Wild Turkey is one of the most iconic American whiskey brands on the planet. The Lawrenceburg, Kentucky distillery is responsible for one of the most well-known bourbons in all of whiskey — Wild Turkey 101. But Wild Turkey isn’t just 101. They’re also responsible for a fantastic lineup of bourbon and rye whiskey brands, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today.
Wild Turkey is broken into three main brands: Wild Turkey (of course), Russell’s Reserve, and Longbranch. Adding to that, the Wild Turkey brand also has bourbons and rye whiskeys under more distinct specialty labels. Those are Master’s Keep, Kentucky Spirit, Rare Breed, and American Honey. I’m going to rank every single one of these brands and expressions below. That’s 24 bottles of Russell’s, Turkey, and Longbranch plus their two flavored whiskeys.
It’s a lot. And it’s actually kind of hard to rank… because so much of it is very good.
As with all good whiskey, the Wild Turkey story starts with the people. The Russells — Jimmy Russell (Master Distiller for 69 years), his son Eddie Russell (also the Master Distiller), and Eddie’s son and Jimmy’s grandson Bruce Russell (assistant distiller) — have shepherded the Wild Turkey brands through thick and thin over the decades. Moreover, they’ve been able to keep the brand true to its roots via heritage labels like Turkey 101 while still advancing the brand via Russell’s Reserve, Rare Breed, and now Wild Turkey Generations.
That multi-generational history is revealed through the whiskeys themselves. Wild Turkey 101 and Rare Breed whiskeys are bold and spicy while adhering to a classic Kentucky vibe that’s very much a Jimmy Russell take on bourbon. Russell’s Reserve and Master’s Keep whiskeys tend to lean more toward subtle fruits and woods, thanks to Eddie Russell’s unique POV. The sweet Kentucky vibe to the rye whiskeys is derived from the younger Bruce Russell, steering the ship towards a modern take on a classic style that mashes up both Jimmy’s classics with Eddie’s modernity.
All of this is to say that it’s a great time to be drinking a Wild Turkey whiskey. So to that end, I’m going to rank every bottle that you can get right now, including the brand-new Wild Turkey Generations that was made by all three Russells to celebrate over a century of collective whiskey-making between the three Kentuckians. Let’s dive in!
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24. Wild Turkey American Honey
Average Price: $18
Jimmy Russell, Wild Turkey’s legendary Master Distiller, came up with this bottle back in 1976. The whiskey is a blend of classic Wild Turkey Bourbon and pure honey liqueur.
Nose: There’s a clear sense of fresh honey on the nose with a dash of that iconic Wild Turkey spiciness, kind of like a very mild cinnamon-laced cherry lozenge.
Palate: The palate is soft and sweet with deep honey vibes next to light lemon oils and a touch of orange zest next to more of that cherry/cinnamon with a sweet rock candy aura.
Finish: The finish has a nice sense of honey candy with a hint of Kentucky bourbon layered in but is ultimately short and sweet.
This isn’t bad. In fact, it’s one of the better honey bourbons out there. I’d say focus on using it for baking and cocktails (and maybe ice-cold shots) more than anything else.
23. Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $18
This expression is Master Distiller Eddie Russell’s stamp on his dad’s, Jimmy’s, legacy. The younger Russell devised this lower-proof bourbon to be another workhorse whiskey for the mixing crowd. This is achieved by letting the 75/13/12 (corn/rye/malted barley) bourbon mash rest in deeply charred oak for six to seven years before cutting it down to 81 proof for bottling.
Nose: There’s a mix of mild winter spice, tannic oak, ripe apricot, creamy vanilla, and a thin line of salted caramel on the nose.
Palate: The taste delivers and expands into peach cobbler territory with plenty of vanilla, brown sugar syrup with baking spices, and an almost smoky singed cedar edge.
Finish: The end is another left turn, with a dusting of dark chocolate over the top of a honeyed underbelly as the oak, spice, and stonefruit fade away.
This is specifically made for simple cocktails and highballs. Use it accordingly.
(Note: I also use this for baking. It’s a great substitute for vanilla extract that adds a layer of woody spice.)
22. Wild Turkey American Honey Sting
Average Price: $18
Wild Turkey’s American Honey is often lauded as the best-flavored whiskey on the market. This expression takes that well-crafted blend of Wild Turkey bourbon and honey liqueur and ups the ante by adding a dash of ghost pepper.
