Distillery: Wild Turkey
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley
Aged: 13 years
Price: $55-70 in Japan (700mL)
From the back of the bottle:
Wild Turkey doesn’t like to talk about this bottle.
Wild Turkey 13 Year Distiller’s Reserve is one of a few Japan-only export releases from the famous Kentucky distillery. This 13 year was initially released around 2014-2015, replacing the 12 year and 101 proof, and is widely found across Japan. It’s quite refreshing to have older Wild Turkey be always available, and it’s really at nearly every liquor store that sells bourbon. For a while, it was pretty much the oldest Wild Turkey bourbon you could get outside of some of the Master’s Keep releases that were 17 years old, although that has changed with the more recent release of Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Barrel Proof in the US. Japan hasn’t gotten this…yet.
Let’s find out what this Japan-exclusive extra-aged Wild Turkey is like in this Wild Turkey 13 Year Distiller’s Reserve review.
Whoa, Wild Turkey 13 Year Distiller’s Reserve is very fragrant right up front. There’s fragrant roasted oak, clove, and dry grass at first, followed by caramel, vanilla, dried orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried apple and cherry, and just a little tobacco and smoke with a faint alcohol singe. There’s a lot of oakiness and wood spices, especially clove, that make it clear that this is old and mature bourbon. The spice reminds me a bit of a wheated bourbon (e.g., New Riff Malster Wheat, Buffalo Trace Kosher Wheat, Bernheim Wheat whiskey).
Swirling opens up the fragrant oak, clove, and nutmeg even more, and then adds a tad more bubblegum, followed with caramel, honey, dried orange peel, cocoa powder, even more dried old wood, cinnamon, and hints of blueberries and corn mash in the background. It’s dark, roasty, and chocolatey, yet still has enough sweetness and fruitiness to feel balanced. In terms of fruit, dried orange leads the way, supporting all the oak, spice, and sugar. Swirling especially brings out more herbal licorice and fennel. Wow, 13 years of age and blending really bring out the maturity, luxury, and decadence. I’m impressed at how the scents are rich, deep, and constantly evolving – making it an excellent bourbon. It really outdoes its 45.5% ABV, having the heft of a 55% ABV bourbon.
Wild Turkey 13 Year has a big burst of caramel, roasted oak, clove, chocolate, vanilla, dried orange peel, cinnamon, dried apple, and more faint hints of dried dark berries and licorice. As expected for its age, there’s a lot of wood spices, especially clove and nutmeg, and chocolate too. This bourbon certainly tastes old but it’s never one-dimensional, providing rich and engaging flavors. That ABV also has a little bite, but it’s nothing noteworthy either. Given the oak and spice, this would be a great addition to spiced apple cider or chocolate cake.
“Chewing” gives me a lot of caramel, clove, roasted oak, and toasted vanilla first, followed by chocolate, dried orange peel, cinnamon, dried grass, and a little licorice and fennel. It’s no surprise, but this is a very oaky and spicy bourbon (especially clove and nutmeg), and “chewing” just unleashes more of it. As a result, it does seem to cover up some of the herbalness I got before. Interesting as well – there isn’t much cinnamon, instead more clove and chocolate. Overall though, Wild Turkey 13 Year has plenty of caramel, vanilla, fruit, and chocolate to balance-out the oak and spice. This is a very dessert-y, delicious, and interesting bourbon that drinks far richer than its 45.5%. I’ve been enjoying the deliciousness quite frequently.
The finish has a balance of caramel, roasted oak, clove, and nutmeg with coffee grounds and licorice coming out more towards the end. There’s a long-lasting roasted oak and clove with a lighter sweetness. “Chewing” leaves a very roasty and spicy finish with a lot of roasted oak, clove, nutmeg, toasted caramel, vanilla, dried orange peel, dried licorice, and less cinnamon. All that oak and spice does bring a little bitterness as well. The finish lasts for ages with a lot of oak, clove, nutmeg, and honey. Bring a cigar.
The combination of Wild Turkey and a 13 year age statement in theory should be a great combination, and turns out it is in reality as well. Even at “just” 45.5% ABV, this bourbon’s doesn’t hold back, bringing so much dark, rich, and luxurious caramel, chocolate, oak, and spices that really outperform the proof and my expectations. The scents and flavors truly behave like a 55% ABV bourbon. For better or worse, the lower ABV makes it incredibly easy to enjoy, savor, and appreciate without so much of the rough and tumble of something cask strength / barrel proof. I’m a bit of a proof whore, so this is weird for me to say, but I like to be proven wrong from time to time.
As for where it sits in the Wild Turkey lineup, I think it’s a hugely upgraded Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon – improving on everything it has. It’s not a intense or spicy as Rare Breed, or as herbal, fruity, and finessed as Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon. Given how great this 13 year is, I can’t even begin to imagine what Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Barrel Proof Bourbon is like (probably unreal). Anyways, for around $55-65, Wild Turkey 13 Year Distiller’s Reserve has earned a well-deserved spot on my shelf in Tokyo. I’ll be buying this again, and I highly recommend that you try it if you ever are in Japan.
I also compared Wild Turkey 13 Year Distiller’s Reserve to Wild Turkey 13 Father and Son, another export-only 13 year old Wild Turkey, to find out how similar / different they are. Check it out!