Mixology is the key to Wild Turkey's latest release, Wild Turkey 81.
Increased by just one proof from the standard release Turkey, but packing a full measure more zest, the new Turkey is aimed at the Bourbon drinker set on blending the spirit in cocktails.
Our verdict is: Yes, but mostly in that context.
We first sampled the whiskey neat and found it slightly more full-bodied than the baseline 80-proof Wild Turkey. But on closer inspection—both with soda water and Coca-Cola—we found its charms to break through much more distinctly.
The 81-proof Wild Turkey is the brainchild of Eddie Russell, the son of the Wild Turkey master distiller Jimmy Russell. The elder Russell has historically sworn by the level of 101 proof (50.5 percent alcohol) that has been the hallmark of Wild Turkey whiskies. The younger Russell has argued for a lower proof spirit that would appeal to younger drinkers, with their tendency toward mixing, and succeeded with the "81."
Using a mix of aged six-, seven- and eight-year-old whiskies (much older than what's typical for the $19.95 price), he created a Bourbon that shines through adulteration, especially in a Highball. Pairing Turkey 81 with seltzer, we enjoyed the extra punch of flavor that the new whiskey offers.
Tasted neat, it beats out standard brands, but doesn't fly as high as other loftier Turkeys, such as the 101-proof version, Rare Breed, Russell's Reserve and Kentucky Spirit. Still the "81" exhibits the full-frontal corn approach of all Wild Turkeys, just not near the complexity of the higher marks.
Wild Turkey 81 (40.5 percent alcohol by volume, 81 proof, $19.95)
APPEARANCE: Medium to light color-amber and bronze. Strong legs.
AROMA: Fairly tight, smelling of honey and caramel.
PALATE: Breaks out in the mouth with the trademark Wild Turkey sweetness (owing to a rich corn content in the mash bill). Then transforms from candy into maple sugar and vanilla into a toastier whiskey (perhaps a function of the deep char in its barrels) with a bit of olive oil.
FINISH: The sugar hangs on in a mid-length finish.