Wild Turkey "Master's Keep" 17 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (750ml) SKU #1225210

$129.99

WA 91
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Tasting Notes

Finding an age statement in today's bourbon market is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Finding one that's above ten years of age is like finding a needle in a haystack. Because of the current state of affairs, the prices for American whiskey are going bananas. So how is it that Wild Turkey can come in and drop a 17 year old gem of a bourbon for the same price as some non-age statement MGP-bottled mystery? We weren't sure, so we headed on down to the distillery recently to try ourselves a pour. Soft, round, and rich on the palate, this is a velvet textured whiskey for those looking for "smooth". It's loaded with candy corn, toasted oak, and even a touch of maple syrup on the finish. We visited with Jimmy Russell soon after and it turns out the reduced proof and softness of the spirit came due to the brick warehouses at the Old Taylor site where these casks were kept. It reduced the ABV, rather than increased it because brick does a better job of keeping out the heat, so the low proof is a natural phenomenon of the environment. And it tastes like 17 year old Bourbon with extra weight on the palate and concentration of oak you just don't find in 10 year old whiskies. I doubt we'll see anything this good in this quantity any time again soon. For those of you who need that special bourbon Christmas gift this year, I'd start shopping right now. (David Driscoll, K&L Spirits buyer)

Staff Reviews

  • David Othenin-Girard
    By: David Othenin-Girard
    10/28/2015
    K&L Staff Member
    Whoa there. You are probably thinking, wow $130 for Wild Turkey? Seems like a pretty penny, but let's have a little context here. Wild Turkey is one of Kentucky's most rigorous distilleries in terms of quality. They have done very little to change their methodology since the legendary Jimmy Russell began working there more than 60 years ago. Yes, they've built a new gleaming distillery, but of course this particular product comes from the old wooden distillery situated in the gully several hundreds of feet below the active plant. So basically what you're getting here is a piece of history! Not only is it from a closed distillery, it's the OLDEST expression that distillery has ever released stateside. At 17 years old, this is by far the oldest bourbon on our shelves (save the Hirsch 20 yo at $3,500 a bottle). In addition, these barrels have seen a very unusual and dynamic aging regiment, being transported to various warehouses, exposed to many environments, ultimately lending incredible complexity and depth. A low cask strength and a beautiful package and on paper this stuff is a TOTAL no brainer. But, no one cares about that, right ; ) Everyone's only concern is the taste. In that arena you've got something really special as well. Not your usual knock your lights out barrel proof, because of the brick (they say stone) warehousing the proof dipped to a very low 86.8. That does not mean this whiskey is a slouch by any means. Oh no! Indeed, it stands up in the glass, showing that typical WT spice character, but with tons of additional nuance. Deep dark roasted nuts, sweet exotic herbs, and dried vanilla bean. The palate has extreme balance and shows dense caramel, complex rancio, and some tertiary stuff (leather, fresh tobacco leaf, etc.). Ultra rich and textural, while this isn't a powerhouse per say, it still provides tons of pleasure and makes up for any lack in strength with wild complexity. Considering where the market is going, no one can afford to buy old bourbon any longer, but occasionally we get lucky. A MUST BUY at this price in my book.
  • David Driscoll
    By: David Driscoll
    10/20/2015
    K&L Staff Member
    Yes, we know, it's hard to believe: An actual 17 year old bourbon that you can actually get from an actual Kentucky whiskey distillery. Not just any distillery, either--Wild Turkey, the famous Kickin' Chicken, still under the watchful eye of legendary distiller Jimmy Russell. A release like this in the whiskey industry is a pretty big deal, so obviously we wanted to know more about how the product came to be. Seeing as my colleague and I happened to be searching for casks in Kentucky all last week, we decided to stop by the Wild Turkey distillery to see if we could get a sneak preview of the new release. Jimmy greeted us as we walked in and was more than happy to oblige. In the current American whiskey environment, finding an age statement older than ten years is becoming an anomaly. The first question we had for Jimmy before tasting was straightforward: where did Wild Turkey find these barrels? Were they purposely being held back for a future release? "Back in the late 90s we were having storage issues on site and we needed to offload some of our inventory," he told us. "We needed somewhere to put some of our whiskey." This isn't an uncommon practice in the whiskey industry--distilleries borrowing or renting warehouse space from other companies. "The Master's Keep is made from a batch of barrels we had been storing off-site," he told us. We nodded in understanding. Then we took a sip. "This is incredibly soft!" I reacted in surprise. "It's very rich, but at the same time it's incredibly mellow. Was there a reason you guys proofed it down to 43%?" I asked. Then came the shocker: "That's actually right about at cask strength for these barrels," Jimmy answered. "You see at one point we had to transfer the whiskey over to the Old Taylor distillery. Are you guys familiar with that place?" "Do you mean the haunted old site down the road from here?" I asked. "That's the one," Jimmy said. "The warehouses at Old Taylor are made from brick, which isn't the standard material for a bourbon warehouse these days. You don't get the same fluctuation of temperature like you do in a wooden rickhouse, so the whiskey tends to lower in proof over time. These casks spent a lot of time in those old brick warehouses, so they were aged more like Scotch." We took another sip. "It doesn't taste watered down. It's loaded with candy corn and vanilla and toasted oak, but I can't get over how silky it is," I said. "When you noticed that the casks were lowering in proof did you eventually pull them back over to the Wild Turkey site?" "Yes," Jimmy answered. "If you look a the label you'll see it says '1. Wood, 2. Stone, 3. Wood' and that's to indicate the three types of warehouses in which the whiskey was aged. This is the oldest whiskey we've ever released. My son Eddy did the blending and we're very proud of it." Not only is the new Master's Keep stunningly smooth and delicious, it also comes in one of the most beautiful whiskey bottles we've seen, adorned with a handsome gift box. It's one of the most impressive releases from Wild Turkey ever—period. A seventeen year old bourbon from Jimmy Russell, made from a batch of barrels aged at the ghostly Old Taylor distillery? How could we temper our excitement?!
  • Nicole Osmanski
    By: Nicole Osmanski
    10/14/2015
    K&L Staff Member
    Sure to be on every bourbon aficionado's "must" list, Wild Turkey's 17 is the oldest bourbon they've ever released in the U.S. and one of the oldest at K&L right now. Considering its age and amount of extracted barrel flavor, the palate is still remarkably fresh. The nose is fragrant and complex with marzipan, dried mango, bananas foster, orange peel, toasted marshmallow, and subtle floral notes. Rich tropical fruit fills out the creamy palate too, with savory undercurrents of pu-erh tea and worn leather offering balance and depth. A bottle with this amount of age (at this price) that's at once dynamic and approachable is a FIND.

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