This past week has been interesting in that I was able to acquire some very old bourbons this week, one seventeen, one sixteen, and one fifteen. It is almost like a mini-fall limited bourbon release cycle. So, I have some great bourbons to review in the near future, and I am starting with what promises to be a great bottle that will be much sought after, the most recent release of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep, which is a seventeen year old bottled in bond bourbon.
This bourbon comes in an extremely impressive presentation box, which somewhat justifies the $169 price I paid. However, $169 is pretty much in line what you pay for say Eagle Rare 17 year old at retail. So, even without the cool box, the price is about right for something like this.
And the inner door has a small write up describing the bourbon.
With the write up on the box, the bottle is beautiful yet simple, and label free except at the top.
Now, I have reviewed quite a few Wild Turkey Whiskies in the past. My basic attitude toward Wild Turkey is that their non-chill filtered whiskies are second to none, particularly Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and special releases, and W.B. Saffel. So the question in my mind is did they chill filter Master’s Keep such that it wouldn’t cloud over ice, and did that impact the flavor negatively? It doesn’t say non-chill filtered on the bottle but that doesn’t necessarily mean they chill filtered it either. So, all I can really do is taste and hope for the best.The other thing to note is that, seventeen years ago, the barrel proof for Wild Turkey was only 105 proof. So, this being cut to 100 proof means that it should be pretty close to what it tasted like coming out of the barrel.
The color is a very nice medium dark amber with hints of mahogany if you look hard enough. Which tells me that these casks were kept in a cool place in the bottom of the warehouse. On the swirl, a thick film develops, and the legs almost defy gravity for a moment as the surface tension somehow holds the film together before the legs slowly, and I mean slowly, fall from the film. I’ve never seen a whiskey swirl quite like this. It’s frankly impressive. On the nose are very classic bourbon smells, but with cherries and apples coming through. On the palate, this bourbon has an amazing thick mouthfeel, with vanilla and toffee mingling with dark cherries that is very reminiscent of some Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel store picks that I have had but with the vanilla and toffee more presented and balancing the cherries. Then there is the smokiness and oak that follows and really makes this whiskey intriguing. On the finish, the cherry notes turn to cherry liquor with the oak and smokiness lingering with a hint of iodine like an elegant Islay scotch, together with a hint of Balkan Sasieni English Pipe tobacco, which is unmistakable for me since that is what I started smoking in my pipes a few years back.
To say there is a lot going on with this bourbon would be a severe understatement.
100 proof was the right proof for this; its smoothness in that regard as opposed to a cask strength bourbon really allows you to chew this bourbon multiple times to really savor the complex flavors, but still has enough kick as this would have been criminal to proof this down to 90 proof like the standard Russell’s Reserve. The finish is quite long – it took 50 seconds before it began to fade, and about a minute and a half to fade completely although you could still taste the whiskey even after that. What is really unique to this bourbon is that on the palate it is amazing. But once you swallow it, hold on, the flavor ride is really just beginning. The finish is really where the action is.
As a value proposition, this bourbon is definitely on the level with sought after long aged bourbons like Eagle Rare 17, Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond, Orphan Barrel long aged bourbons, and Pappy Van Winkle 20 or 23 year old. It’s that good, and, indeed, may be better than some of the bourbons I just mentioned. Based on what I am reading, some store owners are allocating this; some are putting it out on the shelves. If you happen to find one, do not pass it up. Buy it, open it up, sip a little bit, then put it on the top shelf of your bar. Because that is where this bourbon belongs.