Wild Turkey 101

With the start of the new US television season this week, I thought it apt to have a bourbon for my next review on my blog. The Wild Turkey 101 is quite popular on television, cropping up often in NCIS and being reference on The Sopranos, Seinfeld and one of my all-time favourite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Wild Turkey_101_NAS_The Smoky Dram


Whisky: Wild Turkey 101, 50.5% ABV

Region: Kentucky, USA

Style: Bourbon

Age: NAS

The Ripy brothers built a distillery in Tyrone, Kentucky near Lawrenceburg in 1869. They had consolidated the current facility by 1905 and resumed distilling after Prohibition. According to legend, distillery executive Thomas McCarthy took some warehouse samples on a wild turkey hunting trip in 1940 and the next year his friends were asking him for “some of that wild turkey whiskey”.

Wild Turkey 101 is a 101 proof (translates to 50.5% ABV) bourbon and is a mix of mostly 6, 7 and 8 year old bourbons. One theory on the mash recipe is thought to be 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley.

Colour: Burnished to tawny with long, slow and thick legs.

Nose: Softer than expected and fairly sweet with maple syrup, slightly burnt caramel, sweet fruit and berry notes. There is also some creaminess about, touch of citrus fruit, wood notes and some sweet winter some spiciness (cinnamon and ginger) on background.

Palate: Rich, sweet, spicy, full and mouth coating. Winter spices (more cinnamon and ginger), touch of cooked citrus fruits with honey and hot out the oven backed dessert (malva pudding) drizzled with maple syrup. Palate is complex and well balanced.

Finish: Long with a sweet spicy tingle and nice baked dessert sweetness at end.

Overall: A bourbon that reminds of the festive season with its winter spices and baked dessert sweetness. It is also one that I feel would perform well as a pre Xmas dinner drink, not to mention also as a during and post dinner drink as well.

My Score: 83

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (always 43.2%-45.2% ABV) is produced at the company’s distillery is in Woodford County, in central Kentucky. Distilling began in 1780 and the distillery building itself was erected in 1838, making it the oldest of the nine bourbon distilleries in current operation in Kentucky (as of 2010).

Woodford Reserve_Bourbon_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Woodford Reserve Distillers Select, 43.2% ABV (Cost around R400) 

Region: Kentucky, USA

Style: Bourbon

Age: NAS

One of the legislation points which specifies when a whiskey can be called a bourbon is that the mixture of grains used has to contain at least 51% corn (in most cases it is higher, 65 – 80%). The other portions of the grain mixture are rye and malted barley (usually around 10 – 15%). Each distillery has its own formula for this grain mixture, also known as the mashbill in the States.

The mashbill for Woodford Reserve features a high percentage of rye: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malt.  Woodford Reserve is furthermore also unusual for being triple distilled and having the lowest proof upon entering the barrel, where it matures for at least six years. Each bottle is numbered with a batch number and bottle number.

Colour: Auburn to Tawny with medium to thick legs.

Nose: Upfront toffee cream, and vanilla sweetness. There are also some biscuit notes coming through. Sweet and soft ginger spiciness creeps across with some woodiness, chocolate and slight peppery smokiness along for the ride as well.

Palate: Complex and rich with oily and full mouth feel. Sweet (vanilla and syrup), nutty, cocoa and warm with soft winter spices (especially ginger). Some cereal and woodiness swirling around towards the end.

Finish: Medium to long sherry spicy finish which is damn nice with a sweetness on the back of it.

Overall: I love the thick viscosity on this bourbon, I think my exact thoughts when tasting this was “Bloody nice”. There is plenty of richness and character in this bourbon.

My Score: 81

Elmer T Lee Single Barrel

For my next review I decided to once again review a bourbon and this time it is the Elmer T Lee Single Barrel. This was for two reasons. The first, to remember the man behind the whiskey (the whiskey is named after Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee. This whiskey is hand selected and bottled to the taste and standards of Elmer T. Lee himself) who recently passed away (see In Memory of Elmer T. Lee 1919-2013). And secondly as Buffalo Trace Distillery also recently announced its designation as a national historic landmark (read story here).

