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Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit

Review: Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit  87.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra
Published May 02, 2018

Wild Turkey produces their bourbon from a mash bill which includes three grains: corn, barley, and rye. This mash bill is said to have a relatively high proportion of rye which gives the whiskey brand its signature spicy kick.

Their Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is bottled at 50.5 % alcohol by volume (101 proof). It is a single barrel whisky with each barrel was chosen by Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell. Although the spirit carries no age statement, the Wild Turkey Website informs us that all of their Bourbon is blended from whiskeys aged a minimum of five years in what the company refers to as their ‘famous #4 alligator char‘ American Oak barrels.

In The Bottle 3.5/5

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit arrives in the oval bottle shown to the left. The bottle has a wide base for stability and a wood topped cork stopper which seals it. The shoulders of the bottle are ribbed which adds a bit of a visual effect; but if I am honest, my feeling towards the bottle is somewhat mixed. I like a bottle that dares to be different and one which stands out from the crowd. But in this case the bottle reminds me more than just a little of a perfume bottle rather than a whiskey bottle. It also looks smaller than it should. I had to check to make sure it was a 750 ml bottle and not a 700 ml.

The label is quite a simple affair, and to be honest, when I received my sample bottles of Wild Turkey 101 and Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, I assumed the Kentucky Spirit was an economy offering rather than the spirit which sits at the top of the Wild Turkey ladder. I didn’t really notice the higher bottling proof as this information was unexpected placed on the neck of the bottle where I had a hard time finding and reading it. On top of that, the fact that this is a single barrel offering is hidden at the bottom of the bottle in gold letters where it as well is hard to read. This bottle, in a retail setting, would be very easy to overlook.

In the Glass 9/10

In the glass, the Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit shows us a hue which has just started to turn that corner from a rich copper towards a darker bronze. When I tilt my glass and give it a slow twirl I see thickened droplets forming at the crest which coalesces into fat legs which crawl more slowly back down. The initial aroma is rich with a combination of corn, butterscotch, oak, and vanilla whetting my appetite. Some maple and cedar notes develop as do some very nice baking spices (more vanilla, some cinnamon accents and a touch of ginger). I begin to notice some rye notes in the glass probably associated with that hint of ginger within the baking spice. Honey comb and tobacco can easily be imagined in the breezes as well as some almond accents and dollops of marmalade and apricot jam.

It is a pity that the bottle was so disappointing, else I might have sampled this much sooner.

In the Mouth 53/60

The alcohol heat from the 101 proof whisky certainly swats the mouth and the tonsils. This intense feeling is reinforced by firm wood spices and woody sap. The whiskey is going to be polarizing, as I know there many peerons who love to taste this much oak and cedar; however, I am finding that the impact of what tastes like fresh wood chips in my mouth (and fresh wood sap) puts me on the fence with respect to the dram’s sipping potential.

I should point out that there are also some nice butterscotch and maple flavours, hints of orange marmalade, lots of vanilla and hints of cinnamon and ginger. The rye grain within the mash peeks its head out as well. But it is the oak which speaks the loudest. Fortunately there is a little herbal menthol which helps me with both the mildly bitter oak and the alcohol heat.

The obvious cocktail for myself is an Old Fashioned as the addition of a touch sugar syrup will certainly help with the flavour balance, and the ice will help with the firm heat and spice which is beginning to overwhelm me. I have been experimenting with different bitters lately (my wife gave me a few varieties this past Christmas), and so I mixed the old fashioned serving with a dash of Aztec Chocolate Bitters as well as a dash of Orange Bitters. I liked the mixed drink so much I have included it as one of my suggested recipes below. I was emboldened to experiment some more, and constructed a new sour cocktail using the same bitters combination. Again things worked out great (again my recipe is shown below). The Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit may just a little too intense for me straight; but once I mixed those cocktails I was sold.

In the Throat 13/15

The whisky has a long finish filled with spicy oak and alcohol heat. When I add ice to the dram to soothe the heat, bittersweet chocolate and tea-like flavours appear in the exit. A touch more sweetness from the charred barrels would put this over the top.

The Afterburn 9/10

As indicated previously, I think that the Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit will be a polarizing whiskey. (The rather uninspired (and confusing) bottle presentation does not help matters.) The whisky genuflects at the altar of oak spice and fresh wood which makes the dram a little difficult to sip unless you are accustomed to this style of woody bitterness. For those who prefer less oak and spice, redemption is found in the classic Old-Fashioned Cocktail which is elevated by Wild Spirit.

My score is 87.5/100 which recognizes the outstanding cocktail potential and the fact that there are many who will relish the overt woodiness of the dram even if I don not share their enthusiasm.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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Suggested Cocktails

Old Fashioned Spirit

1 1/2 oz Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
3/4 tsp Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 dash Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters
Ice
1 twist of Orange Peel

Add the three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

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Infinity Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Bols Triple Sec
1/4 oz Sugar Syrup
Ice cubes
Lemon Peel coil

Add the ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a Lemon coil

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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