- Spirit: Straight Bourbon, Small Batch
- Owned By: Campari Group
- Distilled By: Wild Turkey
- Aged: NAS
- ABV: 43%, 86 proof
- Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley
- Price: ~$35-$42
There are all kinds of celebrity spirits out there. Some are started by celebrities – with a lot of help from people who know what they’re doing – and others are more collaboration. Obviously, Wild Turkey Longbranch is owned and distilled by Wild Turkey, by way of the Campari Group. It is, however, crafted by head distiller Eddie Russel and “cultural tastemaker” Matthew McConaughey.
Yes the Longbranch website does refer to McConaughey as a cultural tastemaker…
I’ve reviewed hundreds of whiskeys in the last two years, and as a certified bourbon professional, I’m going to find out if Wild Turkey Longbranch is all marketing or if there is some bark behind this dog.
Okay, let’s talk a little bit about the whiskey itself. It starts out as a simple whiskey distilled by Wild Turkey with their typical 75/13/12 mashbill. The whiskey is then filtered through oak and Texas Mesquite charcoal.
Many people don’t actually know what mesquite is, they just associate it with bbq. Mesquite is a plant (more like a shrub) native to dry areas of North, South, and Central America – one of which would be Texas. Mesquite is known to have a very sweet and smoky flavor making it a popular choice for barbecuing. Let’s see if it’s a good choice for whiskey.
The process of filtering whiskey through charcoal isn’t new. The most popular whiskey in the world, Jack Daniel’s, is filtered through sugar maple charcoal. As a matter of fact, all of Tennessee Whiskey is filtered through charcoal as that is one of the requirements. Seeing as how Wild Turkey is distilled in Kentucky, it doesn’t quite qualify as a Tennessee Whiskey,
A bottle of Wild Turkey Longbranch usually runs just under or around the $40 mark, but I’ve seen it for as low as $33. In today’s day and age, a $38 bottle of whiskey isn’t all that expensive, though it still is above a lot of the mass produced, standard offerings.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s jump into the important questions. Is Wild Turkey Longbranch Good? What does it taste like?
Nose: Leather and a sweet floral spice come off the nose for me initially. Paint coated wood, lemon, and molasses. The paint/ethanol fades a bit after a couple minutes for a more dry oak to take its place. Coming back to the nose after sipping brings in the mesquite and smoke with a bit of toffee.
Palate: There’s more of the mesquite flavor coming right at the front of the palate, a sweet smoky flavor with some lemon and molasses. Caramel and chocolate undertones. Moderate mouthfeel, perhaps on a touch on the thin side.
Finish: A dry and airy finish, but my mouth stays coated with a bit of oils and saliva. A touch of pepper and clove spice show and stay towards the end with dry oak. An easy sip, a little bit of heat with no burn. Medium to long finish.
Taste Summary – Is WT Longbranch Good?
I’m not a huge fan of Wild Turkey. I’ve always found their whiskey (their standard 81 and 101 bourbon and rye) to be a bit thin and sharp. Wild Turkey Longbranch, in my opinion, is a big step up from their standard bottlings.
At first nose, I didn’t think I’d like this very much, but it really opened up after a couple of minutes. The mesquite definitely made an impact introducing sweet smoky flavors, and I found a wide array of flavors within the whiskey.
The finish is a bit dry for such a sweet bourbon, but it does have a fairly long finish in comparison to similarly priced/86 proof bourbons.
Where I think this whiskey falls short is on the mouthfeel. It’s a little thin and watery, but it’s not very sharp either. I would definitely recommend sticking to drinking this neat as a couple drops of water or ice don’t do it any favors.
When it comes to whiskey, we really have to take price into account as well as the setting you drink it in. For instance, I might really love a certain cask strength whiskey, but I wouldn’t want to drink it in a social setting/party setting. A whiskey you drink at a wedding is probably different from a whiskey you want to sit down with and really explore.
So, taking into account the ~$40 price tag and my experience with Longbranch, what’s the best way to drink it? Who is it for? Where, and to whom, does this bottle see the most value?
Let’s get the most obvious and basic one out of the way: for those that really like Matthew McConaughey and want to try a whiskey he had a hand in creating, whether or not his role was all that large – it’s tough to truly know.
More importantly, the true value comes from its ‘smooth’ easy drinking nature along with its uniqueness.
A lot of whiskey snobs snark at the word smooth, but easy drinking whiskeys have value in social settings where you’re just sipping some whiskey and hanging out (or for those just looking to drink something easy and not dissect a whiskey). In regards to the uniqueness, Wild Turkey Longbranch isn’t some new bourbon that’s unlike any other and totally on it’s own, but it’s not your typical bourbon by any means either.
If you’re someone who likes ‘smooth’ whiskey – you love Basil Hayden, Crown, Johnnie Walker – and don’t mind spending an extra couple bucks on something a touch nicer than standard Beam – Wild Turkey Longbranch could be a great whiskey to expand into. Longbranch is on the thinner side, but it’s an easy sipper and has more character than a lot of your made-for-the-masses whiskey. It won’t be for everyone, but I think a lot of people would enjoy this as a new bottle to try.
I’m not what you would call a hater of celebrity spirits, whether it’s McConaughey working in collaboration with Wild Turkey, or The Rock starting up a tequila brand. I mean…. I imagine these guys like whiskey like we do…. They have the money and resources…. Why not try to make something of your own (even if you’re only a small part of the process)?
So, whether or not the whole McConaughey as creative director is genuine or a marketing ploy, I don’t care. Try the spirit and if you like it, drink it.
Me, personally, I’d choose Longbranch over WT 101 even with the extra money on the price tag. Now WT Rare Breed might be a different story.