Rare Bird 101

Wild Turkey Bourbon Whiskey Info, Reviews, and Musings

Wild Turkey Timeline

Austin, Nichols - Wild Turkey

Originally Published September 19, 2017; Last updated January 1, 2019

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.

Abt 1830 – Brothers James and John Ripy (French Huguenots) arrive in America from Ireland

Abt 1840-1850 – The Ripy family opens a general store in Tyrone, Kentucky (named in honor of Tyrone, Ireland)

Abt 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, Austin & Turner begins as a wholesale grocer in New York, NY, it would later become Austin, Nichols & Co.

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

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 (eldest son of James Ripy) purchases the Old Moore Distillery in Tyrone, KY; the construction of T. B. Ripy’s historic mansion is completed

1891 – Old Moore Distillery is demolished and is 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

1902 – T. B. Ripy dies; his distilleries are assimilated into the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Co. (AKA the Whiskey Trust)

1919 – The 18th Amendment (Prohibition) puts an end to many distilleries (including the Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse Co.)

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

Abt 1935 – Construction of the new Ripy Brothers Distillery (later known as Boulevard Distillery) is completed in Lawrenceburg, KY; the Ripy’s begin to produce whiskey under contract; Old Ripy Bros. whiskey brand (now a property of Schenley) is introduced (possibly sourced from the Ripy family distillery)

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 changes its name to Anderson County Distillery

1942 – Austin, Nichols & Co. markets Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon sourced from Ripy and several other Kentucky distilleries (likely Barton, Beam, Bernheim, and/or Schenley)

1949 – Alvin and Robert Gould purchase the Anderson County/Boulevard Distillery (formerly Ripy Bros.) and operate under the name J. T. S. Brown & Sons

Abt 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 J. T. S. Brown & Sons

1958-1959 – Wild Turkey labels are changed from Brooklyn, NY to New York, NY

Abt 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 (as needed) through at least 1979

1967 – Jimmy Russell is promoted to Master Distiller at J. T. S. Brown & Sons

1971 – Austin, Nichols & Co. purchases the J. T. S. Brown & Sons/Boulevard 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

Bef 1973 – Wild Turkey KSBW at 86.8 proof is introduced

1974 – Wild Turkey KSBW at 80 proof is introduced

Abt 1974 – Wild Turkey 101 Rye distillation is moved to Boulevard in KY (mash bill is changed to a rumored 51% rye, 37% corn, 12% barley)

1976 – Wild Turkey Liqueur (now known as Wild Turkey American Honey) is introduced; Wild Turkey acquires three rickhouses in McBrayer from Four Roses Distillery

1980 – Austin, Nichols & Co. is purchased by Pernod Ricard

Abt 1980 – Wild Turkey “Beyond Duplication” 101 12-year 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 Boulevard, thus beginning the phaseout of cypress tanks (by the mid-1990’s only steel fermentation tanks would be in use by Wild Turkey)

Abt 1985 – Wild Turkey 101 12-year changes to the “Cheesy Gold Foil” label for the domestic market

1989 – The last series of Wild Turkey decanters are produced

Abt 1990 – Wild Turkey 101 12-year Cuvee Lafayette is released in France

1991 – Wild Turkey Rare Breed is introduced, the first batch being W-T-01-91

Abt 1991 – Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend (NAS 101 proof) is released as a Duty Free exclusive

1992 – Wild Turkey 101 8-year loses its age statement domestically and is reintroduced as Wild Turkey “Old No. 8 Brand” (WT 101/8 continues to be released outside the U.S., its glass is embossed with an “8”); 1855 Reserve (“From the Makers of Wild Turkey”) is released to foreign markets, the first batch being W-T-01-92

Abt 1992 – Wild Turkey 101 12-year changes to a “Split Label” design

1994 – Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is released with its signature pewter top; Wild Turkey Tradition (NAS 101 proof) replaces the Duty Free WT 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 Stone Castle Distillery (Old Taylor)

Abt 1998 – Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend (single barrel at barrel proof, AKA “Donut”) is released domestically; WT Kentucky Legend (110 proof) is released in Japan

1999 – Wild Turkey labels are changed from a forward-facing turkey to a turkey in profile; the use of “Old No. 8 Brand” on WT 101 labels ends; WT Rare Breed labels are redesigned to include a turkey

Abt 1999 – Wild Turkey 101 12-year is discontinued domestically; WT 101/12 continues as an export with a “pseudo-split” label (turkey in profile)

2000A fire destroys a warehouse at Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky; bottling moves to Lawrenceburg, Indiana (Pernod Ricard facility)

2001 – Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve (10-year KSBW at 101 proof) is introduced; WT 101 17-year is released in Japan

2002 – Wild Turkey Freedom (NAS 106 proof) is released as a Duty Free exclusive; WT Kentucky Spirit cork caps are changed from pewter to dark wood

Abt 2003 – The official Wild Turkey web URL (www.wildturkeybourbon.com) is added to bottle labels

2004 – Barrel entry-proof changes from 107 to 110 for both mash bills (bourbon and rye); WT Tribute 15-year KSBW released

2005 – Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon (90 proof) is introduced; Wild Turkey Heritage (SiB KSBW at 101 proof) is released as a Duty Free exclusive; WT Kentucky Spirit cork caps are engraved with the WT logo

2006 – Barrel entry-proof changes from 110 to 115 for both mash bills (bourbon and rye); bottling moves to Fort Smith, Arkansas; WT Master Distiller’s Selection 14-year KSBW released in Japan; WT Liqueur is reintroduced as WT American Honey; Russell’s Reserve bottles filled at Fort Smith, AR are embossed with “Jimmy Russell”

Bef 2007 – Wild Turkey 101 12-year export label changes from “pseudo-split” to a single label

2007 – Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye is introduced; WT American Spirit 15-year is released

Abt 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 slender paper design; WT Tradition 14-year KSBW released

2010 – The remaining barrels stored at Stone Castle Distillery (Old Taylor) 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 Ripy Distillery (Boulevard); WT labels change from a full-color turkey in profile to a monochrome (sepia toned) turkey in profile; “Austin, Nichols” becomes less prominent on WT labels; WT 81 replaces WT 80-proof KSBW

2012 – Wild Turkey Rye (81 proof) is introduced; WT 101 Rye is allocated to limited distribution

2013 – Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (NAS at 110 proof) is introduced; bottling returns to Lawrenceburg, KY; Wild Turkey 101 12-year (export) is discontinued; WT 13-year Distiller’s Reserve is released as an export-only expression; WT Forgiven (batch #302) is released

2014 – Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary and WT Forgiven (batch #303) are released; WT 101 Rye distribution is increased (primarily as liter bottles); a new WT Visitor’s Center (informally dubbed the “Cathedral of Bourbon”) opens to the public

2015Eddie 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; RR Single Barrel Rye introduced; WT Master’s Keep 17-year and RR 1998 are released as LE’s

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 (both distilled at Wild Turkey) are released in limited distribution; WT Master’s Keep 1894 released as an Australian exclusive; WT Rare Breed bottle shape is redesigned with its label displaying the new black & white sketched turkey (see 2015); Jimmy Russell’s granddaughter, JoAnn Street, joins the WT team as a distillery tour guide and brand ambassador

2018 – Wild Turkey Longbranch, a KSBW collaboration between Matthew McConaughey and Eddie Russell is introduced; Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival, a 12-15-year KSBW finished in Oloroso Sherry casks, is released; Russell’s Reserve 2002 is released as an allocated limited edition (3,640 bottles total)


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, and Bruce Russell

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