Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit BourbonReview [In Depth]

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel Bourbon

Alex author
Founder, writer
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit header

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Details

Distillery: Wild Turkey

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 50.5%

Composition: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley

Aged: ~8 years in virgin white oak barrels

Color: 1.3/2.0 on the color scale (russet, muscat)

Price: $60-65

From the company website:

One of the first single-barrel bourbons to hit the market, each barrel is selected and bottled at our signature 101 proof at the peak of its maturity for the greatest depth of flavor and character. The barrel number, date, and warehouse number are handwritten on each neck label, telling the story of the single barrel from which the bottle was created.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Bourbon overview

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is a weirdly positioned bourbon for Wild Turkey. There’s this other bourbon called Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, with 4.5% greater ABV and also single barrel. The barrel selection may even be similar. Wild Turkey only has one bourbon mashbill, so that’s the same too. So even I’m thinking, what gives…why are there 2 of nearly the same bourbon? I’m getting ahead of myself, but that always comes to mind when I think of this bourbon.
Wild Turkey has had various single barrel releases over the years (in fact, Kentucky Spirit came at least 10 years before Russell’s Reserve). I’m not going to rattle off names of the single barrels, but I will mention that the design of this Kentucky Spirit bottle started around 2017-2018, changing from a flashy and unique fanned-out turkey tail to the more generic bottle shape shared by Wild Turkey Rare Breed. It’s not so clear if Wild Turkey made any changes to what goes into the bottle.
The point of this review is to find out if Kentucky Spirit stands out on its own, and in another post I’ll compare Kentucky Spirit to Russell’s Reserve. Comparing a single barrel to another single barrel can only take me so far because each barrel is inherently different, but I’ll do it anyway. This bottle comes from a barrel that was bottled 7/10/2023 from barrel no. 2832, stored in warehouse CN-F (Camp Nelson F) on rick no. 36. Unfortunately there’s no barreled date so I can’t say exactly how old it is.
But wait…Alex…isn’t Wild Turkey 101 is also a 101 proof Wild Turkey bourbon; why is Wild Turkey charging…2-3x more for Kentucky Spirit? You are absolutely right and that is a fair question. You’re paying extra for 2 things.
The first is a specially selected single barrel (assuming it’s a well-matured one) instead of a blend of who knows what. Wild Turkey tells you the warehouse and the dump date, which really gets whiskey nerds hot and heavy. With base Wild Turkey 101, Wild Turkey is blending huge batches of barrels, most likely their not as good barrels. They charge more for the good stuff.
The other thing is older bourbon. The Wild Turkey website states that Kentucky Spirit is at least 8 years old. I’ve seen some Kentucky Spirit barrel picks as old as 10 years old, so every barrel of Kentucky Spirit is probably in the 8-10 year range. Wild Turkey 101 is supposedly a blend of 6-8 year old barrels, and likely not choice barrels. I just wish that Wild Turkey would provide barrelled dates like they do with their Private Select versions, but I guess it’s still better than Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel non-picks where they don’t provide any information at all.
Here’s another interesting fact, when you’re picking a single barrel of Wild Turkey, you apparently have the choice to turn it into Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit or Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. At that point, you’re picking the final proof, 101 or 110 proof. I personally would always pick 110 proof for this, but not everyone agrees. It’s all good. That said, all of this is changing as Kentucky Spirit barrel picks are being changed to Wild Turkey 101 picks, and the barreled and dump date will be on the label.
Anyways, find out what this barrel has to offer in this Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit review.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit front
q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B003VAWA68&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thewhiskeyshe 20

