Updated February 25, 2017
By April Manning
Average Rating: A-
Editor’s Note: As we were editing this sneak peak, The Whiskey Reviewer was informed by Campari that the release of Decades would be postponed until 2017 in the U.S. The Bourbon is now going to market, and on that occasion we’ve come back to give it a second look.
Wild Turkey has released the much anticipated second specimen in their limited series of Master’s Keep Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys, Decades. This bourbon is a tribute to celebrate Master Distiller Eddie Russell, and gives him the recognition that his abilities merit. After 35 years under the guidance of his renowned father former Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, Eddie is fashioning some spectacular representations of Kentucky Bourbon.
Master’s Keep Decades is 104 proof (52% ABV) bourbon created exclusively from a hand-selected lot (alas, making this a limited spirit) of barrels that have been aged from 10 to 20 years. These barrels are special not just because of the age, but because they are specifically chosen from the center and upper floors of Wild Turkey’s McBrayer Rickhouse. The top of the rickhouse is hot and dry, causing water to evaporate much faster which means the barrels mature at an accelerated pace. This is where the younger barrels are obtained. The more mature barrels come from the most prime locations in the rickhouses, which would be levels 3 to 5. These levels are what are known as the “Center Cut,” because they have less variation than the upper and lower levels.
This well-balanced marriage of the two barrels resulted in a spirit with the playful liveliness of younger bourbons smoothed with the intense richness found in older bourbons.
The bourbon has a brassy hue with flashes of mahogany when the light hits it just right. With the earthiness of oak and the sweetness of caramel it has the familiar nose of Wild Turkey bourbon, with the subtle enhancements of butterscotch and chocolate.
Master’s Keep Decades hits the front palate with a peppery flair that is followed with a hint of butterscotch sweetness. This is light, smooth bourbon with a viscosity that briefly coats the tongue before leaving a pleasant lingering caramel impression. It gives a smoldering, velvety finish that gently reminds you of the higher proof.
There has been a rise in the popularity of bourbon leading to more brands being created. The “bandwagon bourbons” need to take a page out of Wild Turkey’s book and realize that truly fine bourbon is acquired through patience. Years, decades even, of patience. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades is yet more proof of this.
A cheer to the Russells… another job well done.
Addendum by Richard Thomas
Decades has a lustrous, middle amber appearance in the glass, like a clear, darker take on copper. A swish puts a nice, viscous coat on the inside of the glass that drops thick, branching legs that resemble nothing so much as the veins of a leaf.
The nose has a certain creamy character, coming from where its currents of floral citrus zest and sweetened vanilla meet, underscored by notes of leathery oak and a very modest dash of spiciness. The flavor is straight up caramel with a touch of butterscotch, and coming up on the backside is a certain gingery spiciness and a note of toasty wood. I’m used to Wild Turkey’s wood notes coming out as cedar-like, but in this instance its definitely oak. The finish is long, lingering, and lightly minty and leathery.
Overall, it’s a flavorful spin on Wild Turkey, not quite what I expected, but a lovely sipper nonetheless. At 104 proof, it’s very much in keeping with Wild Turkey’s style of putting the ABV in the 50s and nonetheless staying imminently drinkable without so much as a drop of water.
$150 for 750ml, and available for a limited time at that.