Nose: There’s a sense of honey that’s bolstered by sprigs of fresh mint, fields of wildflowers, and a whisper of fresh red chili pepper on the nose.
Palate: The ghost pepper lurks in the background until you take a sip and it bites at your tongue.
Finish: It’s never over-powering whatsoever and the combination of bourbon vanilla, caramel, and oak with that fresh mint and honey makes for a great combination of flavors that linger on your senses.
This is subtle and spicy in all the right ways. It’s a great ice-cold shot or base for a simple cocktail that needs a spicy kick.
21. Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $24
This is the only other mash bill cooked at Wild Turkey’s distillery. The mash is a 52/36/12 (rye/corn/malted barley) bill that’s twice distilled. The hot juice then rests in the same deeply charred oak — but only for four to five years. The whiskey is then cut with soft Kentucky limestone water to bring it down to an accessible 81-proof.
Nose: Vanilla and mint apple pie come through on the nose with a dash of woody winter spices, light toffee candy, and a hint of herbal funk (think wet grass or sage).
Palate: The palate opens with tart apple skins and caramel sauce with a moment of raw sourdough rye bread next to wet tobacco leaves and apple cider spiked with woody cinnamon sticks.
Finish: The end has a mild warmth with a touch of sharp spearmint and green grass next to freshly cracked red pepper.
This is a fruity sweet and creamy rye whiskey that speaks to the “Kentucky” rye style. It’s woodier and grassier with a layer of baking spice instead of classic “pepperiness.”
In the end, this is also made for mixing so use it in cocktails and highballs.
20. Wild Turkey Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Oak & Texas Mesquite Charcoal Refined
Average Price: $39
The product launched back in 2018 via a partnership with actor Matthew McConaughey. Even though McConaughey has gone his own way, Longbranch has carried on. The whiskey is a wholly unique one for Wild Turkey, thanks to the Texas Mesquite charcoal filtration the hot distillate goes through. The bourbon then goes into oak for eight long years before it’s proofed and bottled.
Nose: Christmas spices meet oily vanilla and subtle caramel on the nose next to a hint of charred marshmallow over subtle notes of woody spice barks and very dark cherry cola.
Palate: The palate adds orange oils and buttery toffee to the mix as the spices edge upwards on the taste next to a creamy vanilla pudding, old firewood, and a whisper of cherry-kissed tobacco.
Finish: That velvet texture builds throughout with toasted oak and cedar notes as a hint of sweet firepit smoke arrives on the long and satisfying finish.
This is a bit of an outlier but still works as a sipper over some rocks or the base of any whiskey-forward cocktail. If you’re looking for a classic bourbon, this isn’t it though.
19. Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $19
Wild Turkey 101 starts with Turkey’s classic 75/13/12 mash bill. The hot juice then spends at least six years in the cask before it’s batched and just kissed with Kentucky limestone water before bottling.
Nose: This is a cherry bomb on the nose with deep notes of burnt orange, buttery toffee, old oak staves, and cumin-heavy taco seasoning with a hint of old leather gloves and clove buds.
Palate: The palate has a vanilla pudding cup vibe next to butterscotch candies, nougat, and a twinge of menthol tobacco next to clove-studded oranges on the mid-palate.
Finish: The end of this is a classic cascade of bourbon notes: caramel, vanilla, cherry, winter spices, and light woodiness.
The end is pretty short, but it doesn’t take away from this one. It’s just classic bold bourbon whiskey. You can sip this over a lot of rocks or make any whiskey-forward cocktail with it.
18. Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $28
This is the sibling bottle to the classic Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon. Same standard rye mash bill. Same heavily charred barrels. Same six-odd years mellowing in those barrels. Same proofing down to the iconic 101 proof for bottling.
Nose: The warming rye spice is cut with rummy Christmas cake topped with rich vanilla ice cream next to a clear note of toasted oak on the nose.
Palate: The taste leans into the spice with a rye version of the Kentucky hug as hints of cedar, white sugar, caramel nuts, and old oak lurk in the background.
Finish: Like the bourbon, the end is warming with pops of sweetgrass braided with smudging sage, creamy vanilla, and old spice barks with a very distant wisp of smoldering cedar bark and tobacco leaf.
