We’re taking a break from making bourbon to answer some questions about it. Excuse any typos. We do still taste every barrel, after all.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/c15k8z50d0oy.jpg


EDIT: Jimmy's not used to sitting at a desk for this long, so we’ve got to get back to it. Leave any questions we didn’t get to and we’ll try to answer later this week.

Comments: 1980 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

tvraisedme1285 karma

Which young distillers/brands do you see as putting out quality product or "doing it right" and not just making a cash grab or putting out junk under the "craft" moniker?

WildTurkeyBourbon1802 karma

Westland is doing in Seattle - they're not in Kentucky and they can make things other than bourbon. They're making their own single malt. We like that they make their own juice.

Here in Kentucky we like what Drew Kulsveen at Willett is doing. They make their own bourbon now. New York Distilling Company is making their own stuff now too after starting out with vodkas and gins.

2CousinsDrinking712 karma

How long would it take, from first idea to finally releasing a bottle, to put out a new bourbon?

WildTurkeyBourbon831 karma

For us at Wild Turkey it'd be about an 18 month deal. Depends on looking at a new concept or if you found some whiskey that you really liked. It depends. But probably about 18 months.

If you're tasting along and you find something extra special, and you know it can be an innovation or will age well, you can put it aside. Sometimes you just find barrels that you taste and think are exceptional. It takes a while to get all the buy in.

ricecracker420241 karma

is that not including the time to age the whiskey? I thought bourbon had to be aged a minimum of 3 years?

WildTurkeyBourbon608 karma

Right, this is for bourbon that has reached age that we find and taste and identify as exceptional. When we come up with new stuff it's with whiskey that has reached age. Whiskey is always going to come before the labels, which take some time to get approved, so that's why it takes longer. Bourbon is typically aged 4 years. Here at Wild Turkey we age at least five and up to eight years.

rockrev676 karma

Have you seen (felt) the LOVE for Wild Turkey on the Reddit sub forum r/bourbon?

WildTurkeyBourbon704 karma

Yep, we do see it and always appreciate it. Thanks for your support.


What's the best glass of bourbon you've ever had?

WildTurkeyBourbon1259 karma

Jimmy: Wild Turkey 101 on the rocks

Eddie: Taste of bourbon right outta the barrel when I first started in 1981, still the best I've ever had. Put it in a plastic cup.

Bruce: Dad gave me and my brother a sip right out of the barrel (after I was 21 of course), and seeing how passionate he was about it, that's the best I've ever had.

macfoshizzle518 karma

who is the nickleback of bourbons?

WildTurkeyBourbon738 karma

No comment :)

codesForLiving373 karma

Hey all,

What is the story behind the name "Wild Turkey"?

WildTurkeyBourbon814 karma

So the Wild Turkey name came through the Austin Nichols company, they had a wild turkey hunt in North Carolina. A bunch of their friends went on a wild turkey hunt together. Someone brought along a bourbon that had a bigger bolder taste, and everyone liked it. Everyone kept asking for it, so they eventually put it on the market about 1940. When they went back and checked the samples they'd taken to the wild turkey hunt it was 8 yrs old and 101 right out of the barrel, and they decided to make it like that, the Wild Turkey 101 we know today.

crazedhatter337 karma

I'm somewhat curious what you guys are doing to prep the next generation of distillers - with all of that experience you must have some great opportunities to shape what is coming next. I would think that becoming a Master Distiller is more than simply a job with promotions... do you guys have apprentices or anything like that?

WildTurkeyBourbon436 karma

Well I think for us with Bruce coming along, hopefully he'll be our next master Distiller. Him and Jimmy, they'll be taking over soon :) . Any time we have younger distillers, they come up to Jimmy and I and ask for two pieces of advice. We tell them to do it their way, don't just change for no reason. Do it right. We're focused on training our employees and hopefully there will be even more Russells down the road.

Bruce: What's been passed down is basically what Jimmy learned. That old school style, that pre-prohibition style. He teaches me to never change.

colinsthename296 karma

What do you think is the biggest contributing factor to the difference in taste of old Wild Turkey vs current Wild Turkey? Aging, cypress vs stainless fermentation tanks, taller still, barrel entry proof, etc.? Not getting into which is better, but there's a clear profile difference between an '80s bottle of 8 year 101 compared to today's 101.

