WILD TURKEY MASTER’S KEEP: UNFORGOTTEN
MASH BILLS – 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley / 37% corn, 51% rye, 12% malted barley
PROOF – 105
AGE – 8- & 9-year rye blended with 13-year bourbon
DISTILLERY – Wild Turkey
PRICE – $190 (msrp $200)
WORTH BUYING? – at or near msrp, yes, if you’re a big 🦃 fan. But these ever rising prices, ugh!
I’ve bemoaned Wild Turkey having finally joined the unicorn herd in a few past posts already (here for example), so I’ll try not to spend too much of my word count on that matter today. I’ll just say the current msrp on these Master’s Keep variations, like that of their Russell’s Reserve special release cousins, has now crossed a line for me. (Or has it jumped a shark?)
Capitalism aside for the moment, some brief backstory on this bottle—though if you got here via a Google search you may likely already know it:
Back in 2012 or so, a Wild Turkey employee accidentally dumped some rye into a vat of bourbon. Master distiller Eddie Russell sampled the mistake and actually rather liked it. So in 2013 Wild Turkey released Forgiven Batch 302, a more considered take on the employee’s fortuitous mistake. That batch went over okay, and a subsequent Batch 303 was released. But after that this happy accident of a brand extension was dropped.
Nearly a decade later, that 2013 Wild Turkey foray into bourye has remained unforgotten—hence the name of this 2022 edition of Eddie Russell’s annual Master’s Keep series.
And so without further ado, here we are, a week and a half after uncorking and four pours into this bottle. These brief notes were taken using both a simple brandy glass and traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – soft orange and apricot ambers
NOSE – fine baking spices nicely blended with gentle dried rye grass and spice, behind that comes soft oak, caramel, some milk chocolate, a bit of coffee
TASTE – syrupy, sweet, easygoing, with the rye, baking, and candy notes all very nicely balanced, plus a gentle oak tannin note adding definition
FINISH – tangy, sweet, the rye grass and spice now leaning forward a bit more than on the taste, along with a faint stewed apricot note adding a touch of fruity brightness
OVERALL – more of a rye experience than a bourbon, and an ode to balance
Beyond the name indirectly pointing back to Forgiven, this Master’s Keep bourye is not at all reminiscent of its inspiration. Though Forgiven had its pleasures, overall that release was actually a bit awkward as a tasting experience. Unforgotten is its own, highly refined bourye.
The level of balance here is truly extraordinary. In that regard it takes me back to Master’s Keep Revival and Decades. Though the rye does lead the flavor profile, its low-rye mash bill in combination with older bourbon in the mix creates a very grounded rye whiskey experience. It’s darker than a Russell’s Reserve Rye SiB or my sense-memory of the 2019 Master’s Keep Cornerstone Rye. Cornerstone was good, but not nearly good enough to pay $$$ when the RR SiB Rye is out there for $$. Unforgotten is actually more of what I’d hoped Cornerstone might have been: a Wild Turkey rye experience that truly stands apart from the rafter.
Am I still perturbed by the price? I am. Maybe it’s simply because I got in on the Master’s Keep line back when it could be found for $125 on average—and that was only four years ago! But times change, all good things come to an end, Green Day was better when they played the pubs, etc etc etc…
How high the Master’s Keep msrp continues to climb will determine whether I continue to stick with the series. The perennial fact that Wild Turkey’s standard releases are often as satisfying as the special limited releases makes the latter a consumer’s conundrum. And at secondary prices? Forget it.
Unforgotten is an excellent whiskey. If you love Wild Turkey and come across Unforgotten at msrp, get it. If you don’t find it or aren’t a particular Turkey fan, seek out a Russell’s Reserve Rye SiB instead. Its cork won’t double as a paperweight, but outside of that you’ll be perfectly happy.