By April Manning
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is a 101 proof (50.5% alcohol), single- barrel bourbon that is aged 8 ½ to 9 ½ years. This means they pull the bung of that barrel and pour bottles until it’s gone, with no blending of the bottle. This also means there can be varying experiences with this bourbon, making the barrel chosen to house this spirit for the next 9 years very important. No worries there: Wild Turkey uses only premium-quality, #4 alligator charred, white-oak barrels.
The #4 alligator char refers to the effect heavy charring has on the barrels. It causes cracks in the surface of the oak giving it the appearance of alligator skin. This process also allows the bourbon to penetrate the oak more easily and influence the spirit’s flavor. The char level determines how much of the woods sugars shape the essence of the bourbon. #4 alligator char is the highest level of the traditional char levels and the darker char levels will extract more vanilla flavors and color into the spirit.
And you can always expect this consistency. On one of my annual pilgrimages to the distillery, I had a discussion with the tour guide about some experimenting they were doing regarding where the oak was harvested for the barrels. We talked about how the variables of the soil (pH, moisture, nitrogen fixation, etc…) could affect the flavor of the bourbon and I left the distillery wondering if they would in some way alter their dependable process.
I then had the privilege to attend a Night Out With Jimmy event, where recently retired master distiller Jimmy Russell spoke about the many joys of being him and then offered to answer some questions. When I asked about the possibility of changing where the oak for the barrels is harvested he assured me that they would keep doing what they always have in the same slow, traditional manner Wild Turkey is known for.
The perfume-esque bottle reflects the haughty elegance one feels when sipping on this delicate spirit. The brighter amber color of Kentucky Spirit shows it to be more subtle than its cousin Wild Turkey 101. Upon smelling the cork the nose is greeted with the tantalizing rich aroma of oak and vanilla. Appreciate this drink neat to experience the distinct rich vanilla undertone giving way to just a hint of sweet smokiness. The finish is warm and long, with a slow fade. This is a delicacy that can be enjoyed by a full range of bourbon connoisseurs.
In a world of blended bourbons it’s nice to find an excellent single barrel standard by which to measure others. With my preference for Wild Turkey, this one is it.
The price ranges from generally $40 – $55 (however, I did enjoy grabbing my bottle with a sale price of $35!).
2011 San Francisco World Spirits Competition – Gold Medal
2011 Ultimate Spirits Challenge – 92 Points – Excellent, Highly Recommended
2010 International Wine & Spirits Competition – Silver Medal