I’ve never been the biggest fan of Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, but it’s never been my go to mass-produced bourbon choice. However, being a big fan of rye whiskey, I figured I’d give Wild Turkey 101 Rye a fair chance.
In this Wild Turkey 101 Rye Review, we’ll cover some of the basic history of Wild Turkey and their distillery. Then we’ll do a more specific, deeper dive on their rye whiskey and touch on the price, flavor profile, and best ways to drink it.
Wild Turkey History
Wild Turkey can trace its history all the way back to 1869 when the Ripy brothers opened up a distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. However, it was in 1940 that Wild Turkey became the official name when a company executive and his friends went hunting for Wild Turkey. Their drink of choice was was the bourbon the Ripy brothers had originally distilled, which would go on to be named Wild Turkey. Austin Nichols is credited with being the founder of Wild Turkey Whiskey.
Current day, Wild Turkey is owned by the Campari Group.
We can discuss the history of WT all we want, but the real identity of the whiskey lies with the master distiller, Jimmy Russell. Jimmy Russell joined Wild Turkey in 1954 as the third master distiller. As of today, he still holds the same title, making him the longest-tenured, active Master Distiller in the world. He’s both a whiskey and Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inductee. Three commonwealth governors in Kentucky anointed Jimmy Russell as a Kentucky Colonel. He’s also the creater and co-creator of Rare Breed and Russell’s Reserve.
That resume speaks for itself. After 68 years with Wild Turkey, he’s still going, but he’s got something else to give. His son. Eddie Russell, son of Jimmy, joined his father as Master Distiller of Wild Turkey. Eddie co-created WT Longbranch with Matthew McConaughey, among many other accomplishments.
This father-son duo has been the life-blood of Wild Turkey for nearly 7 decades, and it’s hard to imagine this whiskey brand would be what it is today without the Russell’s.
Wild Turkey 101 Rye Overview
- Spirit: Straight Rye Whiskey
- Owned By: Campari Group
- Distilled By: Wild Turkey Distillery
- Aged: Minimum 4 years
- ABV: 50.5%, 101 proof
- Mashbill: 51% rye, 37% corn, 12% barley
- Price: $30
The biggest thing of note here is the mash bill. I want to clarify that I’ve seen two reports of the mashbill. One has 51% rye and 37% corn, the other claims it’s 52% rye and 36% corn. Regardless, it’s what would be called a “barely legal” rye whiskey.
Just as bourbon is required to use at least 51% corn in its mash, rye whiskey must use at least 51% rye. Obviously then, the term applies to the 51% rye in the Wild Turkey Rye mashbill, as it barely fits the legal requirement of being a rye whiskey.
Another key piece, that will be of more importance shortly, is that Wild Turkey 101 is aged in American White Oak barrels with a No.4 char, the deepest char that can be used.
Wild Turkey 101 Rye Tasting Notes
Now that we’ve covered most of the basics, we can answer the real questions you have. Is Wild Turkey Rye 101 good? What does it taste like? Let’s pour ourselves a glass and find out!
Nose: There’s a lot of spice off the nose with a good amount of oak that presents as an old, wet leather. Light floral undertones and some ethanol that gives a little medicinal quality to it. I’m getting a bit of nuttiness to it as well.
Palate: Rye spice is dominant here, with a touch of corn sweetness. A little grainy and some licorice. Not overtly thin, but the flavors are all very sharp. The vanilla becomes more noticeable as I sip it. Wet oak is there throughout.
Finish: Black pepper with a woody quality is most of what I’m getting here with some citrus vanilla.
A lot of people don’t like rye whiskey due to it’s sometimes harsh rye spice on the palate, and that’s exactly what I’m getting here. Some people like rye for that very reason, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The flavors are sharper than they are smooth, but they are all quintessential rye flavors.
There’s a lot more oak and leather present than most rye whiskey offers, but this is due to the no. 4 char that Wild Turkey uses with aging all of its whiskeys.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Wild Turkey 101 Rye. It’s not poor quality whiskey by any means. It’s a little sharp, and that warm sweetness that comes from the corn gets the heartburn going for me. Rough on the palate and rough on the chest isn’t a great combo for me.
This isn’t a pour I’d give to someone to introduce them to rye whiskey, but I think it’s a great segue to rye for bourbon lovers and for fans of WT.
The price of Wild Turkey 101 Rye can vary quite a bit because it’s often so hard to find. I stumbled upon it in a liquor store in a mountain town hours away from civilization, but I’ve never seen it at a Denver liquor store. However, a 750 ml bottle should cost somewhere around the $30.
The best part about the 101 rye is that it’s good enough to enjoy neat or on the rocks, and it works very well in a cocktail. The 101 proof can stand up to the mixers in a manhattan or old-fashioned.
A good $30 bottle of whiskey should do exactly that, too. Expensive enough to where you should be able to enjoy it by itself and in a cocktail, cheap enough to where you don’t mind using it for primarily cocktails.
Wild Turkey 101 Rye Summary
I’m not a huge fan of Wild Turkey 101 Rye, but I’m also not a huge fan of their bourbon either. This is a personal thing! I’m not going to say that there’s anything objectively wrong or bad about WT whiskey, it just doesn’t do it for me.
With that being said, if you like Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon and you happen to run into a bottle of their 101 rye, you should definitely pick up a bottle and try it out. I simply use Wild Turkey 101 Rye as my mixing whiskey right now, and it works just fine, so there’s little downside at the $30 price point!