Wild Turkey Rye 101 proof

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Turkey on Rye: Great together

May 11, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Classic American spirit, right out of a Bogart movie

Cons:Ummm... Disturbingly underappreciated?

I have lived a redneck's dream. Two years ago I rode in Jimmy Russell's pickup truck.

Jimmy is the highly respected, not to say legendary, master distiller at Wild Turkey; he is the man who makes this indomitable spirit what it is. He has been working at Wild Turkey since 1954, and learned distilling from one of the Ripys, the original owners of the distillery. Jimmy makes his whiskey the old way, and has successfully stood off accountant-inspired changes.

And there I was, riding in Jimmy's Ford Ranger, on our way back to the distillery from lunch. It's one of those times where you're torn between shutting up and basking in the moment (I mean, how many times can you say "Oh my Gawd your whiskey is amazing can I rename my child for you?"), and pumping the man for everything you can get out of him. Being a writer, well, I pumped.

Which is how we came to talk about Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey. Why do you make a rye, I asked. The answer was pure Jimmy Russell: "Well, I guess because we always have. People like it." The Rye is made pretty much like the bourbon, except there is about 65% rye in it (along with about 23% corn and 12% barley malt). I say "about" because Jimmy doesn't hold with giving out exact figures, or too much information in general. The rye's not a big seller -- no rye is, these days -- and they make pretty much all they need in one day a year of distilling.

Wild Turkey's Rye comes at the familiar 101 proof/50.5% alcohol by volume. The gorgeous hunter green label really sticks out on a shelf, and if you see this in a bar, take my advice: get it. Someone at the bar loves you, and has left this gift for you.

Open it up, and let's have a look. You can see that this is six year old whiskey; it's much darker than the 4 YO Jim Beam Rye, a dark amber. The nose is sweet, yet spicy and restrained. You can get some light leather notes, sour cherry or maybe blackberry, and a good dose of the mother grain itself, like a slice of rye bread. It's an earthy, solid aroma, makes you think of the steppes and broad fields of eastern Europe, where this spirit has its roots.

Taste the soothing fire. Rye is never subtle and will never be lovingly called "smoooooooooth." This is a drink for people who want something more than smooth. Yet while the explosion of zesty rye is detonated on your tongue, there is a big pillow of hot, 101 proof honey slapping down all around it, the hallmark of Wild Turkey whiskeys. This stuff goes absolutely vaporous in the mouth, fuming whiskey body and flavor like a cognac. It is rich, it is snappy, it is crisp and expansive. The rye comes on big in the aftertaste, along with a surprising thrill of peppermint. You know you've been drinking whiskey.

Try rye. I urge you. This was America's spirit, even before bourbon was, and it has been left behind, almost wiped out by Prohibition. Experience its fiery power and sweet soul. Try the classic Rye Presbyterian -- rye, ginger ale, and lots of ice in a tall glass -- or the Horse's Neck -- a spiral-peeled lemon zest trailed down the side of a tumbler, filled with ice, a double shot of rye, and topped off with ginger ale. Great hot weather drinks, and rye and ginger ale have a tremendous synergy.

I have a lot to say about rye whiskey in general, and I will probably say it in an upcoming review of Jim Beam Rye. For now, focus is the key: Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey is an incredibly good whiskey at any price, full of flavor, a boldly sophisticated drink that gives any single malt a good run for its money. At the price you are asked to pay, it is a laughingly great bargain. If you don't know rye, here's a graduate level education in a glass.


Recommend this product? Yes

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