Review: American Spirit and Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Bottled-In-Bond

Wild Turkey’s latest addition to their Master’s Keep collection is a 17-year-old bottled-in-bond (BIB) bourbon. It follows the original 17-year-old Master’s Keep, Decades, Revival, and Cornerstone. A whiskey this old has Master Distiller Eddie Russell’s hands all over it. Though his dad Jimmy is still a co-Master Distiller, Eddie pretty much runs things at Wild Turkey. His preference for a bit more age on his whiskies comes through with every limited edition release from Wild Turkey.

Master’s Keep BIB was aged at the distillery’s Camp Nelson rick houses, a favorite spot among Wild Turkey fanatics. With this being a bottled-in-bond whiskey, it followed a strict set of regulations to keep it’s BIB designation. It has to be at least 4 years old, bottled at 100 proof, distilled by one distillery during one distilling season, and aged in a bonded warehouse. This is only Wild Turkey’s second bottled-in-bond release. The first was American Spirit, a 15-year-old bourbon released in 2007.

Complex and full of the Wild Turkey oomph, the nose is packed with notes of baking spices, dark toffee, toasted oak, dried tobacco leaves. Taste-wise, the whiskey kicks off with wave after wave of creamy vanilla pudding drizzled with caramel. Cinnamon and clove add a little zing, while dusty oak and cigar box appear in the back palate. The long finish has hints of dark chocolate, oak spice, and spearmint.

The complete Master’s Keep collection from Wild Turkey. From left to right, Bottled-In-Bond, Cornerstone, Revival, Decades, and Master’s Keep 17-year-old.

Master’s Keep Bottled-In-Bond has certainly earned its place among the top shelf Master’s Keep collection. Though this whiskey is oak-forward, it doesn’t allow the oak notes to overpower the palate. That’s tough to do at 17 years of age. Another masterful job by Eddie Russell!

Nowadays, I can’t drink Wild Turkey without thinking of David Jennings and his blog, Rare Bird 101. Recently, Jennings researched and collected all of his findings into his new book, American Spirit Wild Turkey: From Ripy to Russell. The book traces, with great detail, the birth of the distillery and brand we know today as Wild Turkey. The book also features a spread of reviews of, you guessed it, Wild Turkey products, from the core lineup and limited editions to exports and vintage bottlings. You can feel the love and respect when the author starts profiling the Russell family. He’s writing from the heart and it shows. This excellent book is easily recommended. The first printing of the book has now sold out, but is still available as an e-book.

Thanks to Campari for the Master’s Keep sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Bardstown Bourbon Company Château de Laubade

Photo courtesy of Bardstown Bourbon Company

I’m a sucker for a good barrel finish on a bourbon. Sure, some purists will yell ‘sacrilege’ or ‘that’s not bourbon’! I say relax, no one’s forcing you to drink it. Whiskey, for me, is about exploration of flavors and aromas. Well done barrel finishes can complement and enhance a whiskey’s flavors. On the other hand, sometimes a bad whiskey can be only be saved by a decent barrel finish.

Thankfully, this release from Bardstown Bourbon Company falls in the former category. Its Armagnac cask finish here is exquisite, enhancing the sweet, fruity notes of the whiskey. The casks are from Château de Laubade. My first, and only, experience with the Armagnac producer is a Vintage 1980 expression I bought a couple of years ago. That 38-year-old single cask Armagnac was so luscious, I wish I’d bought a backup bottle or two.

Bardstown Bourbon Company Château de Laubade is part of their Collaborative Series, which partners Bardstown Bourbon Company with other wine/spirits companies to provide casks in which to finish their bourbon. This Château de Laubade release is a 12-year-old straight bourbon whiskey sourced from Indiana finished in Château de Laubade Armagnac casks for 18 months. It is bottled at 118.4 proof, or 59.2% abv, and carries a suggested retail price of $124.99.

The nose has hints of honeyed fruit, raisins, caramel, and spice. A little airtime reveals a touch of earthiness. On the palate, cinnamon stick and brioche meets dried apricot and raisin. Some vanilla, tobacco, and toasted oak also come through. The long finish sees lingering notes of wine, burnt orange peel, and spice.

This Bardstown Bourbon Company release is phenomenal. It’s a beautiful marriage of bourbon and Armagnac that results in a rich, dessert-like whiskey, perfect for an after dinner pour. Highly recommended!

Spirits Books Roundup

A large part of my whiskey adventure consists of tasting, but there’s always an element of learning involved. I love to educate myself on all aspects of whiskey. Thank goodness for spirits books. Sure, there’s lots of information online, but books seem to have stricter editorial guidelines which means they can be trusted more. Having read a few spirts books lying during the pandemic, I wanted to share a quick blurb for each. Thanks to the authors and publishers for sharing review copies.

AMERICAN WHISKEY

American Whiskey, the latest book from Whiskey Reviewer owner and Managing Editor Richard Thomas, is an exciting journey of our native spirit. On his website, Thomas is a whiskey nerd at heart, but remains a tough yet fair critic. In my view, that critical approach lends Thomas a higher level of trust when it comes to the age old question, “should I buy this whiskey?” It also serves him well in American Whiskey’s format, which showcases more than 300 whiskeys. Additionally, Thomas gives some background on the distilleries. And he’s not just looking at the big boys. American Whiskey also dedicates a large portion to craft distillers, the ever-growing segment of the American whiskey industry that receives some much needed attention. Though American Spirit may seem like a standard approach to the modern whiskey book, Thomas’s knowledge of the category sets this book apart.

DRINK: THE ULTIMATE COCKTAIL BOOK

Go ahead and toss our your cocktail books. Kurt Maitland’s Drink: The Ultimate Cocktail Book is here and should be your new cocktail recipe reference. Okay, don’t throw out your other books. The Whiskey Reviewer Deputy Editor put together a massive collection of cocktail recipes, history, and more. When I say massive, I mean MASSIVE. Maitland features more than 1,100 recipes. This is less a book and more a tome. Thankfully, the author breaks down all this information in a well organized, easy to read format. Maitland has an encyclopedic knowledge of spirits. I know this firsthand – he’s the person who got me into Scotch whisky. Every time he visits New Orleans and we get together for a dram, I learn something new about whisky. Seriously… every time. Drink accomplishes the same for cocktails. There’s something here for cocktail novices and industry veterans alike.

WHICH FORK DO I USE WITH MY BOURBON?

There are people who know bourbon and people who know bourbon. Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler fit in the latter category. Their new book, Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon, explores bourbon tasting, presentation, food pairing and more. This is interesting to me, as I rack my brain trying to think of a way to host a nice bourbon tasting. It’s gotta be more than just peanuts and crackers. Stevens and Reigler take a deep dive into the subject, getting as specific as place settings, decorations, and presentation. This book should be studied before you host your next bourbon tasting. Thank you Peggy and Susan for this. You’ve just brought my cocktail party to the next level.