This is a pretty great affordable (and easy to find) rye whiskey. It’s good over some rocks as an everyday sipper or mixed into your favorite whiskey cocktail. Seriously, try it in a Manhattan.
17. Russell’s Reserve 6-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $36
Russell’s Reserve is where we really dive into the “good stuff” with Wild Turkey. This expression is a collaboration between Jimmy and Eddie Russell, who searched through the center cut of barrels of their rickhouses for the exact right minimum-six-year-old rye barrels. The results are a window into the Russells’ shared palate for the whiskey.
Nose: This a subtle rye with hints of crusty rye bread soaked in apple honey paired with a hint of vanilla, a touch of caramel, and mild orchard fruit.
Palate: The palate is all about spicy and sweet Christmas cake full of dried fruit, nuts, and spicy minced meat pie with a flutter of black pepper.
Finish: The oakiness shines late as the winter spice, vanilla/caramel sweetness, and singed cedar fade away toward a touch of apple cider tobacco.
This is fruity and spice-forward whiskey that works wonders in any whiskey cocktail. I also like this over a big rock as a no-think sipper on a lazy afternoon.
16. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $83
This is a high water mark of what standard Wild Turkey can achieve. The Russells select the “honey barrels” (those special barrels that are as much magic as craft) from their rickhouses for single barrel bottling. The resulting whiskey is non-chill filtered but is cut down slightly to proof with that soft Kentucky water.
Nose: Vanilla cream spiked with orange oils and sprinkled with toasted coconut mingle with spicy oak and buttery cake on the nose with an underpinning of winter spices by way of a sour mulled wine.
Palate: The palate opens with easy notes of marzipan, subtle dried roses, vanilla pods, more winter spices, and singed cherry bark.
Finish: The end arrives with a sense of Almond Joy next to cherry tobacco dipped in chili-infused dark chocolate with a flake of salt and a pinch of cedar dust and old leather saddles.
This is just an excellent bourbon whiskey. As much as I love the rye right above this one, the is just that bit more complex and rewarding, especially as a sipper. That said, don’t hesitate to make a killer cocktail with this one too.
15. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $73
This hand-selected single-barrel expression hits on some pretty big classic Kentucky rye notes. The whiskey for the blend is selected from the center cuts of the third through fifth floors of the Wild Turkey rickhouses. There’s no chill filtering and the expression is only slightly touched by water before bottling.
Nose: This has a lighter nose but it’s still full of dark orchard fruits, soft vanilla pods, old oak staves with a hint of old barrel house funk, and a mix of spicy orange rind next to freshly cracked black pepper and sharp cinnamon powder.
Palate: The palate leans into the cinnamon and layers it into chewy and buzzy tobacco with hints of vanilla sweetness, cherry bark woodiness, and sharp fancy root beer vibes.
Finish: The end pings on that old musty rickhouse one more time as a humidor full of vanilla, cherry, and cinnamon-spiced tobacco fades towards a rich and buttery toffee with a hint of rye fennel on the very backend.
This is an excellent rye whiskey. It’s wonderfully fruity, spicy, and creamy on a single big rock. It also makes a fantastic cocktail.
It’s wild that we have 14 more whiskeys to go and we’re already into the greats.
14. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $53
This is the mountaintop of what the main line of Wild Turkey can achieve (this is easily found on liquor store shelves for the most part). This is a blend of the prime barrels that are married and bottled untouched. That means no filtering and no cutting with water. This is a classic Turkey bourbon with nowhere to hide.
Nose: This opens like a dessert table during the holidays with crème brûlée next to a big sticky toffee pudding with orange zest sprinkled over the top next to a bushel of fresh mint.
Palate: The palate hits an early note of pine resin as the orange kicks up towards a bold wintry spice, soft vanilla cream, and a hint of honeyed cherry tobacco.
Finish: The end keeps the winter spices front and center as a lush pound cake feeling leads to soft notes of cherry-spiced tobacco leaves folded into an old cedar box with a whisper of old vanilla pods lurking in the background.
This is one of the best bourbons that you can get without much trouble. It’s delicious, classic, and deep. Plus, it’s still affordable by all standards for the quality of the juice in the bottle.
