Chapter 2, Part 1.
Over the month of November 2017, Flight Club will be bringing you “30 Turkeys in 30 days.” Each day, we will post a review of a different Wild Turkey product. Throughout that journey, we will provide you with background information on the company, the products and the people behind the products, all of which we hope create a better understanding of what Wild Turkey brings to the world of bourbon. A table of contents for each of these posts can be found here.
In Chapter 1 of Wild Turkey Month, we brought you company history and the evolution of the 80/81/101 proof products. In this Chapter 2, we continue the Wild Turkey story through its present day 101 proof single barrel offering, the Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. Over these next four days, we will provide you tasting notes of one standard bottling of Kentucky Spirit, and three “store pick” bottles of Kentucky Spirit (for those who are unfamiliar, a store pick is generally a single barrel product, where the retailer selects that particular barrel, agrees to purchase the entire contents of the barrel, and is able to advertise the product with a label or sticker signifying the barrels uniqueness).
Background of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit:
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit was launched in 1994 or 1995 (interestingly, Wild Turkey themselves says 1995, but we have seen bottles dated as early as 1994), and is Wild Turkey’s first single barrel offering. It is believed to be the second single barrel offering in the bourbon industry, after Blanton’s, which launched the single-barrel revolution in 1984.
Kentucky Spirit was released at 101 proof, effectively making it a single barrel offering of the Wild Turkey 101 – save age and barrel selection. It was launched as a premium product, with a fancy bottle, stopper, and possibly for the first time, handwritten barrel and storage identifiers.
The age of each barrel of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit remains somewhat a mystery. According to Campari, “Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is a 101 proof, single barrel bourbon, hand-selected at the peak of maturity. The Master Distiller sets aside barrels that capture the essence of Wild Turkey Bourbon and that ensure a consistent taste from bottle to bottle.” It is believed that the Kentucky Spirit ages for approximately 9 years from distillation to bottling, while the blended Wild Turkey 101 contains 6-8 year old bourbon.
Kentucky Spirit is widely known for its “inconsistent” product quality – something that is certainly a risk of single barrel bourbons, but the upside and downside of these Wild Turkey offerings seem to be noteworthy. Of note, Kentucky Spirit has spanned a period of time in which the barrel entry proof changed twice. Older versions (bottles dated before 2015 and 2013) may have a different profile than newer products.
Today, Kentucky Spirit is one of only two Wild Turkey single barrel bourbons, with the 110 proof Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel being the second (more on that in Chapter 5). But suffice it to say that the difference are fairly limited to proof (101 vs. 110 with Russell’s Reserve) and filtration (Russell’s Reserve is non-chill filtered). The two are also differentiated by label information, which on the Kentucky Spirit still does give a definitive age.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit (Barrel #2248 from Warehouse B, Rick 13; Bottled: 5/28/2015) (Sampled by Scott Hill, Lee Bullock, Chris Crow, Stephen Benson and Phil Horvey) (NAS, but believed to be around 9 years)
Nose: Caramel corn; orange/tangerine; dusty oak combined with fresh wood polish; under-ripe melon; vanilla; currant; grape soda; fairly significant alcohol burn. (3.5/5)
Palate: White pepper; dry seasoned oak; buttered toffee; surprisingly sweet; cranberry juice; Werther’s original candy. (3/5)
Finish: Fairly short; rye spice/white pepper; vanilla; caramel; drying. (2/5)
Overall: This bottle of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit has an impressive nose, but the palate and finish are disappointing in comparison. The buttered toffee palate is quite good. (2.5/5)
Value. Today, a standard bottle of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit clocks in at around $50-$55 a bottle. Compared to many other brand’s of single barrel bourbon on the market, this doesn’t stand up. But even more, compared to some of the store picks that will be sampled in the coming days that can be purchased for around a 20% discount, this standard bottle doesn’t stand up at all. (2.5/5).
“This bottle of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit has an impressive nose, but the palate and finish are disappointing in comparison.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.