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A Tale of Two (Wild) Turkeys

Posted on by Eric Burke

A few weeks ago I ran across something a little too good to pass up. I was out antiquing and found a seller who had a bunch of miniature liquor bottles for sale. Full, sealed bottles. They were only available as a set so I took the entire lot. Out of that lot I got three bourbons of varying antiquity. A early 1970s IW Harper, a Blanton’s (can’t be older than the early-mid 1980s when the brand debuted) and the one I was most excited about a Wild Turkey from 1979. 

Since I am a lover of most things Wild Turkey, and constantly have a bottle of 101 on my shelf, I thought it might be fun to taste this along side of the current release. The 1979 version is eight years old and both are the 50.5% ABV that Wild Turkey built their reputation on. I was initially going to do the comparison blind. Unfortunately for the plan (but fortunately for me) the 1979 juice was so much darker that I had no trouble picking out which was which. So I decided to just taste them side-by-side and compare them that way. 

The 1979 pour needed a lot of time to breathe before we got down to business. Upon pouring it was very strong with the scent of nail polish remover. After about a half hour or so that dissipated and instead there were thick notes of maple, brown sugar and oak with a lovely fruitiness underneath. By way of comparison, I found the 2016 pour presenting an anise note that I had never picked up in it before. 

Back to the 1979. The mouth had a nice thick mouthfeel with herbal hints of mint, spice, brown sugar and oak. It reminded me very much of a barrel proof Four Roses Q yeast bourbon. The finish was warm and long. 

Moving over to the 2016, the mouthfeel was thinner but retains a nice velvety texture. There were fewer sweet candy flavors from the oak and the rye flavors were more pronounced. The finish was warm and while shorter than the 1979, was still of decent length. 

I found this to be a fascinating process. While I would have said that the 1979 pour was tasty if tasting it by itself, I don’t know that I would have had quite as much fun if I hadn’t had the current release to contrast it off of. And as for the current release, I might not have found the interesting anise notes in the nose or realized how pronounced the rye notes were on the palate if I hadn’t had the older one to contrast it with. Overall this was just fun. And honestly, isn’t that why we do this?


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