Chapter 13, Part 1:
Today we move on to our last chapter of Wild Turkey Month 2018. This chapter could easily fit in the previous chapter, in which we reviewed “Classic 101’s.” This chapter focuses on Wild Turkey 8 Year 101’s from the 1970’s. But what makes this grouping unique is that each of the bourbons were bottled in ceramic decanters.
Before we discuss those decanters, let us first address what is inside. We know the bourbon to be at least 8 years old, although it is well believed that Wild Turkey was putting whiskeys in these blends that were much older than 8 years old.
Where it is produced is even more of a mystery. Austin Nichols purchased the Boulevard Distillery in 1971. That was their first distillery “home.” Prior to that, Austin Nichols sourced. A known source was this same Boulevard Distillery, so there is a chance much of the whiskey in these blends was produced at this distillery. But there is certainly a chance it was produced elsewhere. We have no definitive answer on this question.
The more interesting story here is the decanters themselves, however. In 1971, Wild Turkey released its first series of decanters. This series ran for 8 years, from 1971 through 1978. Each of the bottles featured a wild turkey in various poses. Each was numbered with its year of release.
In 2011, a thread began on straightbourbon.com addressing Leaching of Lead into Whiskey from Ceramic Decanter Glazing. The thread continues to see comments and questions today. The issue addressed is whether the glazing on these ceramic decanters contained lead, and then whether it contaminated the whiskey within. We won’t attempt to summarize the discussion and “findings” contained therein, and we won’t provide any advice. Suffice it to say that there is a known “risk” that there is lead in these bourbons, and we encourage everyone to gauge the risk accordingly. Our approach has been to sample in very light moderation, and not to return to these bottles but once or twice per year.
There is a market reaction to the above risk, and possibly other risks of these decanters as well. The containers are (obviously) not clear, so you cannot gauge the volume of liquid and its clarity. Many attempt to weigh the decanters versus known weights of full decanters to determine fill level (and, with hope, clarity, as emptier decanters often are cloudy). These risks result in prices on these bottles that is 1/3 to 1/4 of the price for high fill level, clear bourbon in a glass bottle, over the same span of time. We are unaware of any other differences in the glass bottle versus ceramic decanter bourbons, both of which are 8 year age stated, 101 proof Wild Turkey bourbons.
Over these next four days, we will bring you reviews of each of these bourbons – 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978. We review these in chronological order.
Nose: Rich. Heavy leather; root beer; butterscotch; maple syrup; dry oak/earthy old Turkey notes; allspice; plum and other dark fruits; ink. This noses under proof. (4/5)
Palate: Oily and mouth coating, but somehow watery on flavor; cinnamon apple; grape soda. Not the richness of the nose. Quickly dissipating flavors. (3.5/5)
Finish: Short. Apple Jacks cereal; sharp herbal (thyme and sage) and metallic lingering notes leaving a dry finish. (3/5)
Overall: A little more than satisfying, but not one we want to go back to often, especially given the lead risk here. Unique, but a bit underwhelming. The nose is probably the best part here, and the wateriness really brings this down. (3.5/5)
Value: This was purchased along with the other decanters for around $125 each, which is about $50 less than the average secondary market price. Given the lead risk and the other risks with the decanters along with the slightly more than satisfying experience, contrasted with the collectability and vintage of the product, we are just a bit less than satisfied. (2.5/5)
“A little more than satisfying, but not one we want to go back to often, especially given the lead risk here.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.