Wild Turkey 101 – Review

Wild Turkey 101 Background

Wild Turkey 101 BottleWild Turkey 101 has its roots in a New York grocery store. Austin Nichols sold alcohol and sourced their Bourbon from various suppliers to sell under their brand. As legend goes, Austin Nichols president Thomas McCarthy enjoyed turkey hunting with his friends and he would bring along some of his store’s Bourbon. His friends referred to it has their wild turkey Bourbon and that’s where we get the name.

One of Austin Nichols biggest suppliers came from what would later be called the Boulevard Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. In the 1960’s Austin Nichols began to buy nearly all their Wild Turkey from Boulevard and in 1972 it bought the distillery. Likely the acquisition was to stabilize supply of Bourbon as the industry fell on hard times. Today the Campari Group owns the Wild Turkey brand and distillery.

Wild Turkey 101 is known to have a low entry barrel proof, meaning the proof of the distillate going into the barrel is relatively low. This should results in more flavors, but either way, it’s something that makes Wild Turkey 101 unique compared to most other Bourbons today.

Details

Bottled from barrels 6-8 years old. Bottled at 50.5%. Mash recipe thought to be 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. $22 MSRP

Aroma

Cinnamon. Caramel. Vanilla, Toasted oak with a little char. Light perfume at full strength

Flavor

Sweet, caramel. Rye with a little mint. Vanilla. Cinnamon. Honey. Charred oak. Oak seems to build to the finish with some medium astringency. Burnt flavors. Some spice that coats the mouth after the finish. A little hot alcohol.

Overall

Lots of flavors here and some might be a little feisty. Wild Turkey 101 is made from a blending of barrels of various ages and likely different storage locations within Wild Turkey’s warehouses. Picking barrels that are 6, 7, and 8 years old offers an interesting profile.  It’s a lively Bourbon with nice barrel character.

I think Wild Turkey 101 has a bit of a bad rep. My impression before I first gave it a try was not favorable. Sort of rocket fuel booze. No idea where that came from, but unfortunately that was my brand awareness. I still hear some negative thoughts on this one as too rough. There’s no shame in adding a little water if that’s the case because at 101-proof, there’s plenty of room for a little water.

Wild Turkey 101 is flavorful and quite enjoyable, but lets talk about price. This is a bottle is a value and widely available. This particular bottle actually sat unopened for a while just because it’s a go-to order when out. You’ll find it behind most decent bars as it’s a popular mixer. This is also good for home because it’s a great value. In fact maybe we should keep this our little secret.

Wild Turkey 101 Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

I consider Wild Turkey 101 a standard Bourbon with a moderate rye content. This to me makes for an excellent entry-level for the category and the benchmark for measuring other similar Bourbons. If, however, you can’t find it or want to explore similar Bourbons at this price, I’d suggest checking out Old Forester Signature and Elijah Craig 12. You could also try Wild Turkey 81, but I think I’d spend the extra few bucks. Get the Wild Turkey 101 and cut in your own water for your tastes.

Links and Other Reviews

Weller Blend (AKA Poor man’s Pappy) – Review

Weller Blend Background

Weller Blend BottleI’ve reviewed three different Weller products in Weller Special Reserve, Old Weller Antique, and W.L. Weller 12 Year Old. This time I’m going to look at a blend of Old Weller Antique and Weller 12. This blend originated at the Straight Bourbon forums and is known there simply as the Weller SB Blend. The goal here is to get close to the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year, and perhaps something that resembles the other bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, with a couple $25 or so bottles of Bourbon. This blend has even been promoted around the web as a “poor man’s Pappy,” so does this get close? Not in my opinion, but the blend is a real nice pour and is better than the individual Weller Bourbons.