Elmer T Lee_The Smoky DramWhisky: Elmer T Lee Single Barrel, 45% ABV (Cost around R450)

Region: Kentucky, USA

Style: Bourbon

 Age: NAS

Kentucky born and bred, Elmer joined the Distillery as a maintenance engineer in 1949.  Quickly rising to Plant Engineer, then Plant Superintendent and eventually the shared title of Plant Manager and Master Distiller, Elmer oversaw much of the Distillery’s modernization and growth up until his retirement in 1985. Although Elmer retired in 1985, he never really left, and every Tuesday Elmer would make his rounds at the Distillery in his trademark cap signing bottles, posters and other memorabilia. Elmer’s finest achievement was arguably in 1984 with the introduction of Blanton’s, the world’s first Single Barrel Bourbon, which was bottled from unblended, individual barrels of the best aged Kentucky whiskey available. Not long thereafter, Elmer himself was honoured with his own single-barrel namesake.

The Buffalo Trace distillery has been officially labelled a National Historic Landmark in America, joining the ranks of The White House and the Empire State Building. Over its 240 year history Buffalo Trace Distillery has been privileged to win many awards but its designation as a United States National Historic Landmark is surely the crowning achievement. An award which is only bestowed to 2,577 other properties in the country.

Colour: Deep gold tending to burnished and has very many thick legs.

Nose: Lovely strong spicy nose (cloves, cinnamon and wood spice) that are complimented by a soft vanilla creaminess, pleasingly florally fresh fruitiness (pears, plums hints of citrus fruits), caramel toffees and honeysuckle.

Palate: Very smooth and sweet, with vanilla, honeysuckle, flowery/nectar sweetness and caramel toffee initially upfront that then evolves into a light spiciness (with slight sweet spicy burn on tip of tongue), citrus fruits and oak/wood characters .

Finish: Fairly long and warm with a soft and gentle sweet spiciness that lingers till the end. The end for me is a vanilla cream sweetness.

Overall: For me this is an elegant and balanced bourbon. Love the balance and play between the spiciness and sweetness. It is easy drinking that yet has a beautiful richness to it that makes you pour another dram before you even realise it.

My Score: 83

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2002

For my next review I decided to review something other than a scotch, so I have flown (figuratively at least) across the pond to America to review a bourbon and it is one from Kentucky’s first distiller. Evan Williams first began distilling his Bourbon on the banks of the Ohio River in 1783. 

Evan Williams Single Barrel_Bourbon_The Smoky DramWhisky: Evan Williams Single Barrel, 43.3% ABV (Cost around R370)

Region: Kentucky, USA

Style: Bourbon

 Age: 10 years

Before getting into some details on the Single Barrel, here is some information on what makes a Bourbon different to a whisky. By law, Bourbon must be made up of at least 51% corn and aged for a minimum of 2 years in a new charred white oak barrels. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, though almost all brands are made in Kentucky. Furthermore, Kentucky is the only state allowed to put its name on the bottle.

The barrels are all pretty much the same in the beginning. The “White Dog” that goes into the barrels as it leaves the still is the same from barrel to barrel. What turns a standard barrel into one of the Single Barrel Bourbons depends on a couple of things: where they put the barrel and how long they let it stay there. When it comes time to bottle the Bourbon, they concentrate on the barrels that have been stored in key rick house locations – mostly where there are extreme temperature changes. As the contents of each barrel reacts to these extreme temperature changes, the whiskey actually moves through the char layer inside the barrel and builds colour and character. Then, when the Bourbon has aged long enough, the distiller would taste a sample to determine if it has matured to the level required for Single Barrel status.

Colour: Burnished gold to auburn/burnt amber and has with very thick and slow legs.

Nose: Starts off with an earthiness, sweet wood and an extremely slight smokiness, before moving on to candied sweetness, boiled sweets and burnt caramel. A nose that is soft and delicate, that with time in glass, becomes a gorgeous creamy vanilla and warm puddings (malva or sticky toffee). Also picking up traces of spice – cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

Palate: Smooth with a lovely spiciness (wood spice) to it, as well as fruity notes of sweet baked apples. The spice I get is focused mostly on the tip of tongue. Pleasant spicy sweetness to it, like cinnamon mixed with maple syrup or caramel, and has an almost thick syrupy mouth feel to it.

Finish: Long, rich and mellow finish that has a growing warmth to it. Similarly has a spiciness (but a sweet spiciness) that moves from the tip of tongue to the back of the throat together with a hint of sweetness (caramel again) at the end.

Overall: As Bourbons go this one really is a cracker. Such a well-rounded and rich Bourbon, with a lovely balance to it, especially between the sweetness and spiciness. Very delicious and tempting. So much so that you just cannot help another dram or two.

My Score: 85