WildTurkeyBourbon531 karma

Difference between old and current turkey: Biggest difference is that back in the 70's and 80's everyone had excess whiskey because it wasn't too popular, so there was older whiskey in the blends from excess stocks.

But now that bourbon is popular you're getting more accurately aged whiskey in your blends. Our recipe and yeast and process hasn't changed.

Back when I started in 1981 we still had those Cypress tanks. It took Jimmy 8 years of testing the stainless tanks to feel comfortable switching, to make sure it didn’t change the taste

WildTurkeyBourbon334 karma

The reason the entry proof went up, we used to barrel at such a low proof that our lower floor whiskey was below coming out below 100 proof. So that’s why we raised the barrel entry proof, to make sure our lower floor whiskey was coming 101 or higher. We’ve tested and don’t think it makes a difference in the taste. Our barrel entry proof is still lower than most other distilleries

rockrev253 karma

Ok, I'll be the one to ask. Bottled by vs. distilled by. What's with the different wordings on the labels? I've heard it's proprietary, but I promise not to tell. ;-)

WildTurkeyBourbon510 karma

Bottled By - usually means the people didn't make it.

Distilled By - they actually made the liquid inside the bottle.

We distill and bottle all our whiskies

CountChoculahh240 karma

Can I call Wild Turkey "The Pleasant Pheasant?"

WildTurkeyBourbon422 karma

Like Bruce says, we like that better than 'kickin chicken'. You can call what you want as long as you're drinkin it

dustlesswalnut213 karma

Can you name a couple whiskies you like that you don't distill? Do you feel like you're in a competitive industry?

WildTurkeyBourbon372 karma

Jimmy: In Kentucky we're all old friends in the bourbon industry. Everyone is there to help each other out if they have problems or need something. Everyone lives within an hour or so, it's a small community. I like Booker's, Knob Creek, Elmer T. Lee. Everyone makes good bourbon, some is just better than others

Eddie: Knob Creek is one. For me it's the people that are making their own juice and keeping it close to 100 proof.

ziptnf169 karma

Bourbon has gone through a massive culture shift in the last decade. The sometimes cheap, once-forgotten whiskey has now pushed itself to the forefront of the spirit world with a variety of different brands, flavors, and styles. What brought on these changes? How has the bourbon industry adapted to the boom? Where do you see the Wild Turkey brand going from here to ensure that the consumer base stays excited about not just bourbon, but your bourbon?

WildTurkeyBourbon222 karma

So at my age, been around a long time, whiskey has been a southern gentleman's drink. It has now become a world-wide drink. Including with ladies. One big reason that bourbon has become big in the culture these days is because of the bartenders and mixologists - making Manhattans and Boulevardiers. That got a lot of younger people into the business. The bartenders were able to get interest from young people here in the states and abroad.

We have a long heritage here are Wild Turkey but also release some of the limited, small batch editions. Things like that keep people interested in the art behind making bourbon. Giving people a chance to taste some of our more rare editions is fun for both us and them. We will also continue to produce our rye whiskies because we know consumers are loving it

tvraisedme160 karma

When can we expect to see barrel proof single barrel wild turkey (bourbon and/or rye) on the market?

WildTurkeyBourbon215 karma

So that's one that we'd love to see happen. We're always looking at the options and possibilities. We wouldn't be surprised if this happened down the road.

If you're looking for something that's close to barrel proof right now, give Russell's Reserve single barrel a try. It's 110 proof

helodriver8796 karma

Russel's Reserve Single Barrel (particularly private selections) are the absolute best value in bourbon today. The price to quality ratio is perfect and it's the first thing I recommend when people are looking to buy a nicer bottle. What's the easiest way to go about doing a private barrel pick for an enthusiast group?

WildTurkeyBourbon140 karma

So we do have some bourbon groups and collectors who come out and do barrel picks, but you do need to go through a licensed retailer, we can't sell direct to consumers. So you need to get in touch with your local liquor store and they will help facilitate it with the distributor who carries Wild Turkey in your state. We look forward to seeing you in Lawrenceburg.


I'm no bourbon connosseiour, but isn't this what Rare Breed is? If not, please educate me!

tvraisedme12 karma

i meant single barrel - barrel proof.


So the difference would be that Rare Breed isn't single barrel, only barrel proof?

tvraisedme19 karma

correct. its batched and not proofed down, so its technically at barrel proof. At least that's my understanding of it.

