It’s been a busy year or two at the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceberg, Kentucky: Master distiller Jimmy Russell celebrated 60 years with the company last fall. Russell’s son, Eddie, also a longtime Wild Turkey distiller, was promoted to master distiller status in January, and the third generation, Bruce Russell recently joined the company (despite plans to do otherwise). Along the way, the brand has expanded its portfolio with special releases, including Forgiven (a blend of bourbon and rye) and Diamond Anniversary (celebrating the elder Russell’s lengthy tenure). Now, as Eddie Russell moves into his more senior role with the company, he has released Master’s Keep, the brand’s longest-aged bourbon to date.
According to a release from the company, the 17-year aged whiskey came about due to a 1997 surplus (back when Bourbon wasn’t having its moment). The company says that Eddie (who is often poised in discussions among father and son as the one trying to expand bourbon’s horizons) found extra space in an off-site warehouse, but realized the aging process would be different from traditional Wild Turkey. In fact, the bourbon came back at a lower proof sitting in the stone warehouses far from Lawrenceberg (cooler temperatures mean more alcohol than water is lost to the “Angel’s Share”). A lower rate of interaction between wood and spirit also meant a lighter-than expected whiskey after 17 years.
At any rate, it’s been bottled now and given an age statement of 17 years (meaning that’s the minimum age of the whiskey components in the bottle). The color is still plenty deep but in fact trends more gold than the reddish amber more commonly associated with Wild Turkey or Russell’s Reserve 10-year.
On the nose, it is a warm, inviting and mellow combination of expected aromatics: vanilla, oak, cigar leaf, earth and clove.
On the mouth it is creamy and intense, with great weight and strong wood tannins up front. The mid-palate receives all the spice kick and the finish is smooth and long. Up front there are notes of spice, roasted apricot and raisin, in the middle oak, pepper, clove and vanilla. And in the back as it goes down the throat, the acids evoking glorious salivation for more, vanilla cream and caramel dominate in a long savory-sweet-spice finish. There is really no need to open this up with water (oak notes begin to dominate if you do), though if you prefer an ice cube in your bourbon, this should play nicely.
This is a whiskey to share. But only with very close friends, or a friend you hope will become very close soon. Take your time: it’s worth it. (The friend and the whiskey).
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep has an age statement of 17 years, an ABV of 86.8 proof and a suggested retail price of $150. It is only available as long as supplies last. Please drink responsibly.
FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author’s own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author received a 200ml sample of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep from Campari America for review purposes. The author asserts that even though Eddie Russell has “only” been at the distillation game for 34 years, he seems to have it down.