As many of you who read the Kentucky blog posts already know, we left Wild Turkey distillery on a complete high. We are absolutely pumped up about the kickin’ chicken right now. It’s not that the whiskey wasn’t good before, it’s that we had an entirely different connotation with the brand. While WT is one of the larger distilleries (pumping out 600 barrels a day in comparison to sub-300 numbers by Buffalo Trace and Four Roses), they don’t operate during the summer! Insanity, considering others are running 24/7 to keep up with demand. They close down because Jimmy Russell doesn’t think fermentation times in the heat of July make for good Bourbon. They’re totally old school about their production process and they’re not willing to sacrifice anything to capitalize on the current boom. They still cultivate their own yeast (unlike many producers who just use commercial powdered yeast) and they’re one of the few producers left (along with Four Roses) who still refuses to buy Monsanto GMO corn. Plus, their single barrel selections are absolutely fabulous. The single barrel Russell's Reserve is the result of Jimmy’s son, Eddie Russell, pushing for more “modern” releases. Jimmy isn’t a fan of the single barrel idea, but Eddie convinced him that they’re not changing anything about the whiskey, just the way that they’re choosing to bottle it. WT fills their barrels at a lower proof than other distilleries so the whiskey in barrel tends to be more mellow in flavor. I’m beginning to tire of the super high alcohol, bold and explosive style of whiskey, so that might be why Wild Turkey struck a chord with me. In any case, we’re extremely embarrassed that we were so out of the loop concerning WT and their whiskies, so we’re trying to get some of our credibility back now.
First thing’s first -- we’ve managed to secure more of what was a very-limited release earlier this year. Let’s just say that things went well while we were there, so there’s more where this came from. We only got about 12 bottles of this last time around, so grab while the grabbin’s good. I'm hoping these will be more readily available now.
Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Kentucky Bourbon $53.99 – Bottled at 110 proof, the Russell’s Reserve single barrel isn’t labeled as “cask strength” but seeing that most single barrels of Wild Turkey we’ve tasted clock in at around 55% naturally, it might as well be. Wild Turkey isn’t a big, dark, rich, tannic style of whiskey. It’s a softer, more cinnamon and clove spice-dominated, easier-sipping style of Bourbon and the single barrel Russell’s Reserve might be the best product available from the distillery. It’s entirely drinkable at the full proof due to its more elegant style, but takes water or ice quite splendidly. Having recently visited the distillery, we’re now big fans of the kickin’ chicken here at K&L. The Russells have refused to alter their production methods to fit in with the current economic Bourbon boom. They still make old school Bourbon in an old school way and the single barrel is perhaps the best way to ascertain the quality of what they’re doing. Candy corn, mellow caramel, baking spices, and long, spicy richness that goes on forever, with just enough pop from the higher proof to really add that extra high note. Lovely, lovely stuff.
The single barrel RR is really fantastic whiskey and anyone wondering what’s going on over at WT, or who is curious about their hooch, should definitely check it out while we can still get more. I like it more than most of the other single barrel whiskies available right now, personally.
However, in addition to the single barrel RR, we’re also bringing in some of the not-so-new WT expressions we were lacking. For some reason we weren’t stocking these as well:
Wild Turkey Rare Breed Small Batch Barrel Proof Bourbon $39.99 - Wild Turkey Rare Breed is a 108.2 proof marriage of casks that brings more power and spice than some of the other more mellow WT expressions. It's woodier with more of the charred oak influence, but it handles that oak quite well. The finish leans more towards the herbaceous, but if you hang on until the end there's a lovely toffee and caramel note that sings a late swan song. Very fun whiskey that goes down way to easily.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey $47.99 – Less spicy and leaner than the new Russell’s Reserve single barrel release, this Kentucky Spirit single barrel selections plays more to the mellowness that WT is renowned for: soft richness, the kick of high-rye, and a mild finish that lazily keeps lingering on long after it’s gone.
…and the newest release:
Wild Turkey Forgiven Kentucky Whisky $49.99 - Yet another whiskey release based on an accident or fatal event that didn't go quite as planned. When Wild Turkey accidentally dumped a vat of Bourbon in with their rye whiskey formula it sent master distiller Jimmy Russell through the roof. Eventually, however, all was "forgiven" when the resulting mess was expertly blended into something quite tasty. The result is what's now in the bottle: the spicy and herbaceous rye character is immediately apparent on the first sip, to the extent that the whiskey tastes mainly like straight rye whiskey. But the caramel and toffee richness comes late on the finish to help round it out. At first taste it may seem to be a one-note song, a one-trick pony, but give it a few minutes. There are layers and layers of flavor that need to be unraveled in the Forgiven and the whiskey rewards those who are patient.
I met with Anchor in San Francisco on Tuesday and I got a sneak peak at some of their new arrivals. This rum was delicious and we're planning on stocking it shortly.
This was the real stunner, however. We’ve all heard a lot about these vatted malts from BBR, and now we can finally get ‘em in the states. I really liked this.
Berry Bros & Rudd Blue Hanger 7th Release Blended Single Malt Whisky $99.99 - Limited to only 3,088 bottles, this new variant of Blue Hanger is comprised of the following whiskies; one hogshead of Bruichladdich 1992, one butt of Bunnahabhain 1990, four hogsheads of Miltonduff 1997, and two hogsheads of Bunnahabhain Moine (peated) 2006. The blended malt whisky is named after William "Blue" Hanger, the Third Lord Coleraine, a loyal customer of Berry Bros. at the end of the 18th century. Considered one of the best-dressed men of his day, his nickname came from his preferred clothing color. Blue Hanger was originally a blended Scotch whisky intended for the diplomatic export market in 1934, but disappeared for a period of time until 2003 when Doug McIvor, spirits manager, began his experiments in vatting malts. His objective from the beginning has been to create the best blended malt possible from existing stock. The flavors are very soft and the Bunnahabhain comes through instantly on the palate, bringing the resinous, round, and subtly smoky flavors reminiscent of the distillery's older expressions. More smoke comes through towards the back, but there's always a rich, round, and supple texture persistent through the entire experience. It's a lovely whisky for fans of the the peated stuff that aren't looking for big, explosive, mouth-tingling smoke. A more refined experience overall and really interesting just because of the peated Miltonduff involved.
Lot's more to talk about but I'm short on time today.