WildTurkeyBourbon74 karma

Rare Breed is a small batch blend of 6, 8 and 12 year old stocks. It is barrel proof, meaning no water is added. But it is not single barrel since it's a blend of different ages.

PhillyArsenal131 karma

What are your favorite stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail?

WildTurkeyBourbon257 karma

We've got the best view in the business and one of the best tours. Maker's Mark is a neat one, it shows the old way. If you want to see a giant, go see Jim Beam. If you want to see a small craft distillery, see Willett.

Halgy120 karma

What is the best way to introduce someone to drinking bourbon? I want to share my favorite liquor with my friends, but they're a bit intimidated.

WildTurkeyBourbon222 karma

Trying it in a mixed drink, or maybe even on the rocks, at a bar. That's easier than buying a whole bottle at the liquor store. Try an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, and these are the drinks that have led to the growth of our entire industry.

Asto_Vidatu84 karma

Hopefully this wasn't asked and answered yet, but with the current trend of Age statements disappearing, does Wild Turkey have any plans to buck the trend and release the 8 or 12 year export labels in the US, even in a limited state?

IMO It's very much a shame that the best releases of your product are delegated only overseas. We want 12 year Turkey here, please take our money!

WildTurkeyBourbon98 karma

Once we decided to do the 10yr old Russell's we couldn't do both, we didn't have the stocks. So for now the ones you mentioned will just be export but we will keep it in mind down the road.

The Rare Breed has 12yr old in it.

Deeg6775 karma

Jimmy, did you ever imagine thirty years ago that bottles of your whiskey would be selling for hundreds and hundreds of dollars (sometimes even thousands) to collectors?

WildTurkeyBourbon82 karma

The industry has grown so big, and the connoisseurs have wanted more and more rare stuff. We never thought our bourbons would be selling for that much, no.

dumandizzy74 karma

Can we do this again next year when you reach an even 100 combined years?

WildTurkeyBourbon182 karma

The best thing for us is that we won't reach 100, we'll reach 101! This year it's 99 and with two of us, we'll skip 100.

rockrev74 karma

Any chance you'll bring back the classic label (pre-1999) for a future special release?

WildTurkeyBourbon136 karma

Yep we feel the love and appreciate your support. We're always lookin for some special releases that can happen down the road. Maybe we'll throw something in there. Any time we change the label Jimmy wants to go back to the original from the '50's, but we will probably have to leave it up to the marketing folks. We're concentrating on the juice for now.

sinkingcloud61 karma

What's the best way to drink Wild Turkey?

WildTurkeyBourbon181 karma

Jimmy: I like it on the rocks or neat. Eddie: After a hard day of distilling, I love our small batches, and usually neat or with a couple ice cubes. If I'm going to have a mixed drink it's gonna be a Boulevardier. Bruce: Rye whiskey right outta the barrel

But we don't care how you drink it as long as you drink it!

alynntx60 karma

What about American Honey? How did this come about and when?

WildTurkeyBourbon102 karma

Actually it was called Wild Turkey Honey Liqueur. We came out with it in 1976 - the first honey-flavored bourbon. They asked me to come up with something that was a little less strong and something more sweet. It started out small but has become a big seller for us with both men and women. You can mix it with just about anything, people like that.

aheraldr51 karma

Had a great tour of the distillery about a year ago and got the chance to personally meet Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller. Awesome guy who is very passionate about what he does! Even got the chance for him to sign a coaster I had just purchased there in the gift shop! My question, are there any more new flavors/variations coming out soon?


WildTurkeyBourbon43 karma

There are always going to be variations with our limited time offerings. Thanks for coming by the distillery.

irishmac338 karma

What is a secret about the industry that most people would not know?

WildTurkeyBourbon113 karma

So many different bourbon labels come from the same distillery. Some distillers have so many different labels but all the juice comes from the same place.

With all the brands out there people don't realize how few distilleries are making the bourbon that's on the market.

jacxy35 karma

Other than your bourbon, what other bourbon do you drink?

What other spirits do you drink?

Favorite beer?

WildTurkeyBourbon82 karma

The team at Anderson Valley Brewing makes some good ones. They use our barrels to age some of their beers and what comes out is pretty interesting.

GunnyBurton34 karma

Can you give a little insight to Wild Turkeys Forgiven? It's my favorite. I've read the story on the bottle and thought it fascinating! But I've wondered about the truth behind it and more about the story in general. Thanks for your time!

