Wild Turkey has a shocking amount of variety on the shelf these days. Between Longbranch, Forgiven, and the various Russell’s Reserve bottlings, it seems Wild Turkey has been on a mission to break out of its value bourbon image.
Rare Breed is Wild Turkey’s approach to the fairly-standard “Small Batch, Cask Strength” expression that you’ll find in most distillery lineups. Rare Breed is made from a batch of Wild Turkey Kentucky straight bourbon aged in number 4 char bourbon barrels for 6, 8, and 12 years and bottled at cask strength. Of course, this is bourbon distilled by Wild Turkey, not sourced from anywhere else. While a lot of bourbon distillers these days (especially the trendy ones) are marking up their cask strength bottles to portray them as premium products, Wild Turkey’s expressions are mostly all still priced fairly reasonably. However, I noticed while writing this review that Rare Breed has increased in price from the $40 – $50 range to the $50 – $60 range. This puts it in an entirely different category (to me). My brain has a hard time with $50+ bourbon unless it’s very special. Here’s hoping those are temporary price increases due to current market conditions (inflation, labor shortages, and the mess that is retail infrastructure right now).
There is also a Rare Breed Rye Whiskey.
An interesting side note: Wild Turkey is now using only non-GMO grains (corn, rye, barley) in its mash bills. I have not seen any distillery mention this before, so I’m not sure if they’re alone or not. GMO corn makes up a gigantic proportion of the non-organic (conventional) corn market, so it’s actually kind of impressive that Wild Turkey is able to source enough of it despite their size. Kudos.
Nose: Initial note of deep dark chocolate fudge. Concentrated caramel-y oak, root beer, butterscotch. The sweet notes are balanced by a robust dry oakiness.
Palate: Medium bodied, not quite syrupy. A hearty tongue burn is followed by smoky cocoa nibs, dark roast coffee beans, dry oak, fresh hay, toasted oats, and cinnamon red hots.
Finish: Long. Dry, with a repeat of the cocoa and coffee, mouth-drying oak tannins, mildly bitter charcoal, cherry compote, and cinnamon. Fades very slowly into a ghost of menthol and black pepper.
With Water: Several drops of water increase the nose tickle, and brings out a grassy note. I’d skip the water here unless it’s too hot for your taste.
Overall: This is basically what you expect to find when you buy cask-strength bourbon. It’s thick, concentrated, fiery, and carries a lot of flavor. This specimen is on the dry side (like Wild Turkey 101) with nicely balanced dry spices and caramelized sugars.
It’s actually fairly hard to find good cask-strength bourbon these days as brands realize the market demand for “limited” and “special edition”. Mid $40s is not bad for the quality you receive with Rare Breed. I’d buy it again at that price if I couldn’t find cask strength bourbon below $50. I’m not sure I would pay $50+ for this, however.