Wild Turkey 12 Year 2022 Review [In Depth]

Wild Turkey 12 Year 2022

Alex author
Founder, writer
Wild Turkey 12 Year 2022 header

2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year Details

Distillery: Wild Turkey

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 50.5%

Composition: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12 % barley

Aged: At least 12 years

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $60-70 in Japan (not in the US)

From the back of the box:

Born from the Father & Son distilling genius of Jimmy & Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey 12 Year Old Distiller’s Reserve is Kentucky Straight Bourbon of the highest character. This special release has been carefully selected from the distiller’s favorite reserve, barreled at a lower proof and slowly matured to create a bourbon of exceptional quality. With notes of vanilla, rich caramel, hints of spice and a long chocolate orange finish. Wild Turkey 12 Year is a showcase of the world renowned craftsmanship of Jimmy & Eddie Russell and brilliantly reveals the bold and distinctive character of Wild Turkey Bourbon.

Wild Turkey 12 Year 2022 overview

Wild Turkey 12 Year is back baby! It’s back! Now imagine me pumping my fist into the air in celebration, because I’m very excited for the return of a bourbon legend. To be clear, it is more than just 12 year old Wild Turkey 101.
Here’s a brief history lesson. Wild Turkey 12 Year dates back to the mid 80’s, first as a US and Japan release, and then a Japan-only release starting in the late 80’s / early 90’s (something like that). From the early 90’s to 2012, Japan continued to receive Wild Turkey 12 Year in various forms, while it’s been gone for decades in the US.
You may have heard terms such as Cheesy Gold Foil (the earliest releases with insane gold labels that reflect light), split label, beyond duplication, and more. Those refer to various label types that mark certain eras of the bourbon.
Unfortunately in 2012, it was discontinued entirely and replaced with Wild Turkey 13 Year Distiller’s Reserve (delicious by the way). But in early September 2022, after a 10 year hiatus, the newest version of Wild Turkey 12 Year returned home to Japan.
I was living in Japan when the announcement was made, but I’m still a little salty that I missed this release by about 1.5 months, as I moved back to the US in mid July. So, I had to hope that someone would do me a huge favor and get one for me on their visit to Japan. Thankfully, it took only a few months for that to happen, and I did obtain a bottle (yay!).
2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year box 1
The bad news for many of you is that it’s not actually sold in the US, only in South Korea, Japan, and Australia (those are the 3 I know of). If you see them for sale in the US, it means that the seller acquired them via a third party who lives / went to one of the 3 aforementioned countries. From what I can tell, quite a few people acquired this bottle from US retailers who did just that. And yes, I was jealous of people who got it before I did.
Then again, I’ve been very lucky to try some of the older releases. I reviewed a ~2010 bottle that probably went bad (unfortunately) and a 2012 release that was sublime magic. Even with that 10 year hiatus, as the bourbon landscape drastically changed, I hope that Wild Turkey has preserved the magic for a new generation of bourbon drinkers and those yearning for what used to be.
The wait is finally over and I get to dive deep into Wild Turkey’s re-introduced classic in this 2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year bourbon review.
2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year box 2
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Wild Turkey 12 Year 2022 smell

Wild Turkey 12 Year starts off with toasted caramel, dried cherry, a mix of roasted oak and freshly sawn oak, dried red apple with clove and cinnamon, dried grapefruit, some chocolate fudge, licorice, and mint. This has that mature oak and chocolate, but it’s less dense and in your face than it is in Russell’s Reserve 13 Year and Hardin’s Creek Jacob’s Well 15 Year. So instead of a lot of brooding darkness and oakiness, the balance is more even between the fruitiness and oak.
This is a fragrant first impression, but it still feels like it’s missing some layers and depth.
After swirling (it takes 10-12 minutes to settle down and have the darkness return), I smell roasted caramel, vanilla, the mature sweet oak thing that’s part roasted oak, dark chocolate, and coffee grounds, dried grass, dried cherry, blueberry, herbal fennel, and lighter earthy pumpernickel and smoke.
The range isn’t that wide, but the roasty, oaky, and fruity fragrance show off the maturity in ways that other 12 year bourbons don’t offer. One example is Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (12 year old by the way), which is more lasered-in on caramel and vanilla, and less on chocolate and sweet oak.
2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year box 4
Truly, the sweet and chocoately oak is a great trait that’s tough to find in bourbon. Off the top of my head, I’ve found it in Weller 12 Year, Russell’s 13 Year, Hardin’s Creek Jacob’s Well, and Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon.
I have very positive, yet partially mixed feelings about 2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year. The scents fit in nicely with what I prefer and truly bring a lot to the glass, but I hoped that the scents would have a greater and wider presence that it doesn’t.