Make your favorite whiskey cocktail with this one, drink it over a big rock, or sip it neat — no matter which path you choose, you’ll be delighted.
13. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey
Average Price: $63
This rye is a blend of the great rye barrels in the Wild Turkey rickhouses. The whiskey is chosen from four-, six-, and eight-year-old barrels blended and then bottled without chill filtration or any proofing water.
Nose: This is a masterclass in what rye “spice” can be with subtle notes of black pepper next to Christmas spices counterpointed by pine resin dank and sweet cherry root beer.
Palate: The palate brings about a velvet texture with notes of vanilla and dark chocolate cake next to stewed cherries — a very Black Forest cake vibe — before the rye sourdough bread funk and herbal essence kick in with a light firewood pitchiness.
Finish: By the end, there’s a balance of all that spice, wood, resin, and subtle fruitiness that lasts on the long and sharp finish.
This is another one of my favorite whiskeys that you can easily get. It’s a delectable Kentucky rye that leans toward complexity over just being a spicy pepper bomb. I’d buy this stuff by the case if I needed to.
12. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey “Decades”
Average Price: $549
This release from 2017 commemorates the 35th anniversary of Master Distiller Eddie Russell making whiskey at Wild Turkey. The blend is made by Russell from the rarest barrels — from 10 to 20 years old — from the famed McBrayer rickhouse. That’s a very old barrel warehouse that used to belong to the Old Joe Distillery across the tracks from the main Turkey campus today.
Nose: There’s a clear sense of classic Turkey on the nose with singed orchard woods next to subtle salted caramel, stewed cherry, tart apple fritters covered in cinnamon sugar, and mellow winter spices — Saigon cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, allspice berries.
Palate: The palate has a sweet opening with buttery and rich toffee next to minced meat pies, dark chocolate cut with dried chili (and maybe some garam masala), and campfire-burnt marshmallows.
Finish: The end has a vanilla white cake vibe sprinkled with orange zest and dark chocolate shavings with a hint of cherry jam underneath that leads to orange-chocolate tobacco stuffed into an old cedar box and wrapped up with ragged twine.
This is where we get into the unassailably great whiskeys. Of the Master’s Keeps, this is probably the one I’d reach for the least, which means very little as this is a killer pour of bourbon. This is just a stone-cold classic bourbon, and whiskeys are coming on this list that go beyond classic into transcendence.
That all said, I’d never turn down a pour of this.
11. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks “Revival”
Average Price: $595
This whiskey was made by Eddie Russell after he found a few prime sherry casks in Jerez, Spain. The blend is a mix of 12 to 15-year-old bourbon barrels that once vatted were re-barreled into those Oloroso sherry casks for final maturation. Finally, those barrels were batched, proofed with a touch of water, and bottled as-is.
Nose: There’s a sense of orange oils layered into an old pine plank on the nose with a spiced cherry pie drizzled with powdered sugar icing and dark powdered sugar next to a hint of meaty and almost waxy prunes.
Palate: The palate has a soft vanilla pudding vibe next to grilled pineapple and peaches with a hint of passion fruit and mango skins before dates and raisins kick in with plenty of winter spice, creating a tropical cocktail vibe … almost.
Finish: The end is spiced like a holiday cake — clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. — with a sense of pineapple-heavy Hawaiian dinner rolls and spiced choco-cherry tobacco leaves.
Sherry on bourbon rarely works this well. The classic Turkey notes of dark cherry and clove marry well with the dark sherry notes of an Oloroso here without it being a hat on a hat. It’s complimentary in subtle ways that help make this an exceptional sipper. That’s especially true when you pour this over a rock and it gets super creamy and nutty.
10. Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse “Camp Nelson F” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $499
The second release of Wild Turkey’s Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Collection has arrived. This time all of the barrels for this batch came from the Camp Nelson campus, specifically the center cut (floors four and five out of seven) barrels from Rickhouse F. Once batched, the whiskey went into the bottle at barrel strength.
Nose: A spiced cherry vibe is present in spades on the nose with a deep and dark cherry cut with anise, clove, allspice, and cinnamon next to rum-soaked raisins, black tea-soaked dates, and a rich and lush vanilla foundation.
Palate: The clove attaches to dried orange rinds as salted rich caramel drives the taste toward more dates, plum sauce, and leathery prunes with a deep winter spice bark vibe next to a dash of powdery white pepper.
