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Wild Turkey 101 Rye Review

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Review

Background

When I hear the words Wild Turkey my train of though automatically jumps to Wild Turkey 101 (bourbon). I'm willing to bet that everyone reading this has at least tried the 101 bourbon and a fair amount have a bottle in their home bar. But how familiar are you with the 101 rye? If you got into the American whiskey scene within the past few years like me the 101 rye may have been outside of your grasp. In 2012 Wild Turkey announced the release of a new 81 proof rye in an effort to relieve the strains on their rye whiskey stocks and put the 101 Rye on allocation. Panic ensued and the 101 Rye disappeared from shelves. In late 2013 WT announced the return of the 101 Rye but as an allocated, on-premise only offering to bars and restaurants. Sometime between 2014 and 2015 WT101 Rye saw a return to store shelves in certain markets including South Carolina. At the time of posting this I am still waiting to hear back from WT as to exactly what markets carry this product so stay tuned.

Wild Turkey 101 Rye is produced at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. WT produces four different Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskeys and a bourbon/rye blend all from a single rye mashbill. These products are split between two different brands, Wild Turkey and Russell's Reserve. You might notice that the above picture states that this rye was bottled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company which is a division of Grupo Campari. Until 2013 for a period of nearly 13 years WT products were being bottled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. For more details on that check out this blog post by Chuck Cowdery. 

Details

Cost: Around $30 - $35 for a 1 Liter bottle in SC. 

Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery

Proof: 101

Age: NAS but at least 4 years old.

Mashbill: 51% Rye / 31% Corn / 12% Barley

Tasting Notes

Pour: 2 oz neat in a Glencairn glass

Nose: Orchard fruit - sliced pears, peaches, and cripps pink apples.  Caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, and oak. Day old apple pie. Graham crackers and whipped cream. 

Palate: Medium, oily viscosity. Fresh ground cinnamon, vanilla, green apple jolly ranchers, oatmeal, nutmeg. Spicy. 

Finish: Medium/long finish. Cinnamon, green apples, black and white pepper. Lingering warmth. Some bitter oak but works well with the cinnamon and pepper. 

Score: 3/5

Thoughts

Wild Turkey has a reputation for making fantastic bourbons and this rye is no exception. I honestly wasn't expecting a NAS, barley legal rye to have this much depth and complexity. Not only is it complex but also doesn't drink young or hot. This has got to be older than 4 years and I'm willing to bet that it is in fact closer to 6 years. More likely there there is some younger and older ryes blended together. The flavor profile absolutely blows me away with all the orchard fruit and spices. The oak does a nice job of balancing out some of the sweeter notes while not overpowering. Also, I am not a fan of green apples. But somehow they work really well with the other orchard fruits, confections and spice.

On a side note I recently reviewed the Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Rye (same mashbill and nearly the same proof) and was a bit dissapointed. The WT101 Rye was everything I wanted the RRSBR to be but turned up to 11. Unfortunately that was not the case but whatever. Its not often you find a rye that is significantly better for half the price.

For around $35 or less this rye is a serious bargain considering the form factor is 1 Liter. Also for that price you shouldn't feel dirty having this around as a utility player in your home bar. Neat, mixed, or straight out of a flask it shines. I brought a flask full of WT101 Rye with me to watch The Hateful Eight in the theater last year and couldn't have been happier. My only gripe about this whiskey is the availability. Not only is it limited to select markets but even then only a few stores may carry it on their shelves. That being said this is a rye definitely worth seeking out. Cheers. 

***Update 6/6/16 - Consumer relations from Campari America has informed me via email that "just a small quantity of (Wild Turkey) 101 Rye was produced for leading mixologists in the US only." I had a hard time believing this statement since the product can be found in certain local markets as well as online stores. That didn't sound right so I asked for further clarification. The next response was nearly verbatim with the addition of "The Rye 101 shouldn't be available for consumers."

WTF Campari and Wild Turkey!? Only the "leading mixologists" in the US are deemed worthy enough to have access to your precious WT101 Rye? What do you consider the rest of your customer base - unwashed peasants? This probably shouldn't bother me but it does. This type of response feels as if I am being talked down to. I as the consumer shouldn't have access to this product. The only way Campari thinks that I should be able to enjoy WT 101 Rye it is in the hands of an expert. Campari is telling me to go fuck myself. 

So where does this leave the consumer? The only WT/RR product with a similar age and proof is the Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Rye. Not exactly a great deal considering it is nearly twice the price and bottled in a smaller form factor. Cheers to US retailers who put the 101 Rye out on the shelf so it can be enjoyed by the common folk. 

Recommended: High West Double Rye!, Rittenhouse Rye, Pikesville Straight Rye WhiskeySmooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Straight Rye Whiskey

- Mark Millonzi @ Entry Proof

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