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Every year more and more people ask me, “Which Wild Turkey bourbon should I buy for Thanksgiving?” Obvious cliches aside, Thanksgiving is a time to come together, and bourbon is best shared in the company of friends and family. There are so many options and we are creatures of tradition and habit after all, so why not go with Wild Turkey?

In fact, I’ll tell you why you should.

Despite the obvious cliche and overused reference to the bird this time of year, Wild Turkey bourbon is rooted in family, and it’s hard to go wrong with any of the bourbons the company makes considering both quality and value.

Wild Turkey’s two generation Master Distiller team started in 1954 when Jimmy Russell, following in the footsteps of his father, began working at Wild Turkey. His first job was sweeping floors, but by the 1960s he worked his way up to Master Distiller, the highest position within a distillery’s operations. Still at it, he is now the longest tenured active Master Distiller in the global spirits industry.

In 1981 Jimmy’s son, Eddie Russell, joined the family business as what is described as the “lowest rung of the ladder” at Wild Turkey Distillery. 35 years later, in 2015, Eddie earned the same title as his father, Master Distiller. 2021 marked 67 years at Wild Turkey for Jimmy, and 40 for Eddie, a combined tenure of 107 years!

But it doesn’t stop there. Eddie’s son, Bruce Russell, began working at Wild Turkey giving tours and as a summer job and is now the national brand ambassador. Will he eventually work his way up to Master Distiller? Only time will tell.


Originally crafted by Eddie Russell and called “Wild Turkey 81” (hint: there was a large “81” on the old bottle), what’s now just known as “Wild Turkey Bourbon” is the brand’s entry level option. It’s just one proofpoint above the legal minimum of 80 proof required to be labelled bourbon, and as a result it’s a light, almost too easy sipper. It will do well for those looking to make bourbon cocktails that don’t have an overpowering bourbon flavor, but still offers a bit more structure than many of its 80ish proof peers with that good ‘ol Wild Turkey oomph. Because it’s the brand’s value play, take note of the bottle size as you’ll often see these sold in 1L bottles for just a tad more than the standard 750mL bottle size. Thankfully, you won’t have to move it to the fridge almost a week before Thanksgiving in order to “thaw out” like your 24 pound bird.


QUICK STATS

Classification:
Straight Bourbon

Proof:
81

Age:
NAS (At least 4 years old)

MSRP:
$20

Availability:
Widely available, easy to find

Wild Turkey’s flagship brand, 101 Bourbon is certainly the most versatile Wild Turkey option, and arguably one of the most versatile bourbons out of every bourbon imaginable. At 101 proof (did the name give it away?) and aged for up to 6 to 8 years, Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon offers satisfying levels of intensity and flavor. It has enough complexity to sip neat, with aromas of toasted oak and toffee, followed by a layered palate that includes a healthy dose of rye spice along with baking spice, toasted oak, and sweet vanilla, and finally finishes with a sweet turned spicy mix. Given its potency and overall structure, it holds up really well in bourbon cocktails as well. The best part, it’s only about $25 and just about every liquor store carries it, so you won’t have to look too hard to find a bottle or feel guilty if your crazy uncle drains the bottle on his third pour.

Put simply, if you’re really not sure which Wild Turkey bourbon to get and you are only getting one, get this one.


QUICK STATS

Classification:
Straight Bourbon

Proof:
101

Age:
NAS (Blend includes bourbon up to 6 to 8 years old)

MSRP:
$25

Availability:
Widely available, easy to find

Read our
In-Depth Review for more.

Alright, Alright, Alright. What do Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey have in common? More than you might think. In 2016 McConaughey officially joined the Wild Turkey family - not just a marketing face for the brand, but because of his personal interest in bourbon and enthusiasm for the brand and the Russell family, he became Wild Turkey’s Creative Director. This collaboration seemed like a head scratcher at first, but even the most critical enthusiasts eventually got behind it...us included. You can watch the first Wild Turkey short film featuring McConaughey, and decide for yourself.

In 2018, this collaboration reached a new level with the introduction of Longbranch, a collaboration between Eddie Russell and Matthew McConaughey that was “inspired by McConaughey's Kentucky and Texas roots” and “refined with Texas Mesquite and oak charcoals” intended to deepen the flavor and complexity of the bourbon. At 86 proof it’s an easy sipper for those who might not be ready for anything higher, but still offers a satisfying level of flavor and complexity despite this modest proofpoint. It’s certainly not a value play at around $40, and combined with its proof, means it’s not the best choice for cocktails. But it does offer a fun talking point to quickly interject if anyone starts pushing politics at the dinner table...which might be worth all of that and then some. After all, no one wants Thanksgiving dinner to adjourn with fisticuffs in the driveway.


QUICK STATS

Classification:
Straight Bourbon

Proof:
86

Age:
NAS (Around 8 years old)

MSRP:
$40

Availability:
Widely available, but might require some searching

Read our
In-Depth Review for more.

It’s bigger...it’s bolder...it’s Wild Turkey’s barrel proof bourbon! Already known for offering bourbons with “bold” flavor profiles, Wild Turkey ups the ante when they leave something out the mix...water! In most cases water is added to the bourbon after it’s dumped from barrels, bringing the proof down to the brand’s required proof as stated on the bottle. However, in the case of barrel proof bourbons, which can also be referred to as barrel strength or cask strength, water is not added. This typically results in a different proof for each bottling, as the proof is the sum total of the barrels that make up the batch, all blended together resulting in a final proof representative of that specific batch of barrels.

