Wild Turkey 101, Rye

It has been eight months since my last review of an American whiskey (I think my review of Jack Daniel’s was the previous one). To be frank, I’ve not been drinking much American whiskey this year. Scotch whisky is very much my preference and I’ve also been trying to get control of my vast collection of single malt samples (with little success) and my open bottles of single malt whisky (with a lot more success). I do enjoy good bourbon and rye when I drink it though, even if I feel far less confident of my ability to tease out nuance in those categories than I do with single malts. All of that should give you a good sense of how seriously you should take this review of Wild Turkey’s 101 Proof rye. The source of this sample, Michael K., tells me it’s from a recent release. That’s worth knowing because the 101 proof straight rye had disappeared a few years ago, replaced by a 81 proof version, and I don’t think the previous incarnation’s mash bill was the same as that of this revived version—which is, I think, a “barely rye” with just 51% rye in the mash bill. Anyway, I’m at risk of sounding like I know what I’m talking about, and so I’m going to stop here and just get to the notes. 

Wild Turkey 101 Proof, Straight Rye (50.5%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Caramel, corn, dill, sage and pine. On the second sniff there’s a bit of toffee before the herbal notes expand. Gets a bit sweeter as it sits and then there’s not much change. More herbal with water and the cold black tea from the palate is here too now.

Palate: The rye character comes out more clearly on the palate where there’s a nice bite (from more than the alcohol) that pulls away from the sweeter notes. The oak is present but not pronounced. Gets spicier with each sip (now equal parts herbs, oak and alcohol) and there’s some cold, over-brewed black tea as well (not iced tea but black tea that’s gone cold). With more time there’s some orange peel as well. Let’s see what water does. Spicier and more peppery with water (less oak now).

Finish: Medium. No new development here except maybe a bit of bitterness and, after a while, cool clove. That bitter note moves in the direction of dark chocolate. Less bitter and more peppery with water.

Comments: I really like this. Despite the mash bill being only 51% rye, the rye signature is clear but it’s very well balanced on the whole. Maybe I’m over-reacting because I haven’t had any rye in a long time but I think this is a very solid rye that most casual drinkers of American whiskey (like me) would really enjoy. And at the $27 now being asked for 1 liter in Minnesota, it seems like very good value too.

Rating: 87 points.

Thanks to Michael for the sample!

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