...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 10, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: Wild Turkey Rye 101

For the 101st whisk(e)y?

Wild Turkey Rye 101, of course.

Distillery: Wild Turkey (their website has no info on rye)
Ownership: Campari Group (via Austin, Nichols, & Co.)
Type: Straight Rye
Region: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Age: minimum 2 years
Mashbill: 65% rye, 23% corn, 12% barley
Maturation: "charred white oak barrels"
Alcohol by Volume: 50.5%

In 1869, the Ripy family started a distillery on Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.  The distillery blossomed despite grain shortages, the Prohibition shutdown, and the federal enforcement of bourbon standards.  The brand, Wild Turkey itself, had been the product of large batch bourbon purchases from other distilleries.  But in 1972, the Ripy family's distillery was acquired to become The Wild Turkey Distillery.  In 1980 the company was sold to Pernod Ricard.  Then in 2009 Campari purchased the brand.

Now, let me clarify something.  Wild Turkey 101 Rye has NOT entirely vanished.  Reports of its death have been somewhat exaggerated.  It's still out there to be found (at least three local stores have started carrying it again), but it is considerably less prevalent.  As folks have mentioned (here, here, here, and here) there's a rye shortage in the US right now.  If the Lawrenceburg distillery is getting less grain, then they'll stretch it out (water it down) and bottle more of the 81 proof version.  And sell it at the same exact price.  So it goes.

Soonafter getting a few recommendations on for WT101, I read all of the rye shortage news and got caught up in the panic.  Suddenly, no one was selling this rye around here.  When I found a bottle in Palm Springs a few months ago, I thought I'd discovered a great secret whiskey source.  Well, it was a good catch and the price was right, but it was no miracle.

So it's tough to find, but it's still around, especially if you live in or near a major American urban area.

With that out of the way, I have to say, I've never met a rye I didn't like.  Something about straight rye's nose and palate, with its spice cabinet and floral cherry cough syrup highlights, always appeals to me.

There are few $20 bottles of Scotch whisky that can compete with the complexity and spice of a $20 bottle of American rye.  Do we have import tariffs to thank for this?  Or the raw power of the rye distillate?  Probably both.

The color is of a red-orange molasses.  Always looks nice in a glass.  The nose starts with candied oranges, buttery oak, and barrel char.  Then there's a dry vegetal note that joins up with a whiff of hay.  A dusty cocoa and mild ground black pepper linger in the background.  Cherries in syrup and cherry cough syrup lead the way in the palate.  Pungent fruit sugars and anise liqueur follow.  It's always sweet and spicy, getting sweeter the longer it sits in the glass.  It finishes with the cherry cough syrup, anise liqueur, and juicy sweetness.  Though it's surprisingly brief for its ABV.

It works well in a Sazerac (use real absinthe please!).  It's not bad in a Manhattan.  The dusty cocoa and barrel char elements should work well with some barbecue -- I'll try that this summer.

It stacks up pretty close to the Bulleit and Baby Saz straight ryes.  I won't declare a winner here since I've tried them in completely different circumstances.  I'll just have to drink some more rye, for empirical purposes, of course.

Availability - You'll need to do some Turkey hunting
Pricing - Excellent at $18-$21 (there are folks selling it for $30, shame on them)
Rating - 84