Finish: Honeyed tobacco mingles with sticky toffee pudding, mincemeat pies, and sweet oak mixed with richly spiced tobacco rolled with cedar bark, sage, and old wicker porch furniture.
Where the first edition of Camp Nelson went full hardcore dessert, this takes the whiskey back to Turkey’s roots — heavy spice barks, dark fruits, and old oaky depth. This is a quintessential example of Turkey bourbon with a deep complexity that keeps going (seriously, I’m still learning more about this bourbon every time that I reopen it and try it again).
9. Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $74
Jimmy Russell hand selects eight to nine-year-old barrels from his warehouses for their individual taste and quality. Those barrels are then cut down ever-so-slightly to 101 proof and bottled one at a time with their barrel number and warehouse location right on the bottle.
Nose: The nose draws you in with classic vibes from top to bottom thanks to rich vanilla smoothness, wintry spices, a hint of cedar, and a mix of sour cherry and tart apple with a slight lawn furniture earthiness.
Palate: The palate stays very classic with old boot leather next to dry cedar bark, a layer of rich marzipan cut with orange oils and covered in dark chocolate, and a distant hint of nasturtiums suspended in fresh honey.
Finish: The end finishes with a good hint of spiced cherry tobacco and old leather next to mild nuttiness, bitter chocolate, and soft vanilla cake frosted with cinnamon and cherry.
This is one of the best single-barrel products on the shelf today (kind of by far). Gun to head, this is my favorite single-barrel bourbon below $100. It’s so deeply hewn and just plain delicious. Hell, you know what? I’d put this in my top 20 bourbons of all time. It’s that good and that iconic.
8. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey “One”
Average Price: $575
This whiskey is a blend of Jimmy and Eddie Russells’ favorite barrels. Jimmy chose nine to 10-year-old barrels and Eddie added in 14-year-old barrels of their classic bourbon. Once batched, that whiskey was then re-barreled into new oak with a special toast and char level and then stored in a timber rickhouse called Tyrone G (as you’re starting to tell, rickhouses are very important to the nuance that makes Turkey great).
Nose: Cinnamon-infused caramel candies mingle with creamed honey and old slices of vanilla cake with an orange-clove-chocolate frosting next to old tobacco leaves and a touch of dried chili pepper flakes on the nose.
Palate: The palate opens with a creamy and lush vanilla foundation that leads to salted caramel over apple cake with a cutting ginger and cinnamon spiciness next to a light touch of dried nasturtiums.
Finish: The end starts sweet and spiced with a mouthful of Hot Tamales before old cherry-choco tobacco folds into an old pine box with a hint of singed cinnamon bark and cherry wood mellow with old boot leather and broken-down lawn furniture.
This is so good. I just had it again a few days ago, and it still slaps. It’s one of those pours (even neat) where you lean back and look at your drinking companion like you both just found some buried treasure together.
7. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep A Blend of Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye Whiskey Finished in Rye Casks “Unforgotten”
Average Price: $545
This Master Keep release (from October 2022) is a whiskey born from a crew member accidentally adding some young rye into old bourbon in the batching tank. Everything came to a screeching halt. Once the whiskey was tasted, though, Eddie Rusell realized they had a happy accident on their hands, and their first blend of rye and bourbon was born. Today, this blend is a mix of eight and nine-year-old rye with 13-year-old bourbon that’s then finished in a used rye barrel in Turkey’s pre-Prohibition Rickhouse B.
Nose: The whiskey opens with a lush and vibrant fruit orchard full of bright and ripe oranges, tart apples, and sweet peaches next to roasted almonds, salted caramel, and creamed honey with a touch of hickory and pine.
Palate: There’s a sense of that salted caramel sweetness on the palate that leads to mince meat pies dusted in powdered sugar and nutmeg with a hint of dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, old oak staves, and dried sage .. and maybe some spearmint.
Finish: The end has a dried apricot and prunes vibe next to floral honey cut with orange oils, a twinge of marzipan, and more of that bitter dark chocolate tied to pipe tobacco, cedar boxes, and old pepper mills that are more woody than spicy.
I like this a lot because it’s a complete outlier in the lineup. It’s way fruitier than what you’d expect from a straight whiskey blend. But those fruits are dark and spicy and take you on a deep and delicious journey that’s pure Turkey.
