Life

Every Bottle Of The Core Wild Turkey Whiskey Line, Ranked

Wild Turkey makes some damn fine whiskey. The heritage shingle produces a wide variety of the stuff, too — in both the bourbon and rye categories. Alas, even with a deep bench of quality juice to draw from, the brand is most often associated with its powerful and very hot Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon. For many drinkers out there, the cheap and ubiquitous bottle offers an entry point to all things whiskey, becoming a nostalgic touchstone from the first sip onward.

Today, we’re here to point out that there’s more to the brand than good ol’ 101. Much more.

When we talk Turkey (sorry), it’s key to note that there are more expressions to choose from than even a whiskey aficionado might realize. 14, in total. Living whiskey legend Jimmy Russell — along with his son and heir Eddie Russell — have built an expansive line of rye and bourbon whiskeys that are 1) affordable and 2) quite often delicious. Of course, we all have different expectations when it comes to what’s “affordable.” Still, there are only two bottles that cost more than $70. As for flavor, your personal palate will surely come to bear in what you think of the juice. But if you like “classic” bourbon (and rye) flavors, you’ll have to concede that the dirty bird helped define what that phrase even means.

To rank the 14 whiskeys in Wild Turkey’s core line (we’ll save the flavored expressions for another ranking), we looked at one factor above all else: Taste. Price played some role in the top three, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker for any particular bottle. That being said, we have to point out that we were almost always splitting hairs by the time we got to the top five.

Let’s dive in!

14. Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey

ABV: 50.5%
Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

A lot of Wild Turkey’s character comes from the hard and deep char they use on their oak barrels. 101 is a high-rye and high-ABV bourbon that leans into the wood and aging, having spent six years in the cask. A little of that soft Kentucky limestone water is added to cool it down a bit before bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a sweetness that feels like buttery toffee next to creamy vanilla and a note of citrus next to charred oak. The taste delivers on those notes and adds more vanilla pudding, sharp rye spice, butterscotch, and a hint of fresh and sweet tobacco leaves. The end is bold and long with the spice, oak, and sweetness lingering on the senses while heating you to your soul (this is what’s called the “Kentucky hug,” although this particular embrace isn’t overly gentle).

Bottom Line:

Look, something has to be in this spot. And cards on the table, this is likely to be the most off-putting version of Turkey given its boldness and heat. That all being said, this is an excellent cocktail base — especially if we’re talking an old fashioned — thanks to the high ABVs and big flavors.

13. Wild Turkey 101 Rye

Wild Turkey

ABV: 50.5%
Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

This is the sibling bottle to the bourbon above. Same heavily charred barrels. Same six-odd years mellowing in those barrels. The difference, naturally, is that this is rye, instead of corn-focused bourbon. That adds a little nuance to the juice that pairs with the higher-ABV a little better.

Tasting Notes:

The peppery rye spice is cut with rummy Christmas cake topped with rich vanilla ice cream next to a clear note of toasted oak on the nose. The taste leans into the spice with a rye-version of the Kentucky hug, as hints of cedar, white sugar, popcorn, and charred bitterness lurk in the background. Like the bourbon, the end is long and hot, with pops of peppery spice, creamy vanilla, and charred wood. A very distant wisp of smoke acts as a button on the end.

Bottom Line:

This expression edges out the bourbon in that the higher ABV matches a little bit better with the warming and sharp spices of the rye mash bill. This is also a solid cocktail base. Try it in a Manhattan or eggnog.

12. Wild Turkey Rye

Wild Turkey

ABV: 40.5%
Average Price: $25

The Whiskey:

This juice rests in the same, deeply charred oak but only for four to five years. The whiskey is then cut with soft limestone water to bring it down to a more manageable and accessible 81 proof.

Tasting Notes:

Big notes of rich vanilla marry sharp and peppery spice with a hint of minty apple. The taste leans into the spice as the vanilla smooths out the texture with mild notes of chewing tobacco, Granny Smith, and buttery toffee next to a hint of sourdough bread. The end is long, oaky, and spicy, warming you through and through.

Bottom Line:

This is a very good rye whiskey for only $25. It’s also a solid workhorse bottle that shines as a cocktail base, in a highball, or even on the rocks as a sipper in a pinch. Again, that’s saying a lot at this price point.

11. Wild Turkey Bourbon

Wild Turkey

ABV: 40.5%
Average Price: $16

The Whiskey:

This fairly new expression is Eddie Russell’s stamp on his dad’s legacy. The younger Russell devised this lower-proof bourbon to be another workhorse whiskey for the mixing crowd who also might take a sip on the rocks every now and then. This is achieved by letting the juice rest in deeply charred oak for six to seven years before it’s cut down to 81 proof for bottling.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a matrix of mild spice, bitter oak, ripe stone fruits, creamy vanilla, and, dare we say, salted caramel up top. The taste delivers and expands into peach cobbler territory with plenty of vanilla, brown sugar syrup with baking spices, and an almost smoky oak edge. The end is another left turn, with a dusting of dark chocolate over the top of a honeyed underbelly as the oak, spice, and stonefruit fade away.