As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Bourbon smell

I initially smell dark honey, very fragrant oak that’s moderately toasted, red apple peel coated in cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla, pear, fennel, orange peel, mint, roasted coffee, and a little dry grassiness and earthiness. This barrel of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is surprisingly oaky, but not in a heavy and overly roasty way. It has an expressive toastiness that leaps out of the glass just like it did in Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2023.
On top of that, the scents are apple, herbal, and oak-forward like oaky apple cider. It smells mature and great, but doesn’t have much heft or low-end depth as I’d like, even for 101 proof. This is a tangent, but this reminds me of a better version of Blanton’s
After swirling and rest, there’s dark honey, fragrant toasted oak, red apple, vanilla, licorice, clove, cinnamon, apricot, orange peel, mint, and hints of dried grassy nuttiness. Again, this barrel of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit’s apple, oak, and spice-forward scents make it smell like toasted spiced apple cider. The effervescent and vibrant oak stands out though, making it smell very mature in at least that way. I just wish there was more richness, heft, and substance to seal the deal for me.
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit body

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Bourbon taste and aftertaste

At first I taste caramel, roasted oak, red apple, cinnamon, vanilla, licorice, pear, clove, coffee, and mint. I get some layers of sweetness, oak, herbalness, and fruit, and it’s all really nice and interesting. This particular barrel of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit has a lot of apple mixed-in with expressive toasted oak and spices. This really is like spiced apple cider.
For now at least before “chewing”, I wish it had a little more richness and body. Maybe that’s what Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is here to do. On my first impression, it offers the quintessential bourbon experience that also happens to be more apple and toasty oak forward. It’s not thin, but it’s not viscous enough.
With vigorous “chewing”, I taste caramel, vibrant toasted oak, vanilla, red apple, orange peel, cinnamon, clove, licorice, pineapple, apricot, cocoa powder, and mint. It still tastes like spiced apple cider, and that’s delicious. Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is a great bourbon for autumn, or mixing with apple cider. Whatever works for you.
The finish starts with honey, apple, licorice, toasted oak, clove, and cinnamon with long-lasting toasted oak, clove, honey and licorice. It’s a sweet, oaky, and lightly spicy finish. After “chewing”, I get more of the same: a long finish that’s toasty, sweet, and a little spicy.
That expressive oakiness gives me Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2023 / Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged vibes, but not nearly as rich and expressive.
“Chewing” evens out the balance by bringing forth more fruitiness and sweetness. It still tastes very good and I enjoy it, but it lacks the body and substance to get it over the top: very good but not amazing.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B016YPDI3A&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=thewhiskeyshe 20&language=en USir?t=thewhiskeyshe 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B016YPDI3A

I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too.

Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Bourbon Rating

Mid shelf+
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is a delicious bourbon, but it feels lacking in just enough ways that I can’t shake my desire for Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon. I word it in that strange way because Kentucky Spirit is tasty, but I’ve had Russell’s Reserve enough times that I can generally say that I prefer Russell’s. The worst Russell’s I’ve ever had (still great) is still better than this bottle of Kentucky Spirit.
That said, both are single barrels so it’s entirely possible that other barrels of Kentucky Spirit are different: richer, dense, and more complex. I truly can’t state that one is better than the other, I can only state my opinion based on my experiences.
Russell’s Reserve aside, this barrel of Kentucky Spirit has a really interesting fragrant and expressive toasted oak that caught me by surprise. It’s an uncommon trait in bourbon that for me signals a lot of oak aging and maturity, so that’s a plus for this bourbon. That specific note is in the realm of 2023 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon and Maker’s Mark Cellar aged, although Kentucky Spirits is not close in any other way.
Apart from that unique oakiness plus the great apple notes, I wasn’t that impressed with Kentucky Spirit. Nothing else popped or grabbed my attention in a meaningful way, so it’s not memorable enough. It’s still high quality and delicious, but this isn’t quite “Top Shelf” for me. In terms of quality and enjoyability though, this is a lot better than the modern Blanton’s I’ve had as of late.
At least from this one bottle of non-pick Kentucky Spirit, I’m more or less going to pick non-pick Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon every time. I get that everyone has different preferences, but I personally lean towards denser and richer bourbon, and that’s what I think Russell’s Reserve offers more consistently.
I guess my point is that if you’re choosing between Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, I would personally pick Russell’s, but you are free to pick the other if you so desire.
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.

There are no sponsors, no media companies, and no nonsense. Support The Whiskey Shelf by Buying Me A Shot.
q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B07GL6Z1X3&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thewhiskeyshe 20

Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)