Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wild Turkey 101 - Sunday, July 10th

Cheap bourbon is a fickle mistress. There are few bourbons that maintain both a low price and a palatable taste. Take for example Fighting Cock bourbon by Heaven Hill. It's a decent, six year old whiskey that clocks in at a healthy 103 proof. It's about, oh I dunno, $16~ish a liter. It is a decent bourbon for mixing but drinking it straight is a measure in sheer willpower. I'm not sure what it is but I can't drink that stuff neat no matter how much I try. And then there's Early Times. That's cheap and readily available. But I can't drink that in any fashion. It smells like corn soaked in paint thinner and tastes equally wretched. Budget bourbon is hard to come across and those that do find one jealously horde it.

For me, I have a broad range of cheap bourbons and, unlike some people, I'm willing to share. Fighting Cock and Buffalo Trace make it onto my bill of fare rather frequently and that's cool. But thanks to travel retail, I've found my favorite budget bourbon. Wild Turkey 101. Eight years old, 101 proof. It's a manly whiskey. It's got a kick like a mule and makes me think of the stuff they swilled down in Wild West taverns in the mid 1800s. But unlike that stuff, it tastes pretty damn good. And the best part? I'm equally comfortable mixing it (the higher proof holds well in a mint julep) and drinking it neat. Here she is in all of her bottled glory:

How does it look in the glass?

Looks miiiighty delicious. Here's the particulars:

Nose:  It smells like freshly hewn wood and corn oil. What must be a decent rye content gives some paprika and mustard powder-like spice. Busted, worn leather as well. Reminds me of the barn on my godparent's farm.

Taste: Honey and corn oil sweetness tempered with wood. Floral as well but I can't quite narrow down what it is. This fades to a robust vanilla and oak coupled with, strangely, a taste not unlike burnt ends from brisket. That mustardy/paprika rye taste is there too but buried deep. Finish is not warm, but biting and bracing like a bonfire on a chilly night.

When you can get a liter bottle of this for $20 at travel retail, you can't go wrong. This is the "girl next door" bourbon. Sure, there's prettier, fancier, more costly belles at the ball...but more often than not the best thing is something you've always overlooked. Although, frankly, I feel that way about just about all bourbon. There's your fancy scotch, your Japanese whisky, your Irish too. But that girl next door, that southern belle, always calls to me strongest. And I generally heed. Funny, that.


  1. Do you like rye whiskey?

    I ask because I'm finding that certain bourbon drinkers tend to exclusively enjoy bourbons with rye on their mashbills. If I'm not mistaken, Wild Turkey has a bit of rye in their mix, while Fighting Cock does not. FC might be classified as a sweeter bourbon, and WT might be classified as one that is spicy.

    Myself, I mostly dislike Wild Turkey (and don't love spicy bourbons) and can drink Fighting Cock (and sweet bourbons) straight all the live long day. I guess tastes can vary widely, huh?

  2. DJ,

    I like rye, its true. But one bourbon I do enjoy on occasion is Maker's Mark which is a wheated bourbon. It's definitely a "sweet" bourbon.

    I think my problem with Fighting Cock lies in the wood maturation. I'm not sure what it is but I find the wood edge to it harsh, discordant, and overly tannic. But mixing it with anything cuts that tannin punch and allows the corn sweetness to come out.

  3. I also find that Wild Turkey 101 is one of my favorite budget bourbons. And for some reason, the Wild Turkey rye gets no love, despite being (to my taste) better than Rittenhouse or Bulleit rye.

    If you like 'manly whiskey with a kick like a mule' you should try the Old Grand Dad 101. Another amazing and overlooked value in serious bourbon.