Each year we run our All I Want For Christmas Series as a way of introducing you to our choice whisky picks for the silly seasons whisky gift list. Enjoy it for yourself, buy it for a loved one, colleague or friend. Lets get cracking with this years choice the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
For our followers and event attendees you may recall we interviewed the legendary Jimmy Russell Master Distiller at Wild Turkey in 2015. This interview took place while Jimmy and his son Eddie, now also joint Master Distiller for Wild Turkey, were on tour in Australia for Meet The Master’s. It was a celebration of their now joint Master Distiller partnership, Eddie's appointment as Master Distiller and to celebrate Eddie’s own personal release of the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17yo. Before we get into the notes on the Wild Turkey Decades though, we want to give you a little more background about what makes the Master Keep series so unique, not just to the stables of Wild Turkey, but also to the concept of bourbon in general.
The first thing you will note is the Master Keep Decades is made up of older bourbon barrels aged for a minimum of 10 years up to 20 years. That makes it an old bourbon by any standards. We just don’t see old bourbons and for good reason. Kentucky gets humid and hot. Really hot. This massive fluctuation in heat between summer and winter, night to day, greatly effects the breathing of cask and the interaction of spirit with the wood. Breath in breath out. The more activity with the barrel has the more oaky the bourbon becomes. As Jimmy noted many times, he just does not like overly oaked bourbon and is a true stickler for maintaining the traditions he and his family before him have set down. When everyone else was abandoning bourbon in the 70’s it was Jimmy that said stay the course and don’t change a thing. That determination against a companies financial lure to start making white spirits (as were many others) is why we still see Wild Turkey taste pretty much the same now as what it did 40 years ago. Eddie totally understands the need for tradition but he also professes to liking an older more oaked bourbon whisky. It is this choice of the older oak factor that defines the Master’s Keep series to date.
In speaking with Jimmy and Eddie they would tell the story of how Eddie would come into Jimmy’s office and present a new style whisky often displaying heavy oak notes. Each time it was a “no”, “nope”, “nup” response. They would laugh about together during the interview so it is clear Eddie had a long road ahead of him to get one over the mark.
Initially there was point where the stars aligned leaving Eddie with a chance to focus on creating his own style Wild Turkey. The lads tell the story of how there was a point in recent Wild Turkey history where a large haul of barrels had to be temporarily stored in brick warehouses. Many of you would know Wild Turkey only use wooden rick houses. Even this short period of maturation in brick had caused a great variation in the spirits profile. So much so that it was deemed these barrels could not, should not, go back into general population for blending. This was effectively Eddie’s chance to continue to nature and develop the whisky into what is effectively a limited release Wild Turkey Master’s Keep 17yo.
Following this release of the Masters Keep 17yo we have seen the latest Master Keep Decades, the second release in the Master Keep series, evolve in to a newer broader aged style but still keeping the tradition of a warehouse focus. Decades is a mingling of barrels drawn only from the McBrayer Rickhouse. It is a rickhouse that sees its locality at a lower elevation on the Wild Turkey property which is told to not suffer as much temperature fluctuations as many of the other rick houses. Rickhouses are often 5 to 7 levels high, built all of wood with tin roofs. Temperature variations can be extreme between top to bottom, outer to inner, so a cross section of premium older barrels has been chosen from this one warehouse to establish this releases.
Wild Turkey Masters Keep Decades Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distiller: Wild Turkey
Region: Kentucky, USA
Age: Minimum 10 up to 20 years
Wood: New American Oak
Nose: Delivers big maple syrup, bacon fat, cherry wood with the high proof of the spirit very clean and obvious. Some herbal mint spice will appear after the first sip, as does charred oak and fudge caramel.
Taste: Very different to a core Wild Turkey with a purity in the palate more than likely due to age refinement from the oak. Oily and sticky with cherry wood intensity, sugary maple syrup over pancakes and bacon. Assertive herbal spice prickles and simply cannot be ignored.
Finish: Finish is long and intense with very rich spices prickling up into the mouth as the profile becomes very drying. The maple syrup effect also continue to linger for a very long time after.
This is a cracking bourbon with some real depth of character. The ABV alone is going to tell you a story for some time after your first sip and that is something to admire. If you are keen to get a bottle for yourself or as a gift for Christmas then we recommend the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades to go on your list. It is one of those opportunities to try a truly aged bourbons reasonably priced at $200AU a bottle.
To rediscover our interview with Jimmy Russell you can find the article here. Be sure to check out out other All I Want For Christmas posts: The Blend; The Single Malt; The Glass.