Wild Turkey 12 Year 2022 taste and aftertaste

My first sip comes with roasted caramel, vanilla, dried cherry, dark roasted oak, dark chocolate and lightly bitter cocoa powder, cinnamon, fennel, and candied pineapple. Yes, this tastes better than it smells with more density and pep. As you might expect from a 12 year old bourbon, the oaky and chocolate-y notes are there.
Unlike Russell’s 13 Year and Hardin’s Creek, the oak is not as dense, replaced with more fruit. It’s like a 50/50ish split in Wild Turkey 12 Year 2022 while it’s around 60% oak notes in the two aforementioned bourbons. The difference in age is still very clear.
2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year front
Wild Turkey 12 Year tastes great though, but it’s not so much a dense and muscular bourbon. With the age and ABV, there’s still enough richness to be very tasty, but I can tell that it’s missing out out on lower-end heft and density.
“Chewing” releases denser caramel and vanilla, followed by candied cherry, red apple (with the peel so it’s slightly earthy), roasted oak, dark chocolate, cinnamon, clove, candied pineapple, chocolate covered strawberry, and a little dried grass and oak tannins.
There’s more of the sweet oak plus fruity pop, which gives Wild Turkey 12 Year more of the character I’m looking for. A little more body and viscosity emerge too, but it’s still not close to Hardin’s Creek, which was in turn more viscous than Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Batch 2.
2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year box 3
The oak still has a big presence, providing an oaky foundation for everything else, but is closer to equal partners with everything else. Unlike Wild Turkey 17 Year Bottled in Bond, it’s not overly bitter, tannic, or harsh. By the way, this is way more enjoyable than the 17 year.
In the finish there’s chocolate and caramel sweetness, vanilla, roasted oak, licorice, cinnamon, clove, and dried cherry with lingering dried fruit, smoky chocolate, and a little bitter Dutch Processed cocoa. After “chewing” there’s roasted caramel and oak, cocoa powder, cinnamon, dried apple, licorice, and a little smoke. This is a mature and oaky finish, so if you smoke cigar (I don’t), this seems like a cigar-type bourbon.
2022 Wild Turkey 12 Year is most definitely very flavorful, but it doesn’t strike me as all that complex or impactful. I’ve had better (and similar) bourbons recently, although those were very highly rated, so the bar is already very high and this is still no slouch.
As a side note – I had the previous version of the 12 Year, from 2012, and the reintroduced version is clearly the toned-down and less refined version. I’ll compare them together to make sure, but it’s immediately apparent that this is not in the same level as it was before.

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Wild Turkey 12 Year 2022 Rating

Top Shelf
All things considered, Wild Turkey 12 Year is a hit, the welcome return of an old brand. This $60ish bottle smashes the trend of skyrocketing prices and middling age statements, and provides a premium experience that mostly lives up to the name. That said, I can’t hide my disappointment that it isn’t the unforgettable and stupendous bourbon I hoped it could be. It somewhat does that, but overall doesn’t quite deliver that level of experience.
Then again, I have the added (and privileged) context of having reviewed 2012 Wild Turkey 12 Year, Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Batch 2, and Hardin’s Creek Jacob’s Well 15 Year, all bourbons that have generally the same mature, oaky, and berry profile. Admittedly they’re not perfect comparisons because of differences in price, age, ABV, and era.
Wild Turkey 12 Year has the mature and oaky sweetness and chocolatiness of a more expensive bourbon, but also the fruitiness that holds its own to provide a well-balanced experience that complements the oak. While the oaky development is there, the density and low-end is halfway there.
The viscosity and density were a sticking point with Russell’s Reserve 13 Year when I compared it to noticeably more round and viscous Hardin’s Creek 15 Year. Nonetheless, Wild Turkey 12 Year will feel familiar if you’ve had any of the previously mentioned bourbons, although it’s not at the same level . It’s Russell’s Reserve 13 Year-lite, but you can actually find it…if you’re in Japan at least (not the US).
As I write this, I recognize that some of my critiques are ridiculous for a $60ish bourbon, but it’s because it feels like there’s held-back greatness. There are many possible reasons for that, including cost considerations (it is still only around $60-70), but I think it comes down to barrel selection (saving the even better barrels for other releases) and the quality of the barrel wood itself (that’s a long conversation for another time). These are just my musings based on experience with the 2012 version and other older Wild Turkey bourbons.
Speaking of older stuff, I continue to recognize that this bottle symbolizes the high-profile return of a legendary bourbon, from a time when many of you reading weren’t drinking bourbon / that into it yet. I’m in the same bucket. I too wasn’t going to Japan and cleaning up on Cheesy Gold Foils, Split Labels, and all that other stuff for reasonable prices, so this is the gateway into that inaccessible history. But like many things in bourbon these days, it’s not as good as it used to be.
Still though, if you’re abroad and have the chance, absolutely get a bottle or 3. I also recommend trying to get a bottle of Wild Turkey Rare Breed Non Chill Filtered (1L bottle) for about the same price, possibly less. I’d go as far to write that I prefer the export-only Rare Breed because it has many of the same oaky, chocolatey, and fruity notes, but with more body and oiliness. I bet that a blend of 40% Wild Turkey 12 Year and 60% Wild Turkey Rare Breed Non Chill Filtered would be incredible.
The point I’m trying to convey, in the process of rambling on about various tangents, is that the re-introduction of Wild Turkey 12 Year is a smashing success and ludicrous value, so I definitely appreciate it for what it is. At the same time, I know that it doesn’t reach the same highs as it’s 2012 predecessor.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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