Thursday, August 20, 2020

Whiskey Review: Wild Turkey 101 Rye

Not so long ago, say, the early-2000s, there wasn't much to choose from if you were a rye whiskey drinker. Most of what was on the market was barely legal rye at 51% of the mashbill, which gave a more bourbon-like product compared to some of the 95-100% ryes that have come to dominate the market over the last decade. Venerable brands like Old Overholt and Jim Beam staggered along, but didn't have much to offer at a rather water-down 80-proof. Sure, there was also Rittenhouse, but once the cocktail renaissance kicked into gear that became harder and harder to find. The one other reliable staple was Wild Turkey 101 Rye.

However, it ended up languishing, never garnering the attention of its bonded brethren. But its limited production was still enough to force Wild Turkey to replace it with a watered down 81-proof version in 2012, with only bars and other preferred customers able to get the higher proof release starting a year later. Thankfully that has turned around somewhat in the last few years, with the 101-proof version returning to some liquor store shelves in a liter bottle format. Unfortunately this also came with an increased price tag of $30-40 in most markets, which meant that it became less competitive with other budget offerings.

Thankfully, it is more reasonably priced in Oregon, so when my previous bottle of mixing rye ran out I decided to grab a bottle.

Wild Turkey 101 Rye

Nose: classic low rye notes - balanced between grainy/spicy rye and sweeter corn, a little orange and lime peel, something dusty, a pleasant level of oak. After adding a few drops of water the dusty rye grain expands and somewhat overwhelms the corn, with some diminishment of intensity as well, but it is complimented by some berry notes emerging.

Taste: fairly sweet up front, shifting towards spicy/herbal rye with subdued oak tannins around the middle, and another bump of corn sweetness near the back. After dilution the oak spreads out and joins the rye to spread the spicier notes across the palate, somewhat obscuring the sweeter corn notes, but revealing some nice berry notes around the middle.

Finish: juicy rye, herbal, a pleasant amount of oak, corn grits, a little vanilla

This is not an especially complex whiskey, but I still think it's quite good. It's pretty much what I want out of a budget bottle - solid flavors and no flaws so that I don't have to put in a lot of effort to feel like I'm getting the most out of it. Seeing as a paid $28 for a liter, I think it ends up being a pretty good value. Perhaps most importantly, I bought this for cocktails and it has performed admirably in that role.

Fall Boulevard

1.25 oz rye whiskey
1 oz Campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 tsp allspice dram

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for fifteen seconds, then strain into a chill cocktail glass.

This is a really great twist on the classic Boulevardier. The allspice plays rather well with the rye, pushing it even further in a spicy direction and counterbalancing the sweetness of the Campari and vermouth. At the same time, I think this works well with a barely legal rye like Wild Turkey, because the more herbal/pickle notes of an MGP rye might not mesh as well.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the thoughtful and useful review. The Fall Boulevard looks like a wonderful variant on the Boulevardier. A good reason to find or make some Allspice Dram.