June 2017 Pick of the Month: Wild Turkey 81

Each month, Flight Club selects a club-endorsed “Pick of the Month.”  The parameters on the Pick of the Month are (a) locally available in Wichita, Kansas (b) under $40 and (c) something believed to be a good value or limited availability at the moment.  We invite everyone (Club members or not) to break open a bottle and provide comment and feedback. 

WIld Turkey 81

This month we thought we would cater directly to the “believed to be a good value” criteria.   This bottle of Wild Turkey 81 is actually a 2015 Limited Edition label that happens to still be sitting on shelves around town.  However, one such location’s sale price, along with a mail-in-rebate attached to the bottles, makes this a prime candidate for “good value” whiskey.

At under $10 for a name brand, mid-shelf bourbon, we felt we had to give this one the spotlight.  This bottle offers a lower proof than its 101-proof brother, which may be more suited for those who desire strong flavors (straight or in a cocktail).  But, this bottle is palatable on its own, especially for a new bourbon drinker, and a good one to pick up to use for those cocktails where you (or the drinker) does not desire the whiskey-forward profile.  

Bottle:  Wild Turkey 81 (2015 Limited Edition Bottle)

Age: not age stated, but believed to be a blend of bourbons all aged at least 6-8 years.

Mash Bill: 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% barley.

Proof: 81

Location:  Available around town, but currently available at Auburn Spirits at 13303 W. Maple in Wichita for the sale price of $14.99.  In addition, these bottles feature a hang tang that includes a $5 mail in rebate, bringing your final price down to below $10! Hurry, the rebate expires on June 30, 2017.


15 Replies to “June 2017 Pick of the Month: Wild Turkey 81”

  1. A bit of background is helpful on this one. Wild Turkey once (quite recently) had an 80 proof bourbon that was purportedly only around 4 years old. It wasn’t very good. Yeah, older bottle may have had some of those dusty Austin Nichols notes, but the more recent stuff was just not very good.

    About a half-decade ago, Wild Turkey wised up and realized that a diluted Wild Turkey 101 (one that is 6-8 years old) would probably taste (and sell) much better. So that is what they did, discontinuing the old 80 and introducing the 81 – aged 6-8 years. I can’t speak for the changes in sales numbers, but I can say they were correct in the taste category.

    So from everything I’ve read, this newer 81 is simply a diluted version of Wild Turkey 101. And that is not a bad thing:

    Nose: Rye spice and hot cinnamon; corn, soft caramel, vanilla and dry oak. All the notes here are pretty tamed due to the 81 proof, but they are certainly present.

    Palate: Well rounded with caramel, vanilla, cream corn and rye spice.

    Finish: More of the dry oak and some lingering cinnamon. There is certainly some alcohol burn on the finish that is surprising considering there is no hint of it on the nose or palate.

    Overall: I find the flavors pleasing, but the thin body a letdown. The connection to the 101 is certainly there, but the reduction of 20 proof does a number on the mouthfeel. Despite this, at $10-$15, this is a solid pour, and something of a different class than most other sub-$15 bottom shelf bourbons.

  2. Nose: cinnamon stick and vanilla
    Palate: caramel and a bit of peppery spice
    Finish: corn
    Overall: Not bad for the price but not one that I will see at the store and think “I’ve got to get that.” It lacks the depth I want in a bourbon.

  3. Nose: oaky with rye spice

    Palate: baking chocolate with hints of rubarb

    Finish: medium, chared

  4. Nose: slight acetone up front, light oak, vanilla
    Palate: caramel, a little rye spice
    Finish: short, caramel, spices

    Overall: It tastes like what it is… watered down WT 101. It doesn’t have the body of its higher proof brother, but at $15 it may be hard to complain about that. Worth picking up to see if you enjoy it.

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