There are good bourbons and there are great bourbons. Wild Turkey is known for their good bourbons and they are the preferred choice for many whiskey drinkers. This year's release of Master's Keep is a great bourbon and it comes with an fascinating story that should peak your interest.
What is Wild Turkey Master's Keep Bourbon?
This limited edition release from the reknowned bourbon distiller is special because it is less about the distillation and more about the aging.
It is, in fact, a 17 year long experiment in barrel placement and both the method and results are quite interesting.
Master's Keep began in 1997 just like all of the premium bourbons of Wild Turkey. However, this batch had no home once it was barreling time. With no room in the enormous wooden warehouses that dot the Kentucky landscape and hold Wild Turkey's stock, Eddie Russell decided to store these particular barrels in a friend's empty stone buildings.
To the average consumer, this may not seem like a big deal: the whiskey is in the same barrel, so what difference could a different structure 200 miles away make? It is significant and it is not only apparent in the taste, but in the length of time the whiskey spent in the barrel.
That number 17 on the bottle denotes the total years this whiskey was barreled. This is a long time for Kentucky bourbon, which averages between 8 and 13 years.
It was this movement from stone then back to Wild Turkey's wood storage buildings that prolonged the time the whiskey needed to rest before the father-son team decided it was ready for bottling.
We see the effects of climate and environment all of the time when talking about liquor. Scotch whisky is aged much longer than bourbon, yet they are nearly equivalent in the effects of the oak.
tequila and rum produced in warmer climates require just a few years and rarely make it over a decade on the age statement.
However, this is one of the few times that we can experience the changes in aging with the most subtle, seemingly insignificant changes in aging. The barrels remained in the region, though they were moved within the microclimate and were stored under the protection of different organic materials.
About this, Eddie Russell says, "What I was able to do with Master’s Keep was retain the Bourbon’s rich caramel and vanilla flavors by aging the barrels in both stone and wood warehouses, sampling from them every few months to decide their next move.”
The stone buildings also affected the alcohol content of the final whiskey. It went into the barrel at 107 proof, naturally lowered to 89 proof, and was bottled at 86.8 proof.
Tasting Wild Turkey Master's Keep Bourbon
While all of that is fascinating, the real question is: How does it taste? And the even bigger question is: Is it worth $150 a bottle?
From my point of view, it is an emphatic yes on both points. This is, by far, the best Wild Turkey Bourbon I have tasted to date. It is perfectly balanced, has the most pleasing tones of vanilla and caramel, a nice spicy oak, and is, quite simply, a pleasure to drink.
If you are a bourbon connoisseur, then this may be the bottle of the year. It is the one that will not be around for long and will be missed once the supplies dry up.
Possibly the best news is that Master's Keep not only outages the 12 and 13 year old bourbons from Wild Turkey that are available in Japan, but this one is available in the United States.
About Wild Turkey Master's Keep Bourbon Whiskey
- 17 year old premium bourbon whiskey aged in stone and wood warehouses.
- Produced by Wild Turkey Master Distillers, Eddie and Jimmy Russell
- Limited edition released in August 2015.
- 43.4% alcohol/volume (86.8 proof)
- Retails for around $150 for 750ml bottle.
- Visit their website
Published: September 16, 2015