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.
Yesterday we reviewed the Wild Turkey American Spirt, a 15 Year Bottled-in-Bond whiskey that was pulled from “lost barrels” at the Stone Castle Distillery (often called the Old Crow rickhouses). Today, we review a second Wild Turkey bourbon with nearly this same backstory.
In 2015, Wild Turkey introduced a 17 Year bourbon as an initial release under the Masters Keep line. This bourbon represents three interesting things for Wild Turkey: (1) it is a 17 year bourbon, the oldest bourbon ever released in the United States by Wild Turkey; (2) it is released at barrel proof at only 86.8 proof; and (3) it holds ties to Wild Turkey’s warehousing at Stone Castle Distillery.
First, Wild Turkey has never released an older-than-15-Year bourbon in the United States, although it had previously released a 17 Year, 101 proof bourbon in Japan. Recall that Jimmy Russell doesn’t care for the older bourbons, so this clearly was the labor of Eddie Russell.
Second, Masters Keep 17 is bottled at barrel proof. This bourbon was barreled in 1996, and would have gone in at 107 proof. It spent some time in the Wild Turkey wood/metal warehouse, then was transferred to cool damp climates at the Stone Castle Distillery (more below), and then was transferred back to Wild Turkey in 2010. With around 14 years of the 17 year life being in cool, damp stone warehouses, the alcohol evaporated quicker than the water, resulting in a lowering of proof. When I think barrel proof, I don’t think 86.8 proof, but clearly it’s possible.
Third, Masters Keep 17’s profile is defined largely by Stone Castle, which has become somewhat notorious for cool climates that don’t bring out the most of a bourbon: “The Old Crow rickhouses are on the south side of a steep valley that runs east to west. The WT rickhouses are on top a large bluff overlooking the KY River. OC is comparatively cooler, more humid, less windy and generally more climate-stable than WT, despite being just a few miles north.” The result is whiskey that ages more slowly and easily, with mature statements but light profiles.
Nose; Peaches; red licorice; vanilla; wet yellow pine; lemon pledge; faint black jelly bean; corny; cinnamon-sugar (3.5/5)
Palate: Thin body; cinnamon-sugar; butter; baking spice; earthy/dusty almost mushroom. Feels like it’s missing something. (3/5)
Finish: Short-medium; baking spice; white sugar; cocoa powder; buttered toffee that lingers; dusty. (3/5)
Overall: This Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17 Year lacks much evidence of its age – the component that seems to be missing throughout. The flavors are otherwise enjoyable, but it just seems to lack some of the punch you would expect at 17 years. The cool damp climate both favored and hindered this product. (3.5/5)
Value: This bottle retailed for around $135, but is still available locally in the $150 range. We wouldn’t beat ourselves up over a half-point off satisfactory, but we just wanted a bit more out of this one. (2.5/5)
“This Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17 Year lacks much evidence of its age – the component that seems to be missing throughout.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.