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Water of Life – Wild Turkey Master Keep series

Wild Turkey is a benchmark on this earthround with its portfolio that runs the gamut from ubiquitous affordable every day bourbons that are easy to obtain to special edition releases, each of which have not only the mastery of the distillery but also more often than not an interesting story and narrative behind it.

Wild Turkey’s Master’s Keep series is not merely an artificially created special edition, but one that is highly coveted by anyone remotely into bourbon for a reason. Take for example the Decades variant, which was incepted to celebrate Eddie Russell’s 35th Anniversary at Wild Turkey and had the man himself carefully curate the selection of barrels that were going to be used, with the name being appropriate as there is no distinct age statement with the barrels’ age ranging from ten to twenty years.

Coming in an opulently designed and custom-made box, the bottle itself along with the metal topped cork provides eye candy and sets expectations high.

Upon uncorking, there is the trademark Wild Turkeyaroma known from their staple 101 expression, i.e. the idiosyncratic melange of orange, banana, brown sugars, caramel, cinnamon and honeyed butterscotch, accentuated by hoppy, floral and wheaty highlights.

On the top of the mouth the complexity of the Decades unveils itself as flavours tip toe between sweet maple syrupy, oaky and spicy nutmeggy territory, cross pollinating each other and adding layers of depth upon each swirl.

A seamless transition to the finish sees the aforementioned flavours more pronounced, with ethanol and tannic nuances being counterpointed by oaky, black peppery and sweet undertones.

If I had to compare the boldness of the Decades to Wild Turkey’s 101 or the Kentucky Spirit I’d go as far as to claim that it is the richer, more substantial and richer parent version of it.

The next of the Master’s Keep portfolio I was able to sample was the Wild Turkey 1894 expression, which has been produced to signify the start of the distilling journey and the conception of what became known as the trademark Wild Turkey tradition. Not unlike other expressions of the Master’s Keep series, the barrels for the 1894 were carefully selected from the oldest brick warehouse, i.e. a climate controlled multi-storied “rickhouse”, which was built in the same year due to its nature ensures steady maturation conditions compared to modern warehouses. Copper in colour with an amber tinge, the 1894 tickles the nostrils with cider-esque apple aromas, which are framed by honeyed vanilla and crisp grassy and herbaceous highlights. On the top of the mouth, dominant toffee, glazed apples, syrupy pears weave themselves in layers of butterscotch and a soft oakyness. The medium length finish bookends the experience on the sweeter end of the spectrum.

The first two of the premium offerings in the Master’s Keep range were utterly convincing and I could not wait to sample one that I had heard curious things about, i.e. the Revival expression, which has been aged in twenty year old Spanish Oloroso sherry casks – especially since I have not had the pleasure of encountering many sherry cask matured bourbons before. In Scotch territory, I am not the biggest sherry cask fan, particularly because I often find that over reliance on casks is often meant to make up for what the whisky itself could not achieve.

Colour-wise this expression does not surprisingly land in ruby-rusty brown territory and on the nose, things get interesting instantaneously as the expected dried fruit notes are married to piquant funky cheese, white peppery, vinegar and delightful rubbery highlights that are rounded out via cotton candy, banana and woody undertones – interesting, mouth-watering and complex to say the very least.

Spicy, woody cherry flavour nuances caress the top of the mouth, swirling firmly textured with pepperminty liquorice and delightful campfiry ashy cinnamon notes. The flavours seamlessly transition to an elongated finish, which culminates in a crescendo of dark chocolatey notes with citrussy and stone fruity highlights.

I found that the Revival expression is one that grows after getting used to the forces at work, as the second dram the flavourful nuances and complexity come to fruition and serve as an example par excellence for the craftmanship and integrity Eddie Russell channels his alchemy in.

--- image from company website

September 25, 2020

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