Wild Turkey Master's Keep


Wild Turkey Master's Keep is the oldest bourbon Wild Turkey/Campari has ever released in the United States. ("Wild Turkey 17" was a limited edition bourbon formerly available in Japan). Master's Keep is a barrel strength bourbon whiskey, although unlike most American barrel strength whiskeys, it lost alcohol/absorbed water during maturation.  

It was distilled in 1996-97 and barreled at 107 proof, which was standard for W.T. bourbons in the mid-1990's. Jimmy and Eddie Russell were apparently running out of warehouse space in Lawrenceburg, so they moved 80,000 barrels to the semi-abandoned brick warehouses at the Old Crow Distillery in Millville. After about six years at Old Crow, Eddie noticed water damage to the barrels and moved them to another, higher warehouse on the Old Crow property. Seven years later, in 2010, he moved them all back to Lawrenceburg when the Wild Turkey warehouse expansion was complete.

Campari's press release would lead you to believe that Master's Keep is Eddie Russell's 'piece de resistance' in aging experimentation (“Master’s Keep is the result of a lot of experimentation, patience and faith."). Yes, brick or stone warehouses are cooler and experience less circulation. Warehouses at lower altitudes will affect whiskey in different ways than warehouses at higher elevations. But Wild Turkey's moves were driven by necessity, not creativity, at least initially. And we're talking about 80,000 barrels, not some select group. Jimmy Russell doesn't even like old bourbon. So is this Eddie Russell's first bold move as master distiller or a $150+ product of circumstances?

Wild Turkey Master's Keep

Wild Turkey/Campari
86.8 proof
$160 at Liquor Barn in Lexington, KY

Color: Medium amber/orangey.  I would not have guessed 17 years old.

Nose: Tame nose. Wet oak, brine, baseball mitt leather.  With significant aeration, sweeter notes finally emerge- banana cream, florals, vanilla.

Tasting Notes: The entrance is dull. Caramel, vanilla, funky orange rind, oak, and honey flavors slide around. The finish is similarly flat- more oak influence but nothing particularly interesting. 

Overall: C-. I am less disappointed by the humdrum flavors than I am by the Campari marketing..."Available in small quantities" [I got bottle # 64,041 of batch #1/3], and "A welcome innovation in long-aged whiskey" [wasn't this the result of a surplus problem]? I truly love Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon and Rye.  I enjoy Russell's Reserve and think the world of Jimmy and Eddie Russell. I just don't recommend this whiskey.

Peer reviews:

Red, White & Bourbon (positive)

Bourbon & Banter (not so positive)