This also makes an amazing Manhattan. Just sayin’.
6. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged for 17 Years
Average Price: $839
This well-aged bourbon from Eddie Russell highlights deep and balanced Turkey bourbon flavors in every sip. For this expression, Russell hand-selects 17-year-old barrels of Turkey that “travel” between their wooden and brick rickhouses, traversing roughly 200 miles over 17 years. Those barrels are batched and then bottled as-is at a lower proof.
Nose: There are clear and bold notes of smoldering cherry and apple bark next to oily vanilla pods, buttery and almost burnt toffee, orange orchards in full bloom, and fresh piles of pipe tobacco cut with clove and cherry on the nose.
Palate: The spice kicks in with a holiday spiced cake edge that leads towards a salted caramel, bitter chocolate-covered espresso beans, and freshly chopped firewood resting in sweet black potting soil.
Finish: The end is soft and luxurious with a deep musty cellar vibe that leads to old leather pouched full of dried apple and cherry tobacco leaves braided with dried wild sagebrush, cedar bark, and strips of old saddle leather with a hint of black mushrooms lurking underneath.
It’s funny. Every time that I take a sip of this one, I’m so in love with it. Then by the finish, I always think, “I wish this was a little higher proof…” For me, I adore the balance and complexity but I want more (more on that in a moment). If you’re just getting into high-end bourbon, that low proof is going to hook you into a great whiskey-sipping experience.
5. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey “Cornerstone”
Average Price: $499
This is the first rye whiskey that Wild Turkey released for the Master’s Keep line. Eddie Russell devised this whiskey from nine to 11-year-old barrels from the prime sections of various rickhouses. Once batched, the whiskey was just proofed before bottling.
Nose: There’s a sense of apple old-fashioned doughnuts on the nose with a cinnamon-maple glaze next to old rye bread crusts with caraway and fennel with a slight whisper of dry dill before a whisper of white pepper and dried chili starts to sneak in.
Palate: Salted apple chips dipped in floral honey drive the palate toward sour mulled wine full of star anise, clove, cardamom, and mace with a dash of molasses and rum-raisin.
Finish: The end leans into the woodiness of the spices with cinnamon bark and allspice berries with the faintest line of sasparilla and black licorice-laced tobacco braided with old wicker canes.
While Wild Turkey is renowned for its bourbon, their rye is first-class whiskey. This is the most first class of the first-class rye expressions. This is just an amazingly deep and rewarding sipping rye. You cannot go wrong pouring this neat or on a big ol’ rock. Or make an amazing Manhattan with it. Trust me.
4. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bottled In Bond
Average Price: $549
This is the same whiskey as Master’s Keep 17-Year. In this case, after batching minimum-17-year-old barrels, the whiskey was only proofed down to 50% or 100-proof for bottling as per bottled in bond laws. The resulting whiskey is then bottled as-is.
Nose: There’s a bold nose of spicy Christmas cakes spiked with orange oils, candied cherries, and dried apples next to vanilla pods and worn saddle leather that leads to this subtle hint of fresh cinnamon rolls with a cream cheese frosting cut with lemon and vanilla.
Palate: The palate is the epitome of smoothness with a subtle warmth derived from woody winter spices — star anise, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon — that then branches toward this whisper of burnt sugars and fats from an old brisket smoker with a hint of salted red taffy and singed marshmallow next to vanilla pound cake with a hint of poppy seeds.
Finish: The end has a sweet cinnamon candy flourish before smoldering wild sage and old boots arrive with a dark chocolate espresso cherry tobacco layers into an old cedar box with a hint of black dirt lurking in the distant background.
There it is! Master’s Keep 17-year at a higher proof. It’s like the whiskey gods heard me and gave me everything I wanted.
This was my favorite overall Turkey pour for ages. It still technically is. But I have to admit the next three whiskeys are just more complex and interesting. But this is the bottle that I’d reach for on every special occasion.
3. Russell’s Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 13 Years
Average Price: $150
This whiskey was made by Eddie Russell to celebrate his 40th year of distilling whiskey with his dad, Jimmy Russell. The juice is a collection of a minimum of 13-year-old barrels that Eddie Russell hand-picked. Those barrels were married and then bottled as-is with no proofing or filtration.
