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Whisky Reviews

Wild Turkey 12 Years Old Bourbon, 2022 Edition, 50.5% ABV

Wild Turkey must have felt that it needed a bigger stick to play with the boys in the international market for whisky.


Built in the mid-19th century, Wild Turkey is a staple in the American whiskey industry. Its roots stretch back the Irish immigrant founders, the Ripy brothers, who laid the foundation for a legacy and built the distillery on Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky which lent the brand its iconic name.

The distillery weathered the storms of Prohibition and economic adversities, and is today renowned for its high-quality bourbon – a reputation fostered by the stewardship of the Russell family of distillers. The father-and-son Russell duo are affectionately known as the “Bourbon Buddhas,” and are revered figures in the industry and emblematic of the bourbon tradition in America, where expertise are passed down through generations.

The elder Jimmy Russell began working at the distillery in 1954, while is son Eddie joined in his footsteps. Both became master distillers at Wild Turkey.


Jimmy (left) and Eddie (right) are widely considered Bourbon Buddhas in American whiskymaking. (Image Source: Wild Turkey)


| Check out our earlier review of Wile Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof for a more comprehensive discussion about Wild Turkey.

The Wild Turkey 12 Years Old we’re reviewing here may look ordinary, but isn’t a typical iteration of the brand's portfolio. This is a more mature counterpart to the flagship Wild Turkey 101 Proof that is typically aged around 6 years – both bottlings have the exact same mashbill and proof. The 12 Years Old expression was first introduced in the 1980s but discontinued in 2012. It was then reintroduced in 2022. Interestingly, this bottling is difficult to find in the States and Americans have to source it from Japan or other Asian markets where this product is positioned.



This strategic focus on the Asian market is part of a broader trend where American whiskey is expanding its horizons beyond the domestic market. Those well-familiar with American whiskey would note that the American whiskey market traditionally places much less emphasis on age, focusing more on the quality of maturation and flavour profile. After all, the soaring temperatures in a Kentuckian warehouse and the use of virgin oak barrels means whiskies typically acquire flavour much, much faster than a single malt that is matured in the temperate regions of Scotland or even in Japan. To the Americans, age truly is just a number.

Yet this Wild Turkey 12 YO bears an age statement. So I suspect this expression is a clear nod to the purchasing habits of the Asian drinker who is likely more familiar with single malts with much larger age statements. 12-year-old Scotch whiskies are quite common finds, and Scotch makers rarely even bother labelling a 6-year-old single malt. Wild Turkey must have felt that it needed a bigger stick to play with the boys in the international markets.

The Wild Turkey 12 Years Old uses the standard distillery mashbill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley, then aged for a minimum of 12 years in virgin American oak. Let’s give this a taste.

Wild Turkey 12 Years Old Bourbon, 2022 Edition, 50.5% ABV – Review


Nose: Rich and sticky with sweet, syrup-like qualities. Opens with a mixture of burnt sugar and generously spread cherry jam on charred toast. Sweet peeled tangerines accompanied by a robust oaky character and a slightly mustiness akin to old wooden drawers. There’re also some notes of crushed peanuts and orange marmalade, rounding off with a subtle root beer influence sneaking in.

Palate: Follows the nose pretty closely and really distinct in flavour. Opens with an indistinct note of cherries, strawberry jam and oranges, which develops into caramel, all smooth and sweet, with a sidekick of cinnamon, adding some gentle warmth with no harsh spiciness here. There’s also the hint of cigar boxes and the aroma of hazelnuts.

Finish: Moderate in duration, it gracefully winds down with a lingering sweetness of honey, accompanied by notes of burnt caramel, dry oak, some musty wood character and peanuts, complete with their skins.


My Thoughts:

What a shame that those based in the US can’t have this easily! This has many of the same chords as the standard Wild Turkey 101 in terms of flavour profile, but it brings an enhanced richness and oakiness to the table.

It offers a rich and flavourful experience and is also deceptively approachable despite its fairly high ABV. It’s remarkably smooth and easy to drink with just a gentle warmth and none of that astringency associated with higher proof bourbon. It's a fantastic expression of Wild Turkey, and I appreciate the opportunity to taste this rarity outside of the United States.

My Rating: 7/10

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.