Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof
Wild Turkey is one of those names you see alot in whisky stores but somehow you never really do think to reach out and grab a bottle or somehow you just never get around to trying a dram of it - and yet it remains one of the stalwarts of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail - an OG as you would call it.
I suppose it's because the brand, which makes its own Bourbons rather than sourcing it from elsewhere, has sought to focus more on Bourbon-making rather than marketing. Well, they tried enlisting the help of actor Matthew McConaughey in giving it alittle bit more of an edge, which definitely hasn't translated in Asia.
To their credit, the distillery has gradually made efforts to become more salient to a newer generation of whisky drinkers, rather than couch their reputation with the previous generation or doing that whole "let the whisky speak for itself" thing, but as they say old habits die hard.
Matthew McConaughey is probably the only celebrity who sought to make themselves a part of a whisky's marketing team rather than just being an ambassador, even collaborating on an expression, Longbranch. (Image Source: Wild Turkey)
I think it might just come down to the name itself "Turkey", which is not native to Asia, and so certainly doesn't resonate with the masses, and the evoking of some sort of poultry - which is loved for being affordable, mass, run-of-the-mill protein - doesn't exactly convey "quality" when it comes to whisky.
And certainly that's to the loss for whisky drinkers in Asia as Wild Turkey in the US is known for putting out really high quality Bourbon, having a long storied history being helmed by several generations of the famed Russell family of Master Distillers who're considered Bourbon Buddhas. Currently Jimmy and his son, Eddie Russell are Master Distillers to the Campari-owned distillery. While it continues to put out readily available and accessible flagship bottlings, some of its vintage stuff are considered unicorns and run up insane prices.
Wild Turkey has just one standard mashbill for its Bourbons (and one for its Ryes), which is 75/13/12 Corn/Rye/Barley - so the majority of flavor differences between expressions come from the blending of differently aged expressions and which part of the rickhouse it is matured in.
I know they kinda just look like two white men - but Jimmy (left) and Eddie (right) are widely considered Bourbon Buddhas in American whiskymaking. (Image Source: Wild Turkey)
Today, I finally get down - better late than never - to trying one of their most popular flagship labels, the Rare Breed Bourbon.
The Rare Breed Bourbon was introduced in 1991 and is the brand's answer to a decades long growing thirst for higher proof cask strength bottlings, punching in at 116.8 Proof (58.4% ABV) in the one I have with me. These are not single barrel bottlings (ie. come from literally one barrel) and are released in batches and so the alcoholic proof on them varies slightly from batches, which is a mix of 6, 8 and 12 year old barrels.
In the broader Bourbon landscape, the Wild Turkey Rare Breed is often considered a solid, value for money Bourbon, hence its good reputation and is almost always considered integral to a list of starter Bourbons or one that should be in any good bar / home cabinet.
Took me awhile to get around to trying it, but here we go!
Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof - Review
Aroma: Butterscotch and banana bread - a sort of honeyed, caramel and at the same time rich buttery and dotted with cumin, anise and cinnamon. There's a toastiness of burnt brown sugar and oak char - that's sort of lightly sour. Also bits of lightly tangy chocolate sauce and also light white florals - daisies, and also green apple and green grape skins - lightly tart and floral. Finally a light touch of orange blossoms and Grand Marnier orange liqueur. Quite an eclectic mix.
Taste: Starts off somewhat bitter - roasted coffee beans, charred oak, dark chocolate cacao nibs. It lets up alittle and gets slightly sweeter with caramel and oat cookies, more orange blossoms and green apple slices. There's a slightly bread dough-y sour mash and sweet cornbread note that flashes itself. Light touches of peanut butter cups and caramel custard, as well as mint leaves. Overall it's still generally bready and sweet, with an umami sour dimension. Medium-bodied.
Finish: Long, with a light sweet breadiness that again fades into a slight bitterness and drying quality. Light black pepper and cumin seeds and finally a mentholated spicy freshness.
This had a lot of complexity and was quite eclectic with quite a myriad of dimensions - sweet, savory, sour and umami - all of which are quite well-balanced and cohesive. I like that it isn't your standard sweet caramel or savory profile that you get with a good number of Bourbons, whilst also differing from Scotch whiskies in adding a sort of bready, sweet cornbread, slightly sour and spiced dimension.
A whole lot of complexity for a whole lot of value - there are some slightly jagged edges and could use more heft and intensity, but for the price and year round availability, this is a serious consideration,
The initial taste on the palate can be alittle acrid which you need to power through, and the body could use more heft and creaminess to buoy the sourness, but it's also got a really nice refreshing finish that is quite a mouthful. Overall, while it could be amped up more in intensity, it's still great value for money, very enjoyable and something I can't see myself getting sick of.
Although Wild Turkey's Rare Breed is sort of taken for granted as a staple, this is an excellent starter Bourbon if you're just getting into it, and also a solid daily drinker even if you're experienced - no one ever had a bad time with Wild Turkey's Rare Breed!
Pretty much available across any major whisky source - The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt (International), but check your local whisky stores, you should be able to readily find it by the bottle or by the dram at local bars.
And no, unlike Matthew McConaughey, I'm not on Wild Turkey's payroll.
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