Wild Turkey Distiller’s Reserve 12 Year

Japanese Export (2022)

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

PROOF – 101

AGE – 12 years

DISTILLERY – Wild Turkey

PRICE – $193 (msrp in Japan is ~$60 in US dollars)

WORTH BUYING? – Not at the price I paid, no. But the correct price? Absolutely!

A lot has been written about Wild Turkey products, and will no doubt continue to be. It’s a legit classic brand, both by image and, most importantly, by consistency of taste. Wild Turkey compels ongoing respect, appreciation, and contemplation.

And yet I wonder, at this point what more can be said about the brand? (David Jennings over at RareBird101 has an answer to that!) Why write about it at all? Certainly not to promote it or to introduce it to anyone—even non-bourbon drinkers would likely recognize the name. But when a new Wild Turkey product comes out, I feel almost involuntarily compelled to track it down and try it, then write about it…!

Since the brand fully joined the unicorn herd a couple years ago now, the pursuit of it has grown more complicated logistically and financially, as well as on the level of values. Yet here I am, having overpaid for Wild Turkey again. And the last time I did that was only just a few months ago, for the 2022 Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Unforgotten, an exceptionally well balanced whiskey for which I’d nevertheless much rather have paid half what I did.

What makes Wild Turkey so irresistible? Why are so many of us willing, even despite our better judgment, to shell out stupid amounts when we know—we know—that even the standard Wild Turkey releases (e.g. 101, Russell’s Reserve, Rare Breed) often deliver an experience on par or darn near enough to the brand’s increasingly unlimited number of limited releases? Wild Turkey has a spirit (in every sense of that word) that endears us to it. But as the Bourbon Boom’s mushroom cloud continues to spread, for how long will Wild Turkey fans be willing to embrace the brand’s high-end variations without question or limits?

The subject of today’s post is a bottle that travelled from Kentucky to Japan, then to California. This accounts for the price. But since the likelihood of my flying to Japan anytime soon is zero, I paid.

Worth it?

Here we are, just over a week after uncorking and four pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using both a simple brandy glass and traditional Glencairn.

COLOR – a familiar pale-medium autumnal orange I quite associate with Wild Turkey 101 and other of the distillery’s lower proof outings

NOSE – dusty oak, baked cherry, some pulpy orange peel, a juicy caramel note buried amidst the sweet cherries, some roasted peanut, faint chocolate, dry baking spices floating on top of everything

TASTE – very like the nose, with the juiciness of the caramel and cherries amped up a bit more in great balance with the drier oak and baking spice notes

FINISH – all the notes noted above gently and rather quickly fade, leaving peanut and almond butters to emerge and linger longest, with the faint bright tang of the sweet notes still glimmering in the background…

OVERALL – refined and balanced without losing that good-humored Wild Turkey kick; among the best Wild Turkey 101 outings I’ve had—if only it were actually Wild Turkey 101!

This surprised me today. Last night I tried it in the wake of some Redbreast 15 Year Irish Whiskey and Arran Amarone Cask Single Malt, both of them much more overtly sweet than this Wild Turkey 12 Year. Coming after those, the Wild Turkey leaned very dry, all oak and unbaked baking spice—to the point of it being rather boring, to be frank. But today, without the sweeter Irish and Scotch whiskies to compare, this well-aged bourbon’s own sweet fruit and candy notes show themselves much more and the experience is quite balanced.

It’s also worth noting that even today on its own, the bourbon comes across with notably greater sweetness in the simple brandy glass than the Glencairn. As I continue to nose and sip both glasses, I’m discerning that the difference might be one of brightness, actually, with the brandy glass leaning that way and so the sweet notes appearing more evident. So it’s worth trying this in different glasses to find the one that appeals most.

This is an excellent bourbon. Certain Master’s Keep outings, as well as Russell’s Reserve SiBs and L.E.s, have shown more complexity, depth, and interest. But this 12 Year Distiller’s Reserve satisfies the Wild Turkey craving instantly. It’s very like an elevated Wild Turkey 101, with that fun rough quality the 101 can have tempered by notably more refined variations on the expected aromas and flavor notes.

Not worth what I paid, I’ll say. The highest I’d be willing to pay for another bottle of this would be $80, maybe $101 for fun. 😉 That said, I don’t regret the one-time splurge. This being a Japanese Export re-imported, it’s quite literally on a whole other shelf than any Wild Turkey product I can reach domestically. And the domestic products feature enough high quality, satisfying outings comparable to this one, that I see no need to go through any international rigmarole.

Without question, if I ever find myself in an airport or country where I can pick this up for the intended msrp, I’ll nab two at least! Until then…


Aaaaaaand fancy box porn:

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