Chapter 3, 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, we brought you the history of the Wild Turkey distillery, which included an overview of Thomas B. Ripy’s (and resulting family corporation’s) involvement with the distillery.
In this Chapter 3, we link that history to Wild Turkey’s first non-Turkey branded products in modern years – the Whiskey Barons Collection and the “reproductions” of Old Ripy and Bond & Lillard bourbons. This link, however, may be as much play-on-names as it is lineage to historic products.
The story of Old Ripy began in 1868. That much is covered in Chapter 1. But beyond that, little is known of the bourbon that was the inspiration for the current day Old Ripy product. According to Campari Global Whiskies Brand Ambassador Robin Coupar, “As a huge history buff, this innovation project gave Norm (Matella) and me an opportunity to experiment in a way that we hadn’t in the past – kind of like the Bourbon version of Sherlock Holmes solving the great pre-Prohibition whiskey mystery. Diving into the historical tasting notes, interviewing the surviving members of the Ripy family, touring the original Ripy home in Lawrenceburg and playing around with a variety of aged stocks and different processes – it was a dream scenario for two guys who truly love Kentucky Straight Bourbon and all it represents.”
In 1869, William F. Bond and Christopher C. Lillard also started a distillery near where present day Wild Turkey sits. Bond and Lillard were brothers-in-law. Although there family had been distilling since the 1820’s, it wasn’t until this late 1860’s era when the product would be labeled as “Bond & Lillard.” Little is known of the bourbon, other than that the bourbon would win the Grand Prize at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The judges described the bourbon as “real delicacy of flavor, beauty in the sparkle and superiority in strength – it bears no equal.” It may be from these notes alone that the current recipe was developed.
Most interesting to this story line is the distance created between Wild Turkey and these Whiskey Barons Collection products. Although these new products are produced at the Wild Turkey Distillery, the Whiskey Barons Collection appears to be driven entirely by Campari, with Jimmy and Eddie Russell (Master Distillers at Wild Turkey – more on them in a later chapter) disclaiming any involvement whatsoever. According to Campari, “While their insights and expertise are valued above all else, Wild Turkey Master Distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell were not involved with the creation of Old Ripy and Bond & Lillard, as they were fully committed with projects for Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve – the hallmarks of Campari America’s America Whiskey portfolio. However, moving forward, Eddie Russell will be pouring his passion and expertise into the development of future Whiskey Barons products while continuing his role as Master Distiller and key product innovator for Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve.”
Nose: Vanilla and salted caramel; candied fruit; apples; dry seasoned oak; cinnamon, allspice and pre-ground white pepper; toffee. This nose screamed “Wild Turkey.” (3/5)
Palate: Oak forward with intense heavy cinnamon (like red hot candies, but not quite as candied); demerara sugar; cinnamon apple; toasted almonds; some very hidden raisin; creamy. Except for the almond notes, this didn’t feel like Wild Turkey at all, and the cinnamon overpowers. (2.5/5)
Finish: Medium to long; hot, burning and mouth-numbing, which almost mutes all the actual flavors; vanilla custard; dry oak; toasted almond; lingering red hot cinnamon. (2.5/5)
Overall: Simply not a favorite. The nose of the Old Ripy is welcoming, but the spiced heat of the palate and finish pushed us away. (2.5/5)
Value: This bottle registers at $50 for a 375ml bottle, putting it at $100 for a standard bottle. We expected much more out of this one. (2/5)
“The nose of the Old Ripy is welcoming, but the spiced heat of the palate and finish pushed us away.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.