Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon

Wild Turkey, a brand owned by the Campari group, and labeled “Austin Nichols Distilling Company”, has been on the shelves under its current name since 1940, although the distillery had been producing bourbon since 1869. Its flagship product is bottled at 101 proof (50.5% ABV) after a distillation that the company refers to as “low and slow”, yielding a relatively low barrel-strength of 109 proof (around 54.5% ABV).

Nose: The nose tickle is strong, but there is a bright acidity to the aroma. Lemons, vanilla ice cream, some raw grain spirit. A dash of water brings out some green grass and a hint of honeysuckle.

Palate: Powerful and fiery, they aren’t kidding about the 101 proof (even if it is a gimmick). The flame resolves into a nice bright bouquet of sour lemons, unripe pears, cinnamon, vanilla creme brulee, molasses, and a strong suggestion of campfire ashes (barrel char). Fiery, but not as youthful or industrial-tasting as some other young bourbons I’ve tried. A dash of water doesn’t tame the burn much, but does yield a delicate nutty sweetness – roasted chestnuts.

Finish: Short, but warming. Mostly wet charcoal, over-browned baked goods (cookies?), and a bit of nuttiness – maybe walnut.

I am a lot more impressed by this bourbon than I was with any of the earlier cheap American whiskeys I’ve tried. The rawness of the grain is apparent in the nose, but subtly hidden on the palate by the surprising variety of fruit and sweet baked flavors. Still not as easy to drink and enjoy as a single malt, but definitely worth drinking neat, especially at this price. It’s even nicer with a dash of water. This may be the first sub-$25 bottle of bourbon that I can heartily recommend!

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
50.5% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $20 - $25
Acquired: (50 ml sample) Purchased.

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  • Nice! Now you just need to find a nice wheater to go alongside it. I only just recently had a run-in with WT101 but really dug the rye that was going on.

  • i guess i am more used to the “fire” in strong bourbons – i don’t notice it as much. i think what wt 101 highlights is what a fine, well crafted bourbon you can get for under $20 (regular price here in texas). i know we can’t say the same thing about single malt scotches. i enjoy both but bourbon definitely wins the price/quality ratio battle in my eyes.

    as for regular chumpington’s comment about a nice wheater, as stated before, the weller 12 is also about $20 and a fine bourbon.

    i know you are the “scotch”noob and not the “bourbon” or “whiskey”noob but you may be surprised at what bourbon has to offer if you are ever willing to spend the same amount of money on a bottle of bourbon that you spend on scotch (i.e., $50+).

    speaking of scotch, i found 2 dusty bottles of glenfarclas 17 yo yesterday and they still had their “dusty” price ($78 each – about $20-30 cheaper than the current local price) so they are now on my shelf =)

    • Thanks for the comment, JWC. I agree with the price comment – in my very limited experience, bourbons $15-$30 can be reasonably good, but not excellent, Scotch (especially blended) below $30 is generally bad, but there are some real gems in the $30-$40 bracket (which is my favorite price point). Scotch above $40 is almost always very good or excellent. I feel that bourbon wins (slightly) in quality in the inexpensive bracket (below $30), thus giving it its “good value for the money” reputation. Despite that reputation, I’ve not had a single “good value” bourbon that I would say is as good as the my favorite value malts in the $30-$40. I’m sure with more tasting, I’ll find some, but if I have to pay more for comparable bourbon, it loses its “value” appeal. 😉

      Congrats on the Glenfarclas! Enjoy 🙂

  • should i buy this 101 8y or try the rye 101. i’ve never had a bourbon with over 50% rye. is rye very minty, zesty, and very too drying?
    i had bulliet in cola. yuk. WTW 101 cola had good intense. maybe slighht sweet and a firmer body maybe better. im guessing rye would be bready and sour too. seems good choice.

    • I haven’t tried the Wild Turkey ryes, but ryes in general are spicy (nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, etc), and some are a little minty or piney. Not very many taste like the rye bread or grain itself. I also don’t drink cola, so I can’t suggest alternative mixers. I personally like the dryer, spicier flavors in rye (as opposed to the sweeter, corn-syrup and cherry flavors in bourbon), but they aren’t for everybody. My favorite rye right now is the Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof, but I hope to try the Wild Turkey one soon.

  • i bought the WT 101 rye. no age. the 101 8 i should stuck too..bigger heaver body. i try to explain the wt rye. very light on nose and mouth. yeast + citrus taste, little oak treads, neutral, numbs your jaw. not full on!
    nah, noob, i think put your $ towards a full blown powerful, big body and flavorsome aged rye. Id skip WT rye 101.

  • You might also try the WT Russell’s Reserve 10 YO. It sells for $5 more but I like it better than WT, it’s a smoother tasty version of WT,

  • This is an excellent bourbon. I taste vanilla ice cream and sriracha sauce. My palette may be unrefined (with Lagavulin I taste mostly camp fire and damp earth) but this is certainly on par, in a good way. I love the price point. Beam White label is my reference and this is thicker, stronger and more flavourful. This is salt of the earth bourbon and I am proud of it’s heritage. I can’t ask for more.

  • In my opinion scotch is to smooth, i have a macallan directors edition that is too silky and while it is excellent i prefer Wild turkey kentucky spirit and other robust bourbons.

    Also have you tried elijah craig 12 year it is an inexpensive bourbon with outstanding quality, in california i can get it for like 24 bucks, give it a try while it may not have the smoothness that scotch offers it is still rich and robust.

  • WT 101 is the best bourbon dollar-for-dollar that I’ve ever had. The 81 is good as well, but less so. I’m not a fan of Elijah Craig though.

  • I couldn’t agree more. As a scotch guy, Wild Turkey 101 is my go-to bourbon. I’ve tried most all bourbons (many times), including those twice the price and more, and I’ve never found one I enjoy more than WT 101.