By Richard Thomas
Bourbon-based honey liqueurs have enjoyed a much higher profile lately, part of a general upsurge in flavored whiskey. Wild Turkey didn’t need to rush a new product on the market to take advantage of that trend, however, because they already had a grandaddy product out there. It might have gotten a new name and stylish presentation in 2006, but the product in bottles of Wild Turkey American Honey has been around since 1978.
My own acquaintance with Wild Turkey’s honey liqueur dates back to the mid-to-late 1990s. In those days I would almost always have a bottle around, using it both for cooking and for sipping on the rocks. I drifted away as I developed an interest in wine, but after a decade and a half I was more than happy to come back and renew my acquaintance with this little classic.
This stuff is a blend of bourbon and honey, with a proof of 71 (35.5% abv). The departure from firm whiskey territory begins with the coloring, which is completely out of the bourbonesque amber zone. In the glass, the liquid has the yellow coloring of full-bodied white wine.
The nose is lovely and potent, combining lemon zest and honey, with a dash of butterscotch and cookie spice for good measure. The woody note, modest as it is, is more cedar than oak. Nosing this stuff really is like pulling the lid off and nosing a big scented candle, it’s that fragrant.
The flavor brings more of that citrus and honey cookie profile to the plate, with a mouthfeel that is rich and buttery. It’s not sophisticated, but it is supremely yummy.
Although based on bourbon, this American Honey isn’t whiskey and doesn’t taste anything like it, something that is important to remember. Even compared to most flavored whiskeys it’s outside the fold, but in my opinion a good liqueur ought to cast loose from its roots. This stuff is rich and flavorful, and in a way that works well on ice. The main reason I relied on it so heavily back in the day was it was perfect for winding down on those hot, tropical early evenings in Washington, DC.
Wild Turkey American Honey is priced at a fairly reasonable $22 per 750 ml bottle.