Wild Turkey 101 – from 2006!

WILD TURKEY 101
2006 1L bottling

MASH BILL – 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley

PROOF – 101

AGE – NAS

DISTILLERY – Wild Turkey

PRICE – $51

WORTH BUYING? – Oh so yes

I picked up this bottle a few years ago now. I want to say it was 2018. Around that time I came into several bottles of 2006 Wild Turkey 101, and a couple from 2001. Thanks to David Jennings’ great blog, Rare Bird 101, which provides insights into Wild Turkey’s often changing laser codes, one can fairly easily determine the date of most any bottle.

Having been bottled in 2006, the whiskey in this batch was distilled sometime in Wild Turkey’s 107-entry proof era. In 2004 the standard entry proof was raised from 107 to 110, and in 2006 raised again to 115, where it has remained since. A lower entry proof means the final bottled product needs less water to bring it down to its bottling proof, which means the bourbon’s flavors and aromas are less diluted. A higher entry proof saves money, given it will need to be watered down more at bottling, increasing the volume yielded per barrel but further diluting flavor. Wild Turkey’s master distilling duo, Jimmy and Eddie Russell, took their time shifting their whiskey’s entry proof to ensure flavor integrity was not sacrificed to financial concerns.

This bottle is the last of my several 2006 bottles. I don’t hold hopes of coming across more of them. Wild Turkey, long the best openly kept secret in bourbon, has finally been caught up in the Bourbon Boom via the brand’s excellent annual limited releases. When the 2020 Master’s Keep 17 Year BiB made waves, suddenly Wild Turkey bottles that had sat gathering dust for years were snapped up by avid bourbon hunters. The 2021 release of Russell’s Reserve 13 Year then cinched Wild Turkey’s induction into the unicorn pasture.

Thus this once common, bottom shelf bottle of Wild Turkey 101 is now a “dusty,” a prized find, and a portal into flavor profiles past. That a bourbon was bottled or distilled decades ago doesn’t guarantee it will be good. But for whiskey fans the allure of uncapping history in a bottle is irresistible. It’s a phenomenon born of passion, curiosity, and a strong quotient of nostalgia. Given whiskey does not continue to evolve in a tightly corked bottle, tasting a whiskey from another era offers a tangible sense of being there. A photo may give us a glimpse. A recording offers a whisper. But a whiskey gives us a whiff and a taste—arguably the more sensual way to time travel. With one sip, the past literally pours into the present.

And so here we are, something over twenty years after distilling, sixteen years after bottling, a week and a half after uncorking and just a few pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using both a traditional Glencairn and simple brandy glass.

COLOR – wonderfully vibrant russet and brassy oranges

NOSE – classic Wild Turkey “funk,” clove and cinnamon, bright brown sugar, baked cherry, sweet dry oak, dry caramel, orange peel

TASTE – sweet oak, a thick syrupy caramel, also a bright and tangy caramel drizzled on cherry pie, the baking spices now also with ground black pepper

FINISH – sweet and bitter oak tannins, caramel, fruit pie crust, another whiff of the “funk”

OVERALL – a good ol’ fashioned Wild Turkey 101, nicely balanced between the sweet, dry, and funky notes

That Wild Turkey “funk” note, which was such a turn off for me initially in the Forgiven Batch 302, is a welcome aspect of the flavor profile here. It adds an element of complexity to the fruit and spice notes, and is key alongside the oak notes toward creating that dusty, classic taste.

This bourbon reveals itself most vibrantly in the simple brandy glass, where the flavors better match the rich range of colors when the glass is held up in the light. The Glencairn tends to darken things in such a way that it also takes the edge off the flavor profile’s full potential. It’s good in both glasses. But in the Glencairn I miss that extra vibrancy I get from the brandy glass.

These older Wild Turkey 101 bottlings really do earn the “Wild” in Wild Turkey. There’s something particularly alive about them, like they might up and fly away at any moment. Where I grew up, there were wild turkeys roaming the woods around our home. I so associated them with being on the ground, it was always a shock to see a flock of them perched in an oak tree—their large, awkward bodies seemingly out of proportion to the long slender branches. This 2006 Wild Turkey 101 is similarly graceful in its own rough and lumbering way.

What else can I say? If you find one of these older bottles on some shelf, buy it. If the store is charging pirate prices, though, leave it. I paid just over $50 for this four years ago, at a corner store that wasn’t yet differentiating between a 2006 or 2018 1L bottle. Today I don’t expect to come across such a thing. Most corner stores have discovered Google’s relationship to the Bourbon Boom and know better. Today, I’d be willing to pay $70 or so. More than that and I might as well pick up a contemporary bottle of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, which certainly won’t offer the same experience but will just as certainly offer a great experience.

In short, there’s just no going wrong with Wild Turkey.

Cheers!

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