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Wild Turkey (Kentucky Straight Bourbon)

Review: Wild Turkey (Kentucky Straight Bourbon)  86/100
a review by Chip Dykstra
Published March 21, 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. The flag bearer for the brand, Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon has recently replaced Wild Turkey 81 across North America (I am told that two spirits are actually the same and when I tasted the two spirits side by side I was unable to find any significant difference between the two). The Wild Turkey bourbon spirit, rather than being bottled at the regular 40 % alcohol by volume is instead bottled at a slightly higher proof, 40.5% alcohol by volume or 81 proof.

Although the spirit carries no age statement, the Wild Turkey Website informs us that this Kentucky Straight Bourbon is blended from whiskeys aged from five to eight years (minimum 5 years) in what the company refers to as their ‘famous #4 alligator char‘ American Oak barrels. The website also lets us know that they believe the Wild Turkey Bourbon should be served over ice, or with a suitable mixer.

In the Bottle  4/5

Wild Turkey Bourbon arrives in a standard bar-room whisky bottle shown to the left. These bottles are meant to be easy to grab, easy to hold, and most importantly, easy to pour. The label with its iconic ‘Wild Turkey’ logo makes the whiskey easy to recognize on the barshelf, and which adds a certain ambiance. The bottle is sealed with a plastic topped cork closure which also adds a touch of ambiance.

The bottle and the label seem to suit the unpretentious nature of the Wild Turkey spirit.

In the Glass  8.5/10

In the glass, the Wild Turkey Bourbon shows us a hue which has just started to turn that corner from a golden straw colour towards a darker amber. When I tilt my glass and give it a slow twirl I see some of the whiskey falling back quickly into the bottom of the glass along thickened legs, and I also see some more stubborn leglets which form thick droplets which crawl more slowly back down.

The initial breezes above the glass bring forward a sweetened butterscotch note wrapped in oak and cedar spice. Scents of vanilla and honeycomb come forward mingling in the air with the fine wood spices creating an impression of light toffee. The spices grow in intensity and begin to throw off dry rye-like scents of ginger. There is also a dry graininess which reminds me of ripened grain fields. I like the rye-forward nose. It is assertive and seems to promise all the goodness of spicy rye tempered by just the right amount of butterscotch and corn sweetness.

In the Glass 52/60

The Wild Turkey Bourbon crosses the palate with a swat of spicy oak and bitter rye. There is a touch of butterscotch sweetness; but not nearly as much as what the nose promised. Although the whiskey is rye-forward, I also taste a strong presence of corn meandering alongside. The corn is not aggressive, however its presence is firm. Underneath I taste some hay-like grassiness, hints of poplar sap, and bits of dry tobacco.

My impression at this point is that the whiskey will indeed fulfills the promise of the company website. It is a most satisfactory, and it also serves well as a satisfying (although somewhat dry and spicy) sipper.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The exit is crisp and spicy featuring sap-like flavours settling into the lightly sweet butterscotch. This leaves little trails of baking spice (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) glowing upon the palate and in the back of the throat. It’s quite nice, although I suspect the spiciness will be too strong for some as builds in intensity from sip to sip. That same spiciness however bodes well for cocktails.

The Afterburn 9/10

I am a huge fan of Canadian Rye Whisky, and so it should come as no surprise to anyone that I have found a lot to like in the rye-forward Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Although rye (and the wood spice) is dominant, there is a firm corn presence as well. I believe this corn presence has softened the whiskey just enough to make it approachable. I found I liked to sip the bourbon especially on cool nights; however it also fulfills the promise of the producer serving extremely well as a mixer in both short and tall cocktails.

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


Suggested Cocktails

Here is a two refreshing mixed drinks suitable for summer evenings with friends and family.

Honeylemon Ginger Julep SAM_1707Honeylemon Ginger Julep

2 oz Wild Turkey Bourbon
1 oz Wild Turkey Honey
1 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Splash of Ginger-ale

Muddle 2 sprigs of mint with the sugar syrup in the bottom of a shaker
Add Wild Turkey, Wild Turkey Honey and lemon Juice
Shake over ice until the outside of the cocktail shaker begins to frost
Double strain into a tall glass filled with ice
Complete with a splash of ginger-ale and stir
Garnish with another sprig of mint

Enjoy Responsibly!



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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