A Wild Turkey Whiskey Avoids the Pitfalls of the Toasted Barrel Trend
Master's Keep review of the distillery's latest release.
Over the past few years, so much has been written about toasting in the whiskey world that you’d think that it was something to do with breakfast food or wedding receptions. The topic in this particular case is toasted barrels, which have been used by brands such as Michter's and Elijah Craig in special releases for which whiskey is aged in barrels that have been toasted and sometimes also charred for secondary maturation and finishing. If bourbon is to be aged in new, charred oak barrels, it must be aged in them.
A distiller believes that by charring the barrel, the wood will be opened up so that the whiskey can interact with it more efficiently, flavor compounds such as vanillin are released, and unwanted notes will be filtered out of the whiskey. As a result of toasting a barrel, the cask will be subjected to a lesser amount of heat for a longer period of time, resulting in a cask with a more subtle effect on the whiskey that is perfect for finishing.
There is a new release from Wild Turkey titled Master's Keep One, the most premium whiskey line from a brand better known for making solid, affordable bottles like the classic 101. Master's Keep is the most premium whiskey in the line from Wild Turkey. It has previously released a 17-year-old bourbon whiskey and a rye whiskey aged between nine and 11 years in the past.
One is the name of this year's release, and it is supposed to represent the legacy Jimmy and Eddie Russell have created for this distillery. Jimmy is said to be a fan of whiskey aged between eight and ten years, whereas Eddie prefers to have his whisky a little older. As a result, One is a blended bourbon aged between eight and ten years as well as some 14 year old whiskey, which was then finished in new barrels that were toasted and charred in the Tyrone G warehouse, one of Eddie's favorite locations.
Some whiskey fans consider the last step to be a "make it or break it" moment for their drink. There have been whiskeys that have been aged in toasted barrels that I have thought were odd and aggressive in flavor, adding an unwanted burst of raw oak and tannin to the flavor profile. This is a great whiskey from Wild Turkey that seems to have got it right here, even though I don't think that it's my favorite of the Master's Keep whiskeys. As with the core expression of this bourbon, the nose is spicy and oaky, with hints of cherry, spicy pear, pepper, and caramel notes on the palate. The toasted oak is definitely noticeable both on the nose and on the palate, with a bit of a burn at 101 proof.
As far as I am concerned, I'm not completely sold on the concept of the toasted barrel finish in general, but I'm sure this whiskey would have been just as lovely without it. The recommended price for this whiskey is $175, but there is a very small chance you will be able to find it for this price, so you should be prepared to spend double or triple that price if you do find one. Although this whiskey is a good whiskey, I don't think it's worth $500, unless you are an avid Wild Turkey fan. You know who you are. Nevertheless, it's a good bourbon, and has a unique twist on the classic Wild Turkey flavor profile, so if you're a fan of the bourbon, raise a glass and toast your friends.