Wild Turkey’s barrel entry proof (the proof the distillate enters the barrel for aging) is relatively low at 107 to 115, up from 105 at one time, resulting in a low bottling proof by comparison to competitors’ barrel proof products which typically go in at the maximum allowable 125 proof. Proof can go up or down during aging, however batches of Rare Breed tend to land around 115 proof, give or take. Since its original release in 1991 (Rare Breed turned 30 this year!), there have been over 11 batches released. The latest batch comes in at 116.8 proof, and won’t be for the faint-of-heart.


QUICK STATS

Classification:
Straight Bourbon

Proof:
Barrel Proof (Varies by batch, typically around 115 proof)

Age:
NAS (Said to be a blend of 6, 8, and 12 year old barrels)

MSRP:
$50

Availability:
Widely available, but might require some searching

Read our
In-Depth Review for more.

Are you looking for a bourbon that offers unique traits unlike any other? Kentucky Spirit might fit that bill. It's Wild Turkey’s core single barrel bourbon, which means that unless you get multiple bottles from the same barrel, no two bottles of Kentucky Spirit will ever taste the same.

Wondering what a “single barrel” is exactly? Most bourbons are batched, and no matter what the size of the batch, the concept is the same - batches are at least two barrels but could be hundreds of barrels blended together to create the final product you see on store shelves. This homogeneous mixture will marry the flavor characteristics of every barrel dumped into the batch, often with the goal of consistently falling within a specific flavor band that represents a particular product’s established profile. In the case of single barrels this flavor band still exists, but it’s generally more dynamic as barrels aren’t blended together before bottling. Instead, each individual barrel is selected and then bottled on its own, the barrel variation ultimately results in unique flavor differences from bottle to bottle.

In Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit’s case, you get a bourbon that’s the same proof, but arguably more special than their standard Wild Turkey 101. At more than double the price of 101, Kentucky Spirit is a splurge and as a result is best reserved for sipping - neat if you can handle it - in order to savor the unique nuances of that one special barrel that was selected specifically for its own unique taste.


QUICK STATS

Classification:
Straight Bourbon

Proof:
101

Age:
NAS (Typically around 8 years old, exact age will vary by barrel)

MSRP:
$55

Availability:
Widely available, but might require some searching

Read our
In-Depth Review for more.

Remember the people behind Wild Turkey bourbon mentioned above? In the year 2000, computers did not break the planet as Conan O’Brien’s late night comedy sketch continually reminded us they might. Instead, Wild Turkey introduced a new bourbon in honor of Jimmy Russell’s 45th anniversary with the company, called Russell’s Reserve. Aside from different branding, the Russell’s Reserve lineup is every bit Wild Turkey, except for the fact that you won’t find a bird on the packaging.

Wild Turkey isn’t known for ultra high aged bourbons, and in fact none of the standard Wild Turkey branded bourbons even have an age statement on the bottle. Enter Russell’s Reserve 10 Year. Aged for a minimum of 10 years, and a direct competitor to the popular Eagle Rare 10 Year, Russell’s Reserve 10 Year doesn’t disappoint. It’s widely available, and unlike Eagle Rare it’s relatively easy to find. At 90 proof it should appeal to just about everyone who doesn’t hate bourbon, offering a solid amount of flavor, but not so much that it will knock anyone’s pants off. Typically under $40, it’s a great value for the price point and easy recommendation for anyone who doesn’t have a bottle on hand already.


QUICK STATS

Classification: Straight Bourbon

Proof: 90

Age: 10 Years

MSRP: $38

Availability: Widely available

Read our
In-Depth Review for more.

If you’re ready to take your turkey day bourbon experience to the next level, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is the bottle for you. It’s the most expensive, and it’s near the top of the proof range in the combined Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve standard lineups. Being a single barrel bourbon like Kentucky Spirit but adding intensity to it with 9 more proof points, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel does a better job highlighting the unique flavor differences from barrel to barrel. At about $5 per 2 oz pour, it’s a bourbon that begs to be appreciated with each sip, so if you do grab a bottle, you’ll definitely want to hide it from your crazy uncle.


QUICK STATS

Classification:
Straight Bourbon

Proof:
110

Age:
NAS (Typically 8-10 years old, exact age will vary by barrel)

MSRP:
$60

Availability:
Widely available, but increasingly hard to find

Read our
In-Depth Review for more.

Are you or your company on the fringe of bourbon? Maybe you’re curious but have never sipped bourbon neat or just aren’t sure if you’ll like the flavor (but do like sweet flavored drinks)? Or maybe you just want to make sweet honey-infused bourbon cocktails. Wild Turkey American Honey might fit the bill. First introduced in the 1970s (it’s probably older than many of you reading this), it’s created by blending bourbon with pure honey, which automatically disqualifies it from being labelled “bourbon” (read more about labelling controversy). It offers a classic bourbon flavor combined with the sweet taste of pure honey, which is sure to satisfy anyone with a bourbon-sweet-tooth.


QUICK STATS

Classification:
Liqueur (Blended with pure honey and bourbon)

Proof:
71

Age:
NAS (The base bourbon is 4 years old)

MSRP:
$22

Availability:
Widely available, easy to find

Written By: Nick

November 23, 2021
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