A week or so ago a bunch of whiskey loving friends and I started chatting about doing a Wild Turkey tasting. After looking through what everyone had bunkered and willing to share we realized that not only could we do a Wild Turkey tasting, but we could do a focused Wild Turkey 101 tasting that began with the 1976 decanter and covered various expressions from through current WT 101.
We did it as a semi-blind tasting (like we do at Malt Nuts) since we all knew what the theme was. We had 2 different people number the bottles using overlapping stickers so that no one would know which whiskey was which until the tasting was over. Below are the tasting notes of all these lovely Turkeys in the order we tasted them in. Voting results are at the bottom so you can see how it all shook out. Hope you enjoy!
2009 Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit ABV: 50.5% Single Barrel
- Nose: Caramel, spice, toasted pastry, vanilla, anise, flat root beer and rubbing alcohol.
- Palate: Caramel, cherry, spice, caramel, vanilla, herbaly green spice and dill.
- Finish: Long. Spice, wood, cherry, char.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) Warm and spice driven with big notes of caramel. Not overly interesting with some acrid notes, like the rubbing alcohol, that come off sharply.
Wild Turkey 101 8 Year – Export
- Nose: Caramel, vanilla, dirty spice, beef jerky and a dark funk. All light and flighty; the antithesis of robust.
- Palate: Watery caramel, dirty spice, dark fruit and mineral water with strong notes of bitter sour fruit.
- Finish: Caramel, mint, wood and bitterness.
- Overall: C (73-76) The nose is light, the palate is watery and there is a pervasive bitterness that haunts the palate and finish. No bueno.
Wild Turkey 101 Gold Foil
- Nose: What the what? This thing is incredible! Deep rich caramel, bold complex spice, rich dark fruit, vanilla, butterscotch and a warm heavy oak.
- Palate: Again… amazing. Rich bold notes of caramel, spice, dark fruit, wood, vanilla bean, toasted nuts and the full range of dark sweets.
- Finish: Long and woody with bold notes of dark sweets, dark fruit, spice and mint.
- Overall: A (93-96) Holy nuggets this is good. This is without a doubt the best Wild Turkey I have ever had. This stuff is utterly incredible!
Russell’s Reserve 10
- Nose: Sweet and woody with notes of dark fruit, dark sweets, vanilla, caramel, spice, toffee and dust.
- Palate: Woody and sweet like the nose with notes of spice, vanilla, dark fruit and a toasted grain note.
- Finish: Long and darkly sweet with notes of wood and vanilla.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Oh man this is good. It’s rich and warm spice. It’s everything you want in a Wild Turkey.
Current Wild Turkey 101
- Nose: A nice bouquet of complex fruit paired with notes of spice, caramel, vanilla, grain and a dusty woodiness.
- Palate: Dark fruit, complex rich spice, caramel, wood, fruit gummies and vanilla.
- Finish: Long and woody with notes of fruit, sugar, maple and caramel.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) This was the shocker of the night because everyone was thinking the current WT 101 would fall down to the very bottom when compared to these legendary 101s, but it ended up tying for 3rd and showed very highly compared to everything else. The rounds of WHAT?!? when it was revealed was priceless. This is why I love blind tastings.
2003 Kentucky Spirit
ABV: 50.5% Single Barrel
- Nose: Caramel and other dark sweets, strong oak, grains, vanilla and spice with a lighter notes of hazelnuts and maple.
- Palate: Caramel, root beer, spice, vanilla, baklava, toasted pasty
- Finish: Toasted grain, wood and spice. Long.
- Overall: B+ (87-89)
Old 8 year Wild Turkey 101 (circa ’95)
- Nose: caramel, citrus, vanilla, mild spice, corn, wood, dark sweets.
- Palate: Caramel, vanilla, spice, corn, pepper, dry-erase marker, cocoa, pepper, peppermint, light wood.
- Finish: Wood, caramel, mint, anise.
- Overall: B (83-86) Sounds like a crazy complex whiskey, but some of the notes were a bit off and created awkward moments on the nose and on the palate. Still pretty good though.
Wild Turkey 101 ’76 Decanter
- Nose: Caramel, spice, wood, paint, vanilla, wood and fruit.
- Palate: Caramel, spice, wood, paint, vanilla, wood, corn and citrus.
- Finish: Wood, dark sweets, dark fruit, medium.
- Overall: B- (80-82) Huh… I was expecting more out of this one. Kind of a let down really, but about 1/3 of the group really enjoyed it.
Wild Turkey 8 year 101 (80’s)
- Nose: Brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, wood, dark fruit, toffee and brittle.
- Palate: Caramel corn, wood, caramel toffee, vanilla, toast, nuts, maple.
- Finish: Maple, butterscotch, dark fruit, caramel.
- Overall: B (83-86) Good but not amazing. The fact that only 1 person placed either of the old 8 year WT 101s in their top 3 was surprising.
Wild Turkey 101 – Old Label (Foil top)
- Nose: light watery caramel, vanilla, citrus, spice, dark fruit, corn, old wood, light and a touch bitter.
- Palate: wood, caramel, citrus, caramel, spice, old dusty wood and corn. Light all around with some bitterness creeping in towards the end.
- Finish: Oddly fruity, with spice, vanilla and watery caramel.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) Blergh. Another surprise that this was unanimously the second worst of the night.
Split Label Wild Turkey 101
ABV: 50.5% Single Barrel
- Nose: Thick caramel, rich complex spice, maple , vanilla, rye spice, wood and dark fruit.
- Palate: Caramel, spice, maple, vanilla, wood, red berry fruit leather -> dried fruit, buttery delicious character.
- Finish: Long darkly sweet and woody with notes of spice and vanilla.
- Overall: A- (90-92) Yum this thing was good. So awesome and tasty it was my 2nd favorite of the night and it was also about 1/3 of the group’s 2nd favorite and 1/4 of the group’s 3rd favorite.
I’ve been to dozens and dozens of tastings in my life and I have never… EVER been to one where the entire room was unanimous on the best whiskey of the night, let alone unanimous on both the best and the worst. Here’s the breakout for the evening.
Wild Turkey 101 Whiskey Tasting Break Out
#1 Gold Foil
#2 ’76 Decanter & Split Label
#3 Russell 10, Current 101, 2003 KS, Split Label
#4-9 Varied results
#10 WT 101 Old Label (foil top)
#11 WT 8 Export
Just goes to show you can complain and say the new stuff is horrific next to the old, but until you try it you never know. The People who didn’t put the current as their 3rd choice almost all put it as their 4th and 5th choice which ranked it higher than stuff that is currently thought of as better just because it’s older. Though of course nothing even came close to the cheesy Gold Foil and that whiskey my friends is a truly legendary whiskey.
Tastings like this are always fun and if you’re reading this I encourage you to have them on your own. Get buddies together, raid each other’s collections and create your own vertical and taste them blind. You never know what’s going to happen and what new appreciation you might get for whiskeys you’ve had on your shelf all this time.
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