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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon


Wild Turkey is a mainstay for many bourbon fans.  Wild Turkey, as a brand, traces its roots to the Old Hickory Distillery and the former Old Moore Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.   Following Prohibition, operations were purchased by Austin Nichols.  

That Wild Turkey Bourbon

It was an Austin Nichols executive – Thomas McCarthy – who is attributed to the “Wild Turkey” name. McCarthy took some samples on a turkey hunting trip in 1940. The bourbon was a hit and his friends asked for more samples of “that wild turkey bourbon”. The name stuck and Austin Nichols began bottling Wild Turkey in 1942. For decades after bringing Wild Turkey to market, Austin Nichols was a non-distiller producer, bottling bourbon purchased from others and marketing it under the Wild Turkey name.

In 1971, Austin Nichols purchased the former Boulevard Distillery and began distilling its own bourbon. The brand was subsequently purchased by French spirits company Pernod Ricard in 1990. Two decades later, current owner Campari Group, purchased the distillery and brand.

Today, Wild Turkey markets a number of bourbons and ryes.  You’ll readily find its flagship Wild Turkey 101 and its lighter sibling, Wild Turkey 81, in most any store. Wild Turkey was also the first to introduce a honey bourbon – American Honey. You’ll also find Russell’s Reserve – a 10 year bourbon – at affordable prices. There’s also Kentucky Spirit – a single barrel version of the Wild Turkey 101 bourbon. And then there’s Wild Turkey Rare Breed.

The Tasting

Rare Breed was introduced in 1991. While not labeled as such, it is generally thought to be a blend of 6, 8, and 12-year-old bourbons. Most of the Wild Turkey namesakes carry a single mash bill – 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. There have been a number of releases of Rare Breed; this particular version was bottled at 108 proof.

Eye: Dark Copper

Nose: Vanilla

Palate: Vanilla with summer fruit notes.

Finish: Medium in length and surprisingly smooth for a higher proof.

Overall: This is a nice surprise. Master Distillers Jimmy and Freddie Russell have put together a bourbon with unique notes and one that offers complexity without harshness at a higher proof. Whether you’re on a turkey hunt or sitting in your favorite chair on the patio, this is one to savor and enjoy neat.

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