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Wild Turkey 81 Straight Kentucky Rye Whiskey

Wild Turkey 81 Straight
Kentucky Rye Whiskey


By Robert Plotkin

Rye whiskeys have a long and storied history in the United States, and prior to Prohibition, it was our nation's whiskey of choice. That changed in the years following World War II when American rye whiskeys began to steadily lose ground to soft blended whiskeys and light mixable spirits. By the 1970s, they had all but disappeared from this country's backbars.

Fortunately that trend has reversed and bold, exuberant rye whiskeys are again rocketing up the charts. Recently released Wild Turkey 81 Straight Kentucky Rye Whiskey provides an outstanding example of what's so appealing about these whiskeys.

Introduced in 2012, Wild Turkey 81 Rye is distilled in a 40-foot high column still with a mash bill composed principally of premium rye. 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 whiskeys used in its blend are aged in wood-rack warehouses for a minimum of 4-5 years in deeply charred (a #4 alligator char), white oak barrels from the Ozarks. Prior to bottling, it is reduced to 40.5 percent alcohol by volume (81 proof) with spring water.

Wild Turkey 81 Rye is the brainchild of Eddie Russell, associate distiller at Wild Turkey for the past 30+ years. He is also the son of the legendary Jimmy Russell, who since 1954 has been the master distiller at the Wild Turkey Distillery, only the 4th person to hold the job for the past 157 years. In 2007, the Russells collaborated for the first time when they created two of the most acclaimed American whiskeys— Russell's Reserve 10 Years Old Bourbon Whiskey and Russell's Reserve 6 Years Old Rye Whiskey.

Eddie Russell's creation has broad shoulders and a character reflecting pedigree and artisanship. The amber hued whiskey has a satiny lightweight body and a generous vanilla, spice, honey, menthol and fruit nose. Its aromatics are irresistible. On the palate, the whiskey features a sensational array of flavors—green apples, mint, menthol, vanilla, caramel, honey and crispy rye toast. The warm, lingering finish sports the added flavors of spice, dark cocoa, black cherries and toasted oak.

Wild Turkey 81 Rye Whiskey has the kind of personality traits perfectly suited for drink making. Its robust aromatics and brilliant flavors are exactly what mixologists are looking for from a rye whiskey in their cocktails.

The release of this dynamic, beautifully constructed whiskey is proof positive that there is a grand scheme to things. Kudos Eddie and thanks!