The thinking here is that all these mentioned Bourbons are made with the same/similar recipe at Buffalo Trace. They may or may not be aged similarly and likely go through a different barrel selection process. Old Rip Van Winkle is aged 10 years, Pappy 15 is aged 15 years, and both are bottled at 107-proof. Old Weller Antique is aged about 6-7 years and also bottled at 107-proof. Weller 12 is aged 12 years and bottled at 90-proof. So Old Weller Antique has the power of Pappy, but lacks the age. Weller 12 is closer in age, but lacks some oomph. In my review I enjoyed the aged complexity of Weller 12 and the potency of Old Well Antique. So the blend here tries to pump up the volume while keeping some age characteristics.

Process

I tried two different blends. One at 50/50 and the other 60/40 Old Weller Antique to Weller 12. 50/50 blend should make a Bourbon that’s about 98.5-proof and 60/40 is about 100.5-proof. I vatted these into 100 ml glass jars for three weeks. Conventional wisdom is the whiskeys need time to “mingle,” but I have no opinions or guidance as to how long. I’d guess at least 2-3 days to be safe.

I did side by side comparisons of the 50/50 blend and 60/40 blend. I also brought in samples of both Old Weller Antique and Weller 12. I’m going to break convention here by rather than reviewing the blends individually I’ll just compare and contrast in a narrative.

Results

These both are pretty close. As expected each blend seems to lean closer to either Weller 12 or Old Weller Antique depending on proportions. 50/50 is a little woodier, smoother and sweeter and 60/40 has some more acetone and is more fruity and lively. I like both blends, but I’m leaning towards 60/40.

Once I narrowed down what I thought was my preferred blend, I compared the blend against Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique. The blend I thought tamed down Old Weller Antique and added some nice age character. Interestingly, I was surprised how much better I preferred the blend over Weller 12. Compared to the blend, Weller 12 seems noticeably flatter. The differences actually kind of altered my original opinions of Weller 12 a bit. Weller 12 also has more oak, which isn’t a bad thing, but also some more astringency which may or may not be desirable.

Closing

With these results I made up a larger batch of 60/40 blend. I’ll enjoy that and then maybe revisit the 50/50 to see if I’ve changed my mind. Perhaps my second batch will be 50/50 and just drink that over a period of time. Either way, I do seem to enjoy both blends more than the individual Bourbons. Interesting! I could see this being my go-to wheater Bourbon and simply keep Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique on hand just for blending.

Does it Blend?

Yes!

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year – Review #25

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year Background

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year BottleJust when I thought I wrapped up reviews of Buffalo Trace #2 mash, I got my hands on a bottle of Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year. This is not to be confused with Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star, which is probably aged about 3-4 years. This bottle has a 10 year age statement and packs a lot more flavor.

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year has been discontinued and before that it appears to have only been available in Kentucky. It was kind of rare and now it’s gone. This stuff is legendary as both a forbidden fruit and something that drinks well above its price tag. So, this might be an exercise in frustration because odds are you’ll be lucky to find it.

Details

10 years age statement. Bottled at 43%. Buffalo Trace’s #2 mash bill of about 13-15% rye. Got this one on a trade, but retails for $15-$20 or so.

Aroma

Caramel sweetness. A little oak. Fruity. Figs. Citrus, orange peel. Trace of sulfur. Maybe a little herbal-ginger thing going on.

Flavor

Light, sweet, and fruity. Nice caramel. Some hot cinnamon adds for a little complexity. Some rye flavors of pine and spice in the background along with some oak. Finish has a slight astringency and a little funk. Getting a little cardboard.

Overall

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year is pretty refreshing and enjoyable. Really the only ding on this the light proof. There’s also something a little funky going on in the end that I’d rather finish cleaner.

I had Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year side by side with Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star and it’s no comparison. Much more flavor and complexity. I also put it up against some others in the Buffalo Trace #2 Mash. I figured Hancock’s President’s Reserve would be best comparison with its lower bottle proof. I liked it better than Hancock’s President’s Reserve, although I think Hancock has more caramel flavors. I also put it up against Elmer T Lee, and that was a decisive winner as was Blanton’s in my book. I get too much nail polish remover out of Rock Hill Farms, so I’d prefer Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year over that.

