Classification: Straight Bourbon Finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks
Company: Campari Group
Distillery: Wild Turkey
Released: June 2018
Age: NAS (Contains bourbon between 12-15 years)
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
MSRP: $150 (2018)
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival is the third release in the Master’s Keep series, after the 17 year old original and Decades, which paid tribute to Eddie Russell’s 35th Anniversary at Wild Turkey.
Revival in turn is a tribute to Jimmy Russell’s 64 years at Wild Turkey and is a nod to his limited-release Wild Turkey Sherry Signature in early 2000. Revival, like Sherry Signature, is a bourbon finished in an Oloroso sherry casks. Unlike many sherry cask finished whiskeys that generally use barrels that held sherry for single digit years, the ones Eddie sourced, much like his father did, held sherry for 20 years. According to the press release, Eddie went to great lengths to procure the barrels in Jerez, Spain, as the majority of the barrels he came across only held sherry for three to four years. After much determination, Eddie secured a few hundred barrels. Further, both Decades and Revival are meant to celebrate the father and son team’s 101 years of combined experience in the bourbon industry. A total of 1,600 cases of Revival were produced.
The classic backbone of Wild Turkey aromas are present, consisting of sweet mixed fruit, toffee, and caramel. This year’s Master’s Keep also packs an additional punch of cherry, oak, and a hard-to-ignore sherry influence that billows out of the glass. It’s a gentle mixture that nicely blends bourbon and sherry scents to satisfying results.
A creamy mouthfeel presents a balanced joining of cherry, grape, vanilla, and oak. It’s sweet without tasting overly sweet and fruity without tasting overly fruity. The sherry influence is nicely presented as it gently adds dimension to the bourbon without overpowering it.
A bit harsh with a strong oak and spicy front that lingers. Apricot, vanilla, and grape round it out which is more dry than sweet, and more adequate than satisfying. It’s not a full-on miss, as it adds some weight to the flavor profile, but hard to celebrate either.
Despite being a company steeped in tradition, Wild Turkey has never been a company to shy away from trying new things. They were quick to do a single barrel and barrel proof when those became a thing to do. They have a flavored whiskey with Wild Turkey Honey. They harnessed a gimmicky story with Forgiven, export-only releases with a Wild Turkey 13 Year Bourbon, and somehow come up with a new way to sell a limited edition bourbon every year. Surprisingly, barrel finished bourbon is not something the company has dabbled much with on the consumer level. This might be why when I heard they were doing a barrel finished bourbon it seemed so strange to me.
Sherry finishing isn’t a terribly common way to finish whiskey, but Wild Turkey certainly isn’t the first to do it. Minor Case, Belle Meade, Westland, Barrell Craft Spirits, Hillrock, and Wyoming Whiskey have all taken a shot at it. What is unique, is one of Kentucky’s majors doing it, but truthfully does that even matter anymore? The main thing that makes Revival stand out, is that it contains 12-15 year old bourbon and is something the aforementioned whiskeys can’t claim. The result is a bourbon that has more complexity and overall maturity in its composition. Its age, both in the bourbon stock and Oloroso casks, makes a noticeable difference on the outcome and a better and more unique product because of it.
Barrel finished whiskeys usually command an increased price due to sourcing the used barrels, extra handling, and time aging. That part is easy to understand, but adding an additional premium on top of an already premium priced product is harder. As much as I enjoy the occasional barrel finished whiskey, I generally don’t purchase many and have a hard time wrapping my head around a $150 one. For all of the great things Revival has going for it, any barrel finished bourbon for that matter has a hard time commanding this price. It might be nothing new for a scotch drinkers, but bourbon drinkers still haven’t quite come around to high-priced barrel finished bourbons. Simply put, yes it's well-made, but it’s overall gentleness will make it hard to justify its high price. Wild Turkey is heading in the right direction, but they might be a little bit too far ahead with their price.
Wild Turkey’s fruit-forward flavor profile and higher aged bourbon stock, mixed with a gentle barrel finish, results in a bourbon with balance and complexity.
The first few times I tasted Revival I wasn’t blown away. There isn’t anything that immediately stands out at first sip. It’s not as overly sweet or heavily influenced by the sherry finish as one might expect. While some of the flavors have moments of boldness in the finish, the barrel influence itself is surprisingly gentle. The result is a bourbon that is nicely constructed and gets better the more time you spend with it. That tends to be the case with Wild Turkey limited releases: the devil is in their details. For someone looking for a gut-punch of flavor, this isn’t it. For the rest, there is a lot to appreciate for those willing to spend the time, effort, and money to do so.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of the Wild Turkey. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.