Nose: Sweet and dried fruits invite you on the nose as a touch of fresh, creamy, and dark Black Forest cake mingles with mild holiday spices, dried almonds, and a sense of rich pipe tobacco just kissed with sultanas.
Palate: That dark chocolate and cherry fruit drive the palate as a hint of charred cedar leads toward vanilla tobacco with more of that dark chocolate and a small touch of honey, orange blossom, and a whisper of dried chili flake.
Finish: That honey leads back to the warmth and spice with a thin line of cherry bark smoke lurking on the very backend with more bitter chocolate, buttery vanilla, and dark cherry all combining into chewy tobacco packed into an old pine box and wrapped up with worn leather thread.
The 2023 bottling of this one blew me away. It’s everything you want in a well-aged bourbon with amazing depth, delicious nuance, and beautiful complexity that just keeps giving.
2. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Jamaican Rum Casks “Voyage”
Average Price: $499
The latest entry in Wild Turkey’s Master Keep line is a collaboration between Wild Turkey’s Eddie Russell and Appleton Estate’s Dr. Joy Spence — both icons in their fields. The whiskey in the bottle is a 10-year-old batch of Wild Turkey bourbon that’s refilled into Appleton Estate rum barrels from Jamaica. Those barrels held classic pot still rum for 14 years before they were shipped up to Kentucky. The bourbon rested for 10 to 12 months before batching and bottling with a touch of local limestone water for bottling.
Nose: The nose opens with a sense of classic Kentucky bourbon with a sharply spiced cherry/apple vibe that gives way to a deep cellar funk next to rum raisin coffee cake, dark chocolate-covered espresso beans, and rich marzipan dipped in orange oils and maybe a whisper of palm flower (flor de izote).
Palate: The palate leans into rich vanilla creaminess as spice barks and black cherry combine for a moist Black Forest cake soaked in dark rum with a sense of green peppercorns and dried ancho chilis offering a sharp counterpoint next to a whisper of floral summer honey and old cellar oak.
Finish: The end softens dramatically toward orange-infused marzipan and vanilla malts with a cherry on top next to honey tobacco rolled with smudging sage, cacao nibs, and funky oak staves.
This is the best rum-finished bourbon, period. It’s also a contender for one of the best bourbon releases of 2023. It’s funky, fresh, and vital. It feels new and fun while adhering to deeply quintessential bourbon themes. It feels like going on vacation to your favorite spot on the planet and everything goes exactly right.
1. Wild Turkey Generations Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Average Price: $449
This brand-new release from Wild Turkey is the first time Bruce Russell’s name has appeared on a bottle. Bruce teamed up with with dad (Master Distiller Eddie Russell) and his granddad (Master Distiller and legend Jimmy Russell) to create a bourbon that spoke to all three of their whiskey palates. The whiskey in the bottles ended up being a blend of 9-, 12-, 14-, and 15-year-old bourbon that all three of the Russells selected together. Once batched, that bourbon was bottled 100% as-is without filtering or proofing to highlight the beauty of the whiskey being made at Wild Turkey.
Nose: Lush vanilla oils are cut with salted caramel and dark cherry root beer made with real sasparilla next to warming winter spices (clove, anise, and allspice) that lean toward mulled wine, cherry-laced tobacco, and hints of dry smudging sage braided with sweetgrass.
Palate: That woodiness leads on the palate before a rush of vanilla buttercream and toffee rolled in roasted almond and dusted with dark chocolate powder shifts the taste toward warm apple pie filling cut with more cloves and allspice and washed down with cherry cola.
Finish: That dark cherry is just kissed with floral honey on the backend as the spices take on a woody bark vibe and the toffee makes a buttery and lush return with a near marzipan feel before old oak staves from a musty rickhouse lead to another braid of sage, cedar, and tobacco on the chewy and silky end.
This has … everything that makes Wild Turkey great in a single glass. While that might sound overwhelming, it’s really not because Wild Turkey is and always has been a very dialed-in whiskey. This is dialed in but it’s not tight. It’s loose and flowing with a deep creaminess that accents the dry and lush fruity perfectly.
If you were to look up “Wild Turkey” in the whiskey dictionary, this is the whiskey that’d be there. Not 101 or Rare Breed. This.