Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Rye

2020 bottling

MASH BILL – 51% Rye, 37% Corn, 12% Malted Barley

PROOF – 112.2

AGE – NAS (blend of 4, 6, and 8 year whiskeys)

DISTILLERY – Wild Turkey

PRICE – $60

BUY AGAIN? – Yes, so long as the price doesn’t go up.

I’ve posted on this blog about Wild Turkey many times at this point, from the stalwart Wild Turkey 101 to various Master’s Keep editions, Russell’s Reserve, and uncredited outings like W.B. Saffell. For the most comprehensive Wild Turkey information anywhere on the www, however, I refer you to David Jenkins at Rare Bird 101.

This post will focus on Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Rye. When the new line was announced, WT fans were all a flutter. A barrel proof Wild Turkey rye? Yes please!

And what was particularly nice about the advent of this new rye was the reasonable assumption that it would not be relatively hard to come by. Wild Turkey products continue to be the best openly kept secret in American whiskey. Anyone who drinks whiskey has heard of Wild Turkey. Yet the various Wild Turkey incarnations do not suffer from the debilitating FOMO that any number of Buffalo Trace or darling craft distillery offerings so often do these days. The outstanding Wild Turkey 101 can always be found on the shelf for a reasonable price. And one can even still find decently priced bottles of the extraordinary 2017 Master’s Keep Decades. Given Wild Turkey’s exceptional quality, this makes no sense considering the acrobatics whiskey fans engage in to get ahold of so many other sought after bottles of similar or lesser quality.

Fine. Let Wild Turkey continue to waltz openly under the FOMO radar. Whatever the exact explanation, please, nobody explain it! Let the phenomenon persist! We’ve already lost Henry McKenna, and, infamously, the entire Weller line. If Wild Turkey were to be crushed under the bourbon boom’s weight as well, I might be moved to give up on bourbon all together.

Well, probably not. But you know what I mean.

Here are some notes taken on this 2020 bottling of the Rare Breed rye, tasted about three weeks after uncorking and a third of the way into the bottle, in a traditional Glencairn.

COLOR – a soft, bright, glowing orange

NOSE – oh there it is, this is what I imagine Kentucky smells like: baking spices and baked bread, long waving grasses, rye florals and spices, a nice cinnamon-caramel, red hots candies, Spring Summer and Autumn all at once…!

TASTE – the rye and baking spices, now oak and wood spices too, freshly broken-open crusty bread loaves, rich pine, all held together in that nice and easygoing cinnamon-caramel

FINISH – oak and baking spices, those rich pine notes, a nice warmth lingering, the caramel now faint yet darker and richer

OVERALL – a multi-spicy rye, easy to sip

Though this Rare Breed Rye does not surpass the incomparably rich and lovely Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye, it offers its own unique spice bomb of a whiskey. Rye, baking, and wood spices commingle in a gurgling stream of caramel. It reminds me of the standard Wild Turkey 101 Rye release, which for me comes across a bit too bitter around the edges. This Rare Breed rendition diffuses those bitter edges with its complex mélange of spices and its restrained but effective caramel note.

This may sound pejorative though I don’t mean it to be at all. But I don’t feel compelled to say much about this rye. It satisfies immediately. It’s not a thinker. It’s a drinker. It’s not an attention grabber like Old Potrero or Tom’s Foolery or even Willett. It’s very Wild Turkey—obvious and un-showy in its quality, no-nonsense in its appeal to the senses, utterly unpretentious…

…Almost to the point of being forgettable. I know that sounds negative. It’s certainly not a selling point. And I don’t actually feel negatively about this sipping experience at all. It’s perfectly comforting. Easygoing without being boring. Uneventful like a quiet sunny afternoon.

This is why Wild Turkey is so popular and yet not so FOMO. It gets the job done well, without any flashiness. When I want something legitimately good to sip on that won’t distract me from whatever else I’ve got going on, this will do it. Perhaps that’s not worth $60. I don’t see myself making certain there’s always a bottle of Rare Breed Rye on my shelf like I do the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye, which only costs about $10 to $20 more on average. But I’m perfectly glad to have another Turkey in the gaggle.


2 thoughts on “Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Rye

    1. I too find the WT Rye 101 a bit bitter. I didn’t get that same bitterness on this batch of Rare Breed Rye. It will be interesting to see how the line develops from season to season. Like you I also love the Rare Breed Bourbon, and it seems to have settled into a fairly consistent place since the switch to 116.8 proof some time ago. Maybe the RB Rye will continue to evolve as well. Thanks for stopping by the blog! Cheers!


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