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Friday, March 10, 2017

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Wild Turkey 17 year old 1996 Master's Keep


I've read some conflicting information about Master's Keep, so I'm just going to reference an interview with Eddie Russell that Fred Minnick had recommended in his own review.

The Keep's spirit was distilled in 1996 by Eddie's pop, Jimmy. At the time, Wild Turkey was short on storage space in their own warehouses, so they rented space in the defunct Old Taylor / Stone Castle distillery's valley warehouses. Wild Turkey's warehouses are "metal-clad" but Old Taylor's were made of brick, which kept the climate cooler during the summer. In 2003, they moved the barrels out of Old Taylor and into another brick warehouse that was located at a higher election. The barrels were then moved to Wild Turkey's wood and metal warehousing in 2010.

This brick warehouse maturation resulted in a lower ABV than if the barrels had spent their lives in a WT warehouse. Due to the cooler climate, the alcohol evaporated quicker than the water, like it would have in Scotland. In a hotter environment like a WT warehouse, the water would likely have evaporated first, resulting a 17 year old whisky with an ABV higher than its barreling strength. Instead, The Master's Keep's full strength was 43.4%abv when it was bottled.

Unlike most long-aged American whiskies, The Master's Keep did not immediately sell out, even though it was cheaper than many bourbons in its age range. Perhaps that's due to its lower alcohol volume, as many whisk(e)y drinkers are seduced by a high proof. Or perhaps, it's still on quite a few retailer shelves two years later because the limited outturn was 36,000 bottles.


Brand: Wild Turkey
Owner: Gruppo Campari
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery
Location: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Warehouse: see notes above
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Mash Bill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley
Age: at least 17 years
Distillation Year: 1996
Release Year: 2015
"Limited" bottling: 36,000
Alcohol by volume: 43.4%
(Thank you to Ms. Sing for the sample!)


The nose is soft, very soft, almost not there, at first. It takes some time (20+ minutes) to wake up. Then it's lightly woody, with caramel and vanilla. Lots of vanilla, actually. A little bit of pine, cream soda and fudge. Pleasant. The light, polite palate is almost floral with very little woody bitterness and no tannic drying. It has a nice spicy zing and feels fizzy on the tongue. There are some Werther's Originals and tangy oranges in there somewhere. It finishes with that zing and tang. The nose's vanilla returns. A slight green leaf chlorophyll note. Then a cigar tobacco note. It lingers long.


This is a long-matured bourbon for people who dislike liquid furniture (also known as long-matured bourbon). The oak is remarkably gentle. And there's nothing really wrong with the whole package. There's also nothing really great about the whole package either. The finish's length is certainly the highlight. Otherwise, it's a nice mellow bourbon, a casual sipper, something I'd be happy to pay $30 for. But that's the catch. Though one can find it for 1/10th the price of Pappy 20, it's also 5x the price of a superior Elijah Craig.

Availability - Many specialty liquor retailers in the US
Pricing - $120-$180 in the US, similar in Japan, a hundred dollars more in Europe
Rating - 83

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