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Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky
Straight Bourbon Whiskey


By Robert Plotkin

The Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceberg, Kentucky is located in one of the most idyllic places to produce world-class whiskey. Situated in a forested area by the Kentucky River, the distillery has easy access to limestone-filtered spring water and an abundance of locally grown corn, rye and barley. The warm summers and temperate winters create ideal conditions for making and aging whiskey. As proof we submit for your consideration the altogether sublime Wild Turkey 81 Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. It's skillfully crafted, well aged and a perfect slice of the Wild Turkey experience.

The Wild Turkey Distillery was founded in 1855 and in the ensuing 157 years there have only been 4 master distillers. Since 1954 that position has belonged to legendary Jimmy Russell. During Jimmy's watch, he and his son and associate distiller Eddie Russell have steadfastly adhered to the traditional ways of producing whiskey and faithfully maintained the high standards established by his predecessors.

In 2007, the Russells collaborated for the first time in creating two of the most acclaimed whiskeys on the market— Russell's Reserve 10 Years Old Bourbon Whiskey and Russell's Reserve 6 Years Old Rye Whiskey. Wild Turkey 81 is the first bourbon developed solely by Eddie Russell—the 30-year veteran who is heir apparent to become the distillery's 5th master distiller.

Introduced in 2011, Wild Turkey 81 straight bourbon whiskey is distilled in a 40-foot high column still with a mash bill containing a high percentage of rye, which is partially responsible for the whiskey's spice and vitality. The mash is slowly fermented in two-story high Cypress wood vats and distilled to relatively low proof, both practices long abandoned by other distillers as too costly or time-intensive. The whiskey is aged in wood-rack warehouses for a minimum of 6-8 years in new, deeply charred (a #4 alligator char) white oak barrels from the Ozark Mountains. Prior to bottling, it is reduced to 40.5 percent alcohol by volume (81 proof) with spring water.

This new bourbon is sensational served neat, over ice or mixed. It has a deep amber hue, a velvety medium-weight body and a fetching bouquet laced with the aromas of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch and toasted oak. The whiskey bathes the palate with the dry, warm, satisfying flavors of apples, cinnamon, pepper, vanilla and toffee with subtle citrus notes. Those flavors plus caramel, clover honey, cinnamon, allspice and toasted oak come forth during the lingering finish.

Certainly a large aspect of the bourbon's popular appeal is that its robust, distinctive palate makes it a superb choice for use in mixed drinks. Far too often the flavors in whiskey disappear when featured in cocktails. However, even alone in the glass it's evident that Wild Turkey 81 plays well with others. Its wafting aromatics and brilliant flavors are nearly impossible to mask—even if for some insane reason you wanted to.

Eddie Russell's whiskey creation is a genuine work of art. Wild Turkey 81 belongs on the backbar of every self-respecting bar, lounge or cocktail haunt.