Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Campari Group
Distillery: Wild Turkey
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: NAS (Blend of 6-8 year old bourbons)
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Color: Yellow Gold
MSRP: $25 (2021)
Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon is Wild Turkey’s flagship brand. Wild Turkey is distilled at a very low proof and according to the company, helps embody all of the barrel flavors during aging. It comes out of the barrel at around 109 proof necessitating only slight dilution before being bottled at 101 proof. This process helps produce a final product that, although not barrel proof, is close to what came right out of the barrel. Wild Turkey uses char #4 on their barrels which helps create the company’s flavor profile and deep color. Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell is the longest-tenured active master distiller in the world with 60 years experience and has worked at WIld Turkey in total for more than 65 years.
A swirl of the glass reveals scents of vanilla, baking spices, and rye grain. Inhaling deeper admits scents of toasted oak, toffee, and a punch of ethanol that reminds you of the bourbon’s 101 proof. A faint layer of orange zest tops things off. It’s a zippy yet really pleasant way to open up the sip.
Immediately noticeable is a light corn oil presence which sets the stage for a nice mouthfeel. This is layered with a healthy dose of rye spice, baking spices, and sharp oak, along with a gentle layer of vanilla and toasted oak. While the palate isn’t overly complex, it provides a really good reminder that if you focus on the fundamentals, you can still provide a solid experience for the drinker.
A flash of rye spice jumps out front, and is joined by a combination of muted vanilla and oak. The sweetness of the vanilla quickly fades, leaving a spicy dry oak in its wake. The spice lingers and gently trails off. It provides for an all but average ending to an otherwise above average sip.
Wild Turkey is unique in the sense that they only have one bourbon mashbill. From there, the Russell’s individually hone the flavor profile of their other brands including Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, Wild Turkey Rare Breed, and their Russell’s Reserve line. This allows fans of the brands to find the expression that best works for their personal preference (and one that also works for their wallet).
The Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon expression is by far the most recognizable of the brands the company produces. However, the brand can hold negative connotations for many, whether it was due to a bad experience when they started drinking whiskey, the lower price point, or even the label design used. Thankfully, that last point was addressed with a refresh of the brand's label in 2021, which gives the bottle a more modern and upscale feel compared to the last time we reviewed Wild Turkey 101 in 2015.
Aesthetics aside, what has allowed Wild Turkey to stay relevant over all of these decades is its ability to deliver a consistently good pour year over year. It doesn’t do it through barrel finishing or exotic grains in its mashbill. Instead, the brand has stuck to tried and true methods that don’t deviate over time. It’s the foundation that the Russell’s laid and continue to honor year after year that allows the brand to maintain its relevance today.
There used to be a time when the $20-$30 price range was full of value bourbons. It was one where you could easily find age-stated and non-age stated bourbons that varied in proof. Sadly, those days are slowly becoming a bygone era as many shelf staples slowly creep up into $30-$40 price range, and new releases start there or even higher.
Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon is a throwback to the time when you didn’t need a ton of money to buy a good, dependable bourbon. Barely increasing in price, it can easily be found for around $25 at any given moment around the nation. This is the point that especially makes Wild Turkey 101 such a good value. It doesn’t matter where you live, it is almost always readily available at a price that won’t break the bank. That’s hard to come by nowadays, and Wild Turkey should be given kudos for providing this bourbon at a price that is accessible to all walks of life.
Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon’s ability to not deviate from the tried and true has allowed it to remain a consistent staple on the shelves of whiskey drinkers for years and years.
Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon is everything one would want out of a bourbon. It contains a tried and true sip that sticks to classic bourbon flavors, that is versatile and easily drunk neat or mixed into a cocktail. Not one to deviate from the norm, the Wild Turkey 101 brand, which was created in the 1940’s and enters its 8th decade, continues to deliver a reliable pour. It’s this simplistic and back to basics of the brand that affords it a spot in whiskey drinkers' hearts both young and old. Wild Turkey 101 isn’t the best bourbon available at any given moment, and it doesn't pretend to be either. Instead, it’s a staple that all bourbon lovers should have on hand, and offered at a price that allows everyone to do just that.