Whisky Advocate

Update on Wild Turkey

January 30th, 2008

I just had a great lunch in New York with Andy Nash, the global brand director for Wild Turkey whiskey. (He hasn’t been put in charge of the rest of the galaxy yet, but give him a few more years…)

Anyway, among other things, we discussed the current Wild Turkey portfolio and any impending changes. The most important thing to pass on to you is that the newest release, Wild Turkey American Spirit 15 year old (which I rated a 94 in the current issue of Malt Advocate magazine) is flying off the shelves. It is a one-time offering (suggested retail about $90) and he informed me that once the existing inventory is depleted, that’s all there is.

I love this whiskey for the way that it expresses all the positive characteristics of an older bourbon (depth, complexity, etc.) without carrying all the baggage of too much oak.  Do yourself a favor. Go out and get a bottle before they’re all gone.

The new Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve Rye 6 year old is a bit of a different story (score: 88, price $25). According to Andy, it’s not a one-time release, but you can expect it to always be in limited quantities and fairly difficult to find. It’s mellower, more rounded, lower in alcohol, and more approachable than the standard WT Rye, and a great way to ease into the rye category.

I asked Andy about the possibility of an older WT rye, say 15 or 18 years old. I would love to taste an older expression of WT rye. Well, if they’ve got some rye in their WT deck of cards, he wasn’t willing to show his hand.

My gut feeling is that Wild Turkey, like most other American whiskey distillers, got caught off guard with the all this new interest in rye whiskey and they just don’t have a whole lot of older stocks. I hope they prove me wrong. (This is something to ask Jimmy Russell, Wild Turkey Master Distiller, when I see him at WhiskyFest Chicago in early April.)

I must admit that I was saddened when they took Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve and lowered the alcohol level to appeal to more of the masses. However, they more than make up for it with all the exciting new releases they keep sharing with us. Keep ’em coming, guys.

6 Responses to “Update on Wild Turkey”

  1. Sam Komlenic says:

    Thanks for keeping Wild Turkey front and center, John. They do great work, and their standard expression rye is my favorite bottle right now. In fact, I just concocted my first batch of homemade rock and rye with it, and the results couldn’t have turned out better! An older expression would be fabulous.

    As it turns out, we may lucky that the rye renaissance kicked in when it did. I fear that only a couple of years added to the drought could have ended the existence of this important American spirit. I can’t wait until someone builds a distillery in Pennsylvania and returns rye to its rightful birthplace!

    On that note, the PLCB has discontinued Old Overholt, just three years shy of its 200th anniversary. Do you know if Beam has discontinued the brand? I can’t imagine it sells better in most other places than it does in PA, so what happened?

  2. John Hansell says:

    Sam, I checked with Beam. Old Overholt is not being discontinued. Whiskeys seem to come and go with the PLCB, so I’m not going to even take a guess as to why they discontinued it. Sound like you need to take a road trip.

  3. Louis says:


    Maybe you could also onvince the bourbon industry to get rid of the chill filtering, at least for the premium lines. My current bottle of Russel’s Reserve is definitely missing something.


  4. John Hansell says:

    Louis, is this your first bottle since they lowered the proof? I felt that it ripped the heart out of Russell’s Reserve. You can still find an occassional dusty bottle of WT RR 101 proof on an “off the beaten path” retailer’s shelve. If you do find one, buy it. –John

  5. jim says:

    Yeah, I still like the Russell’s Reserver, but I’m damn glad I stocked a few bottles of the 101 version, one of the best whiskies EVER 🙂
    Thanks for bringing that up

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