I’ve got some momentous news. I’ve made the decision to increase my personal price ceiling for bourbon. For the last 5 years or so, it’s been sitting firm at $125 per bottle. At the time I set it, it was a safe price, only Van Winkle would have broken it and honestly, I’ve never been a fan of wheated bourbon. But I could see the trends happening even then. I instituted it as a self-imposed way to keep me in line.
To say that prices have been increasing over the past few years would be an understatement. Though super-premium bourbon starts at around $25, and good bourbon can still be had for less than that, newer expressions tend to skew a bit more…up-market from that price point. Forget super-premium bourbon, we now live in the world of Ultra-Premium. It is no longer unusual to see new expressions at an MSRP of around $100 right out of the gate. And while I am among the herd of people who bemoan this fact, it remains that people don’t even seem to blink an eye at this price anymore. In fact, in a weird bit of human psychology, they seem to just want it more.
Things have gotten so bad that even my value favorite, Wild Turkey has gotten in on the action. Their last two releases Diamond and Master’s Keep have shattered the $100 barrier. With the latest, Master’s Keep at a suggested price of $150 for a 750 mL bottle.
Master’s Keep is a 17-year old bourbon. Bottled near barrel proof it is 86.8° proof. And I can hear you now questioning that last statement. As we discussed in June, a barrel of bourbon can either gain or lose proof depending on it’s aging environment. According to Wild Turkey, this 17 year old bourbon had an interesting aging history. The bottle says it started life in a wooden warehouse. At some point in it’s life, they ran out of room and rented some space from another distillery who happened to use stone warehouses. Once space opened up, the decision was made to bring the barrels home to the wood and metal Wild Turkey warehouses again. The theory is that the time in the stone warehouse allowed the bourbon in to rest in the barrel with less interaction with the wood and lowered the proof from an entry proof of 107° to a dumping proof of 89°. In any case it produced a bourbon that, while old, doesn’t taste over-oaked.
And though this has next to nothing to do with the bourbon inside, as a designer I did geek out a little on the packaging. The box is a nice matte black with foil, embossing and hidden magnetic closures. The painted bottle is simple and elegant with an embossed flying turkey. The closure is cork, with a heavy wood and copper top. It really is beautiful and will be on a display shelf long after it is empty.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep
Purchase info: $169.99, 750 mL bottle. Wild Turkey Distillery Gift Shop. (I saw it for sale in Minnesota today for $154.)
Details: 17 years old. 43.4% ABV. Batch 1, bottle #46237.
Nose: Floral and fruity. Cherry blossoms, brown sugar, vanilla, baking spices, mint, oak and hint black tea.
Mouth: Nice mouthfeel with just enough heat, though more than I expected from sub 90 proof. Lots of rich flavors: leather, dark chocolate and cherry. More brown sugar and baking spices. Herbal mint.
Finish: Nice warm finish that lingers for a while. More herbal mint and brown sugar.
Thoughts: This is a very expensive bourbon, well over both my old and new price ceiling, purchased because my wife is a Wild Turkey fan-girl and really wanted to get it signed by Jimmy Russell who happened to be sitting in the visitor’s center. It is also a very old bourbon with a legitimately unique aging history. And it tastes fantastic. If you have the money, this is highly recommended. At this price, I won’t be buying a second bottle but I don’t regret breaking my price ceiling to buy the one I have.
Oh and in case you were curious, my new personal price ceiling is just the old one adjusted for inflation: $135.
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