My buddy surprised me at the holidays with this bottle. It was one I snagged when it first arrived on the scene, but to be honest, hadn’t grabbed it again. I remember the day four years ago that I saw a Kentucky newspaper announcing that iconic Matthew McConaughey was joining Master Distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell to serve as the Creative Director at Wild Turkey. While Matthew’s quirks have garnered plenty of SNL skits, no one can deny the sincerity, deep respect and appreciation for the bourbon industry as shown in one of his first short film productions for the brand.
Walking with Giants
McConaughey hit the grounds running, appearing in front of and behind the camera for Wild Turkey. It didn’t take long, though, for him to join Jimmy and Eddie and add his creative expertise to Wild Turkey’s bourbons. The collaborative effort to produce this new bourbon was inspired by McConaughey’s Kentucky and Texas heritage. McConaughey’s parents met at the University of Kentucky; Eddie Russell’s son Bruce lives in McConaughey’s hometown of Austin, Texas.
After two years of testing, this small batch bourbon is further refined with Texas Mesquite and oak charcoals to filter the product before bottling. A first filtration process uses charcoal made from American White Oak; a second uses charcoal made from Texas Mesquite wood imparting light notes of smoky sweetness.
Lest you think “this can’t be bourbon” and “this sounds like a Jack Daniels trick”, remember that Jack Daniels utilizes the “Lincoln County process”. We’ve discussed before how Jack – even with a mash bill similar to bourbon – isn’t bourbon because the distillate is charcoal filtered before it goes into the barrel. The definition of bourbon says nothing about how bourbon is filtered after it comes out of the barrel. Many brands utilize a chill-filtering or even charcoal filtering when barrels are dumped.
Longbranch begins with the traditional Wild Turkey mash bill crafted by Jimmy and Eddie –
75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. It is bottled at 86 proof – lower than Russell’s Reserve 90-proof and significantly lower than Wild Turkey’s signature 101 brand. According to press releases, this release is made with eight-year-old Wild Turkey bourbon.
Eye: Golden copper.
Nose: There’s something familiar there. Definitely noses like a Wild Turkey – but somehow lighter. There is vanilla and sweetness. The wood notes are definitely lighter. While it’s soft and subdued, it’s very pleasant.
Palate: On the tongue, this is very creamy. There is more vanilla, baking spices, and oaky wood. There are also notes of honey and even light citrus characteristics.
Finish: Again, familiar Wild Turkey notes of baking spices and oak are present. It’s medium in length with a fleeting smoky element at the end.
This is pretty great expression. The lighter notes and lower proof make this a very approachable bourbon, especially for those newer to the spirit or perhaps wishing to explore beyond a Jack Daniels Whiskey. Other major distillers offered crafted products with lower proof – this filled a hole in the Wild Turkey lineup.
Easily found around $35, Wild Turkey fans are sure to raise the question – at a lower proof and $13-$15 higher than a Wild Turkey 101 bottle – is this worth it? To be honest, based on a number of other crafted products, such as Legent and Blackened, with the uniqueness of McConaughey’s influence and the addition of mesquite, they could have easily priced this $15 more.
As such, they’ve filled a spot in their shelf and have offered a cross-over product that is easily approachable by an emerging whiskey consumer. Hats off Wild Turkey! You nailed this one creating a smooth and easy drinker that stayed true to the brand. I’ll keep this one around more often.