The World’s longest serving master distiller – makes bourbon. For an astounding 60 years, James C. Russell has been making whiskey at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and today, is the longest-tenured, active spirits Master Distiller in the world. Brought up only five miles from the distillery, he followed his father, who taught him the traditions and techniques of Bourbon craftsmanship.
Jimmy’s legacy is the iconic Wild Turkey 101 at 50.5% abv, a recipe that has remained resolutely unchanged since prohibition times. Its house style is characterised by its distinctive bold and spicy flavour thanks to its high rye content and use of the finest new American oak barrel with one the heaviest char available, the number 4 (alligator) char, which imparts a rich, smooth flavour and deep amber colour.
Homework – all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. Bourbon tastes stronger and sweeter than other whiskeys. That’s because it’s distilled from a key ingredient: corn. Bourbon is America’s native spirit, and 95% of it comes from Kentucky. To be a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey it must be aged in new, charred oak barrels for at least 2 years and be distilled in Kentucky. The mix of grains that make Wild Turkey 101, include 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley.
Jimmy’s youngest son Eddie has worked in the business since 1981. Just like his father, over time, Jimmy taught him everything about distilling. In 2015, after 34 years learning this trade, Eddie Russell was promoted to Wild Turkey Master Distiller, creating a unique father and son distiller partnership.
The bourbon is distilled at a very low proof in order to help embody all of the barrel flavors during aging. It comes out of the barrel at around 109 proof necessitating only slight dilution before being bottled at 101 proof. This process helps produce a final product that, although not barrel proof, is very close to what came right out of the barrel.
Fantastic nose, toasted oak, spicy, caramel, vanilla. What’s not to like. Sets a high bench mark.
Bold flavour – spicy and sweetness. Vanilla, toffee and caramel are set against oak and the oak char.
A pleasant finish, with spice, pepper, toasted oak, disguising its alcohol content. Overall a robust tasting experience – certainly at this price-point.
Reviewed by: Magnus Orr
The whisky industry in Scotland relies on a regular supply American bourbon casks – so you can enjoy Wild Turkey 101, relaxing in the knowledge, that you are at least helping empty a bourbon cask ready for single malt whisky.
On occasion, would I swap a whisky for Wild Turkey 101 – yes!