WildTurkeyBourbon66 karma

It is a true story. We accidentally dumped rye on top of a bourbon, so decided to put it out and will say that Jimmy hasn't forgiven us because it was 6 months worth of rye, but it turned out to be a great taste. Then the later bottling we did was intentional. The 2nd batch was same age and percentages of bourbon. Right now we're not doing it because straight rye is so popular, so we're using all our rye stocks for that.

watson_85328 karma

With 98 years of experience between you, you must have had fascinating careers. What was the career path that led you both to be Master Distillers? Could you share an amusing anecdote about the whiskey industry from decades ago?

WildTurkeyBourbon31 karma

Jimmy: I started out in the distilling business doing a little bit of everything. It was on the job training. You learn about how to make, how to age, and all that from being on the job.

Eddie: Here in Kentucky the bourbon industry had and has some of the best jobs in terms of work. Once you get in you have to learn it from the ground up. That's the way most Master Distillers do it.

There were only a few people making bourbon, and we would listen to their stories and feel the passion, and makes you want to follow in their footsteps.

davedavedaveck25 karma

Hey Guys! I just wanna say I had the chance to meet both of you and hangout during Runamok. You guys made a serious impression on me, I always tell people about Wild Turkey and the special place it has in my heart. I'll be taking my bar team down to see you guys in the next few weeks and I can't wait for them to meet you.

P.S. If you guys were planning on doing a Bonded release, would it be a 4 year?

WildTurkeyBourbon23 karma

Thanks for coming down, we always love when people come to the distillery. The bartender community has really changed our industry so love keepin in touch with you and you're always welcome to visit.

Wild Turkey was always a little different, being 101. Jimmy doesn't like 4 year old, we like our bourbon older.

2CousinsDrinking23 karma

After a long hard day of distilling bourbon what do you drink to unwind at the end of the day? Be honest!

WildTurkeyBourbon43 karma

Mostly neat or on the rocks. Smaller batch versions especially.

tortsy119 karma

Has your passion been affected over the years?

WildTurkeyBourbon71 karma

That's an easy answer. Jimmy's 63 years in and coming to work every day so he still has the same passion as he did when he started.

Jimmy: The first day it's work, I'm retiring. I love my job, I come in and taste bourbon all day long. I haven't worked a day in my life.

Ima_Grab_Yo_Snatch19 karma

In your opinion what's the best cocktail to make with Wild Turkey?

WildTurkeyBourbon71 karma

Jimmy: I like to flavor my ice with a little bit of Russells Reserve or Rare Breed

Eddie: My favorite cocktail is Boulevardier, for sure.

Bruce: Mine is Sazerac with 101 Rye

PMRwhitecoat15 karma

First off thanks for the AMA! I'll be hitting the Bourbon Trail in a couple weeks and can't wait to visit. Out of the limited releases, such as Decades, Master's Keep 17, and Diamond, which has been your favorite?

WildTurkeyBourbon24 karma

You're welcome and come on by the distillery, looking forward to havin ya.

Jimmy: I thought the American Spirit we put out was the best Eddie: I love the Decades. It has everything I like, plus the traditional Wild Turkey finish. Bruce: Mine is the original Master's Keep. 17yrs old is so unusual and different from what we've made in the past.

The reason they're limited time offerings is because we think they're unique and special. There's no bad one in the bunch.

Thecrazytechie7 karma

Hello to you both!

What's your favorite spot at your distillery?

WildTurkeyBourbon7 karma

Jimmy: Fermentation and distillation rooms, and the warehouse.

Eddie: Tasting whiskey right out of the barrel in the warehouse, not telling which one is my favorite.

DoctorDetroit87 karma

What was the decision-making process behind discontinuing the Wild Turkey 80? Bartender feedback? Executive decision? Change in thought/taste by the master distiller, etc?

The 80 was my favorite, though I like the 81 as well.. Thanks guys!

WildTurkeyBourbon11 karma

Eddie: That was one of the first products I took on myself to change. I wanted to bring the 80 closer to what we like in Wild Turkey, which is an older whiskey. The old 80 proof was 4 years old, the 81 is made from only 5-8 year old stocks.

DoctorDetroit82 karma

Is there an official web-store in the works for the Wild Turkey.com website, or will people just have to visit the Kentucky distillery to buy branded WT merchandise? Thanks,

WildTurkeyBourbon7 karma

Yep the marketing people are working on it but we're not sure when it'll be finished. They're saying this year.