Wild Turkey has not just one master distiller, but two. This year Eddie Russell joined his father Jimmy in the brand's top post, and they've created a premium bourbon to celebrate. Master's Keep is aged 17 years in two different locations and packaged more like a fine cognac than moonshine.
When you think of Wild Turkey, the bottle that probably comes to mind is the basic 101-proof bourbon that sits behind almost every bar in the United States. It's great in cocktails because the higher alcohol content lets the flavor come through, even when it's mixed with juice or soda; on its own, it can be a little hot. The flavor is heavy on corn, which makes up 75 percent of the grain used in the mash. (Rye and barley make up the remaining 25 percent). At $25 per bottle, you could do much worse.
Master's Keep isn't the first premium bourbon from Wild Turkey, but it ages differently from any of the brand's other releases. Instead of aging in the distillery's own warehouses, it spends a few years off-site in stone buildings before being brought home to finish maturing. Because it's cooler inside the stone buildings than in the traditional wooden structures, the spirit ages slower and gets less of the charred flavor from the barrels. The final bourbon came out of the barrels at 89 proof and was diluted down to 86.8 proof (43.4 percent alcohol) before being filled into special decanter bottles.
The special aging process definitely comes through in the bourbon, though you're not going to mistake it for anything other than Wild Turkey. On the nose, you get all the sour corn smell you'd get from any of their expressions—but with some subtle barbecue and spice notes. The first sip brings a little heat, along with wildflower honey, apple, and vanilla. A few drops of water makes the whole thing more floral, but I think it does best with a cube or two of ice, bringing out the candy and fruit.
While 17 years is pretty old for a bourbon, it's not that old when we talk about other whiskies such as Scotch, and because of the stone warehouses, Master's Keep drinks like something younger, too. So if you're a hardcore Wild Turkey fan and want a new experience, Master's Keep is for you. If you're not, it might be best to stick to the original at one-sixth the price.
Wild Turkey Master's Keep is a limited release, although there's been no news on exactly how many bottles will be available. It is just hitting stores, bearing a price tag of $150.
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