Bottom Line:

This has no business tasting as good as it does for less than $20. This is designed for cocktails but works wonders on the rocks — a little water really lets it open up — making it almost too easy to drink.

10. Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel

Wild Turkey

ABV: 50.5%
Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

Jimmy Russell hand selects eight to nine-year-old barrels from his warehouses for their individual taste and quality. Those barrels are then cut down ever-so-slightly to 101 proof and bottled with their barrel number and warehouse location.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a roundness to this sip that’s enticing. The nose is a classic mix of bold vanilla, baking spice, oak, and fruity sweetness. That fruit edges towards dark berries with notes of worn leather, aged oakiness, and a sweet and rose-water-forward marzipan nuttiness shining through. The end lasts a while on your palate and in your senses, leaving you warmed up and wanting more.

Bottom Line:

If you’re already a fan of 101, this is the next step in your Turkey journey. At only $60 for a single barrel expression, you can’t beat the price. This really works as a sipper with a little water or ice to help it bloom.

9. Russell’s Reserve Rye 6 Years Old

Wild Turkey

ABV: 45%
Average Price: $45

The Whiskey:

Russell’s Reserve is where we really dive into the “good stuff.” This expression is a collaboration between Jimmy and Eddie Russell, who search through the center cut of barrels in their rickhouses for the exact right minimum-six-year-old ryes to create this expression.

The end results are a window into the Russells’ shared palate for whiskey.

Tasting Notes:

This a subtle rye with hints of crusty rye bread soaked in apple honey paired with a hint of vanilla. The rye spiciness isn’t overdone, allowing more of a sweet Christmas cake full of dried fruit, nuts, and spicy rum to shine through than, say, black pepper. The oakiness shines late as the spice, sweetness, and vanilla fade away like a silk scarf billowing behind a Wes Anderson character.

Bottom Line:

Is this a top three rye for Wild Turkey or a number nine whiskey? This list is getting hard because this stuff is really easy to drink and doesn’t break the bank while delivering unique and tasty dram.

8. Russell’s Reserve Bourbon 10 Years Old

Wild Turkey

ABV: 45%
Average Price: $38

The Whiskey:

Sticking with the Russells and their barrel hunting expeditions through their rickhouses, this expression hits some pretty high marks. The juice is a marrying of bourbons Jimmy and Eddie Russell handpick from their minimum ten-year-old barrels. They then cut it down to a very accessible 90 proof for bottling.

Tasting Notes:

This is “classic bourbon” in a glass. Notes of vanilla bean, caramel, holiday spice, and oak greet you with a hint of fruit. The oak weighs in on the palate, with hints of orange oils, dark chocolate (when water is added), more Christmas spices, and a distant whisper of smoke. The finish is just the right length, with rehashes of the oak, spice, orange, and vanilla notes leading towards a lingering sense of old leather and sweet maple.

Bottom Line:

This could cost twice as much and folks wouldn’t bat an eye. Drink it neat, with water or ice, in a highball, or make a killer cocktail.

7. Wild Turkey Longbranch

Wild Turkey

ABV: 43%
Average Price: $40

The Whiskey:

A few years back, Wild Turkey brought on Matthew McConaughey to be the brand’s Creative Director and create his own whiskey. The product of that partnership was launched in 2018. The juice is a wholly unique whiskey for Wild Turkey, thanks to the Texas Mesquite charcoal filtration the hot juice goes through.

The bourbon then goes into oak for eight long years before it’s proofed and bottled.

Tasting Notes:

Christmas spices meet oily vanilla and subtle caramel up top. The palate adds orange oils and buttery toffee to the mix, as the spices edge upwards on the palate, next to a creamy vanilla pudding body. That velvet texture builds throughout, with toasted oak and cedar notes as a hint of sweet firepit smoke arrives on the long and satisfying finish.

Bottom Line:

It was hard to place this one. It’s such a standout amongst the line. It’s easily sippable yet works in a highball or cocktail. It has a great looking bottle. It feels like the perfect act break between the more standard bottles of Wild Turkey and the one-offs.

6. Russell’s Reserve Rye Single Barrel

Wild Turkey

ABV: 52%
Average Price: $65

The Whiskey:

This hand-selected single barrel expression hits on some pretty big classic rye notes (“classic” is becoming a theme here, as anticipated). The juice is selected from the center cuts of the third through fifth floors of the Wild Turkey rickhouses. There’s no chill filtering and the expression is only slightly touched by water for proofing.

Tasting Notes:

The peppery spice greets you with a sense of an old barrel, worn leather, and soft vanilla, with a light touch of sweetness. The body is svelte with fresh tobacco leaves accenting that hot pepper and mellowing cinnamon. There’s a musty barrel edge that leads towards a cedar box full of cigars, vanilla beans, and toffee on the long fade.

Bottom Line:

This is where we start splitting hairs, folks. Is this inherently “worse” than anything below it on the list? Probably not. Still, this is a ranking and Wild Turkey makes a hell of a rye but their brightest expressions are always going to be their bourbons.

5. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof Rye

Wild Turkey

ABV: 56.1% (varies)
Average Price: $62

The Whiskey:

This rye is a blend of the best of the best barrels in the Wild Turkey rickhouses. The juice is chosen from four, six, and eight-year-old barrels and blended, then bottled. There’s no chill filtration to clean up the look and there’s no water added to cut it down to proof.

This is pure rye in a bottle.

Tasting Notes:

This is a masterclass in what rye spice can be with notes of black pepper and Christmas spices counterpointed by pine resin dank and almost sweet root beer. The palate brings about a velvet texture with notes of vanilla and dark chocolate cake when water is added. There’s a balance of all that spice, wood, resin, and subtle fruitiness that lasts on your tongue and senses for a while, drawing you back for more.

Bottom Line:

This might be in fifth place on this list, but it’s also the top-ranked rye. It’s a great sipper with a little water that, again, could easily cost twice as much.

4. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon

Wild Turkey

ABV: 55%
Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This is a highwater mark of what standard Wild Turkey can achieve. The Russells select the “honey barrels” (those special barrels that are as much magic as craft) from their rickhouses for single barreling. The juice is non-chill filtered but is cut down slightly to proof with that soft Kentucky water.

Tasting Notes:

Vanilla cream spiked with orange oils and sprinkled with toasted coconut mingle with spicy oak and buttery cake. The body of this sip is edgeless with easy notes of marzipan, dried roses, vanilla pods, Christmas spices, and plenty of toasted oak. With a little water, the toasted coconut returns with a dark chocolate and almond vibe — like a bespoke Almond Joy from the fanciest of candy shops.

Bottom Line:

A single barrel for less than $100 is a steal, especially when they’re this drinkable. Don’t sleep on making an awesome cocktail with this either. It shines in a Manhattan.

3. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Aged 17 Years

Wild Turkey

ABV: 43.4%
Average Price: $170

The Whiskey:

This is a masterpiece from Eddie Russell that highlights b-o-u-r-b-o-n flavors in every sip. For this mainstream Master’s Keep (there are a few limited-edition versions every year, too), Russell hand-selects 17-year-old barrels of Turkey that “travel” between their wooden and brick rickhouses, traversing roughly 200 miles over 17 years.

Tasting Notes:

This is bourbon with a capital “B.” There are clear and bold notes of smoky oak, oily vanilla pods, buttery toffee, orange orchards, the barns bulging with drying tobacco leaves. The spice kicks in with a Christmas cake edge that leads towards a salted caramel, bitter coffee, and toasted oak presence. The end is soft, velvety, and full of each of the notes fading in succession through your senses as it gives you that signature “Kentucky hug” (like a favorite uncle this time, rather than a horse-wrangling family friend).

Bottom Line:

This is another one that’s hard to place. It’s so damn easy to drink, and it’s rewarding to drink. It’s also a bit pricy… but compared to the price for other 17-year-old expressions of bourbon out there it’s a bargain!

2. Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Bottled in Bond

Wild Turkey

ABV: 50%
Average Price: $210

The Whiskey:

This lands above Master’s Keep whiskey thanks to a few small factors. As for the craft, this expression comes from one distilling season. So the 17-year-old barrels in this bottle are all from the same distillation time and bottled at the lawful bottled in bond standard of 100 proof, allowing more of the barrel’s character to come through.

Tasting Notes:

There’s a bold nose of spicy Christmas cakes spiked with orange oils, candied cherries, and dried apples next to vanilla pods and worn saddle leather. The palate is the epitome of smooth in every way with a subtle warmth and balanced flavors. It takes you out back at a roadside BBQ, hanging next to the old brisket smokers, with notes of melted fat and burnt sugars. Those flavors are subtle and only really come out with water but they’re there and delightful.

The end doesn’t overstay its welcome but leaves a smile on your face.

Bottom Line:

This was just released this year and will surely be a brand cornerstone going forward. Just make sure to add some water or a rock to really let this one blossom.

1. Wild Turkey Rare Breed Barrel Proof

Wild Turkey

ABV: 58.4% (varies)
Average Price: $50

The Whiskey:

This is the mountaintop of what Wild Turkey can achieve. This is a blend of the best barrels that are married and bottled untouched. That means no filtering and no cutting with water. This is a classic bourbon with nowhere to hide.

Tasting Notes:

Crème brûlée greets you with a nice dose of Christmas spices, mild pipe tobacco, orange zest, and a distant hint of fresh mint sprigs. There’s a pine resin nature to the woody flavors on the palate that accents the orange oils, spices, vanilla, and sweetness. The sip takes on a Christmas cake-feel late, with a velvet end that is just the right amount of everything you want from a bourbon.

Bottom Line:

This wins out on two counts. 1) It’s f*cking delicious. 2) It’s crazy cheap for what it is.

You can make a killer cocktail with this bottle and not fret about the price. At the same time, you can drink this whole bottle neat or with a rock and, again, not worry about the price. It may not have the most unique flavors on this list or even clock in as the cheapest-for-quality. It simply hits all the right notes of accessibility, taste, and price together.

Taken as a whole, it can’t be beaten.

That all being said, the last five expressions left us revising this list a lot. Our recommendation is to find the tasting note that entices you and go in that direction.

×