Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Campari Group
Distillery: Wild Turkey
Age: NAS (According to Eddie Russell, bottles are between 8-9 years)
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Color: Deep golden amber
MSRP: $55 (2017)
The brand was first released in 1994 and is said to be the second single barrel bourbon to hit the market after Blanton’s. Jimmy Russell personally selects casks that have matured for approximately nine years to be bottled individually for this line. Awarded Malt Advocate’s “Best of the Year” in 1995.
Overall it’s very sweet with an interesting mix of key lime and pecan pie. Hints of citrus, leather, and spice are also present. It has a thicker, more full bodied nose than the normal Wild Turkey 101.
Like the nose, the palate is on the sweet side with generous amounts of caramel, vanilla, orange, and cinnamon present. It also has a really nice balance of rye and corn. Leather and oak notes help balance the palate from some of its sweeter aspects.
Medium-long finish with hearty notes of rye and leather. It’s not too hot, yet it leaves an agreeable amount of flavor in your mouth. The finish is well balanced between the lighter/sweet beginning and the slightly dry, oaky finish. It leaves a nice aftertaste of brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon.
There’s not a lot that is obviously unique with this bourbon. Its flavor profile has few surprises and follows the bold, rye-forward Wild Turkey style. What makes the bourbon special is its balance of the flavor spectrum. The corn flavor is offset by the rye spiciness. The sweetness is offset by oak and leather flavors. Although this is most likely the goal of any master distiller, few really nail this delicate balance. There are many bourbons that have a particular aspect of their flavor profile that makes them great, but a bourbon that provides a deep and layered flavor experience is much harder to find.
At more than double the price of the standard Wild Turkey 101, purchasing Kentucky Spirit isn’t an impulse buy. It loses the youthful taste of Wild Turkey 101 and it provides a deeper, more balanced flavor profile. The $45 - $55 price range is a growing segment of the bourbon market and many of the bottles in that price range provide stiff competition. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Blanton’s, and even Wild Turkey’s own Russel’s Reserve Single Barrel are all fantastic bourbons in that price range. I would probably rate Kentucky Spirit below those in a direct face off, which means to me that this bourbon is priced on the high side. Even Wild Turkey’s own barrel proof Rare Breed costs $35, so it’s a tad perplexing why Kentucky Spirit is priced where it is.
A great, well balanced bourbon that is widely available but priced a tad too high.
Most of Wild Turkey’s special releases and even their Rare Breed are blended bourbons, so between Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel at 110 proof and Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel at 101 proof, this is the closest consumers get to tasting pure right-out-of-the-barrel Wild Turkey bourbon. The company is known for their bold flavored bourbons and Kentucky Spirit follows this tradition while adding some extra balance to its flavor profile. It’s a very enjoyable sip that I think is better than Wild Turkey’s last couple of special releases that were double, or almost triple the price of Kentucky Spirit’s. The $50 price tag of Kentucky Spirit might turn people off, but it may be worthwhile as it offers a chance to taste one of Wild Turkey’s best products.
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