection bottles receive a new set of labels (back/front) stating barrel maturation location, dates of distillation and bottling
Campari America – http://campariamerica.com/
Cowdery, Charles – http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/
u/Kumori – https://www.reddit.com/r/bourbon/
Lipman, John and Linda – http://www.ellenjaye.com/
Sullivan, Jack – http://pre-prowhiskeymen.blogspot.com/
Thompson, Justin – http://www.gobourbon.com/
Veach, Michael – http://www.bourbonenthusiast.com/
Whiskey ID – https://whiskeyid.com/
Special thanks to: Robin Coupar (photo), Dick & Elaine Stoll (Michter’s/Pennco info), Eddie Russell, Bruce Russell, and Bo Garrett