The aroma is beautiful and decadent. The sherry cask and bourbon notes meld wonderfully, creating a polished Wild Turkey bourbon with an extra dimension of flavor.
This bourbon requires quite a bit of TLC to reach its peak potential. Without time and patience, the palate is a bit hot and jumbled.
Wild Turkey Revival is the third installment of the “Master’s Keep” series, which appears to have become the brand’s new annual limited edition bourbon. Each year’s Master’s Keep has been a bit different. The inaugural release in 2016 was a cask strength 17 year old – the oldest age stated Wild Turkey ever released. 2017 saw the released of Master’s Keep “Decades”, a blend of 10 and 20 year barrels bottled unchillfiltered at 52% ABV. Now in 2018 we have Master’s Keep Revival, a blend of 12 and 15 year old barrels married together and finished for an undisclosed period of time in Spanish oak sherry casks that previously held Oloroso sherry for two decades. The resulting whiskey was then bottled at Wild Turkey’s iconic 101 proof. Judging by the incredibly dense mouthfeel of this whiskey, I believe only a minimal amount of filtration, if any, has occurred. Rather than tell you the story behind the “Revival” I’ll let Wild Turkey tell you all about it via the nice column on the inside wall of the box:
While common place in Scotch and Irish whiskey, finishing straight bourbon in previously used casks is still a frontier ground in the bourbon industry, and a fairly contested one at that. One of bourbon’s claims to fame is its exclusive use of new, never before used oak casks. The virgin oak is responsible for giving bourbon its color and its signature caramel, vanilla, and wood notes. Many bourbon
snobs purists are therefore reluctant to let their beloved spirit lose its uniqueness in any way, even if that way is just a short secondary maturation in something other than new charred oak. In addition, matured bourbon is a much bolder spirit than malt spirit (like scotch) which can act more like a “blank slate” on which wine cask influences can easily be written. Trying to further age mature bourbon in an ex-sherry cask runs a much greater risk of “clashing personalities” which can easily leave the final product a hot mess. Perhaps the best known wine cask finished bourbon currently on the market is Angel’s Envy (straight bourbon finished in Port casks), which illustrates how great (the limited edition cask strength) and how mediocre (the standard release) wine cask finished bourbon can be.
Whiskeys utilizing sherry casks will always carry a price premium due to the extra expense of sourcing the sherry casks (especially if they are traditional Spanish bodega casks), and this release is no exception. Bourbon drinkers may balk at a $140 price tag but some things to consider are:
- The price is the same as last two Master’s Keep releases
- Younger and less interesting limited releases are commonly retailing for well over $150 these days. Sure, BTAC and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon “technically” have a true retail price of under $100, but who actually gets the opportunity to buy them for that price? (And of those who do, who turns around and resells them for 4x that price?) All but gone are the days of snagging an annual limited release American whiskey for under $100. For goodness’ sake, we have distilleries trying to sell us “limited edition” 2 year old rye whisky for $110!
- I hate to say it but the price is very comparable to any 50+% ABV scotch whisky of the same age range and style
Lets see if this “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks” is worth the price, or if it belongs in the “hot mess” bin.
- Distilled, aged, and bottled at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY
- Standard Wild Turkey bourbon mash bill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley
- A blend of barrels aged 12-15 years and “finished” in casks sourced from Jerez, Spain that previously held Oloroso sherry for 20 years
- Bottled at 50.5% ABV (101 proof)
Nose: Sweet, dark sherry fruits sit atop classic Wild Turkey spice/funk/caramel. I usually describe that signature Wild Turkey note as something akin to baked oatmeal laced with cinnamon and drizzled with salted caramel. Heavy and decadent. The sherry influence displays itself as jammy fig and raisins. Overall, the aroma is a bit perfume-y, and exceptionally balanced. What a marriage of flavors! I could sit and smell this all day.
Palate (neat, with 15 minutes rest in the glass): Thick and full arrival. The body is heavy and almost oily. Moderate alcohol warmth that crescendos and never quite dies down. The flavor profile is a savory blend of purple fruits, dark caramel, fruit cake, and loads of baking spice. The fruit and spice fight with each other with the spice ultimately taking over. With the un-subsiding alcohol burn, the palate is a bit messy.
Palate (with 1/2 tsp water and 45 minutes rest in the glass): Now we’re talking! That ethanol heat has all but dissipated, and the flavors have settled down. Heavy, dark fruit and caramel reduction, fig pudding, and spice cake. Much better balance than before, with the fruits and sweets sitting equal to the spice barrage.
Finish: Slightly tannic and drying. The syrupy fruits become a bit more balsamic and dry, alongside mature oak and dusty cinnamon.
Overall: Must Try! Although this has a well-earned “truly exceptional” overall score at 90, I debated for some time between labeling this “must try” or only “worth trying a pour”. Maybe in reality the difference is minimal. What you have is a successful marriage of mature bourbon with sherry cask influence, giving bourbon drinkers a high quality bourbon with an added flavor dimension, and giving scotch drinkers a novel experience of something other than malt spirit coming out of an ex-sherry cask.
The big qualifier here is you must give this whiskey time in the glass, and a tiny bit of water helps as well. This is the text book definition of a slow sipper. Pour it before dinner, set it aside for an hour, and drink it for dessert. Your experience with it will be severely hampered if you want to pour and finish the glass in 15-20 minutes. Give it the air time it needs, and your patience will be well-rewarded!