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star is 90-proof, and it would be interesting to see the 10 year here at the same power. The big deal through is the cost. I’m not sure of the exact cost for on a full bottle, but for around $15-$20, this seems like it was a winner.  Too bad you can’t buy it anymore.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5/5 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

Well, if you find a bottle of Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year, go ahead and buy it. At the very worst you’ve got a nice cheap collector’s bottle. Either way, I’m sure you’ll find a Bourbon nerd willing to take it off your hands. Otherwise you’ll need to find something else. At this price point in the standard rye Bourbon ring I’d suggest Wild Turkey 81 and for a couple bucks more I’d recommend going for Wild Turkey 101. A lower rye option that I think is similar would be Buffalo Trace. I’m not sure I’d recommend Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star unless you’re really strapped for cash.

Links and Other Reviews

Woodford Reserve – Review

Woodford Reserve Background

Woodford Reserve BottleWoodford Reserve is distilled at the Woodford Reserve Distillery and is a part of Brown-Forman. Distilling was first done on site by Elijah Pepper on his farm in 1812. His son Oscar built the distillery in 1838 and was called the Oscar Pepper Distillery. Oscar along with Dr. James Crow of Old Crow fame built up the business until it was sold to Labrot & Graham in 1878 and later Brown-Forman bought it in 1940. Brown Forman was mostly after the stocks of aged Bourbon which would be in short supply during World War II. They operated the plant for years and then sold it in 1972 when Bourbon sales were falling. The distillery sat dormant for 20 years when Brown-Forman bought it back as Bourbon began to revive. In 2003 the distillery was renamed Woodford Reserve from Labrot & Graham Distillery, although Woodford Reserve bottles still say Labrot & Graham.

In 1993 Brown-Forman master distiller Lincoln Henderson and distiller Dave Scheurich set out to create a new premium Bourbon. They began restoring the site in 1994 and two years and $7 million dollars later it was ready to reopen. Woodford Reserve was introduced to market in 1996 and is named after its home in Woodford County Kentucky.

Since its launch, Woodford Reserve has been the sponsored Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby. This review here is the bottle commemorating the 140th Kentucky Derby. The Bourbon itself is regular Woodford Reserve, but the bottle is a special 1L version featuring some cool artwork.

Details

No age statement, but thought to be aged 6-8 years. Bottled at 42.5%. Mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley. Paid $36 MSRP.

Aroma

Rich caramel. Butterscotch. Woody. Spices, Cinnamon. Leather. Some minty rye

Flavor

Nice and oaky. Lots of caramel, toffee. Rye, minty spice. Roasted, charred flavors. Maybe a little cola in there. Some sweetness. Cinnamon and a sourness-bitterness  in the finish with some mild astringent drying and some warmth.

Overall

If Woodford Reserve is the best bottle at the bar, you’ll be OK. This is a nice warm Bourbon with dark and cozy flavors. Rich and flavorful with not much in the way of rough edges. It seems to come together nicely. It hits a lot of notes with a good rye character and satisfyingly deep flavors of rich caramel, sweetness, and good oak profile. The flavor to me a little unique with its rich sweetness, which won’t always fit my mood.

Pricing on this is respectable. This bottle here is the Derby 140 special edition, so it was more expensive at 1L size. I listed it with the standard 750ml bottle price for comparison sake. Its popularity may hurt it some among Bourbon nerds, but it’s a nice Bourbon at a good price.

Woodford Reserve Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3/5 rating.

Buying Options and Further Research

Woodford Reserve is nice, but it has quite a few peers. I call this a standard rye Bourbon and in this price range you’ve got a number of options worth investigating. If you like Woodford Reserve, can’t find it, or just want to do some more research, I’d suggest checking out Elmer T Lee, Russell’s Reserve 10, Bowman Brothers Small Batch, and Evan Williams Single Barrel. I think it’s hard to go wrong with that lineup, whatever you choose. You could also try Old Forester Select, which has the same mash recipe, but about $10 or so cheaper.

Links & Other Reviews