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"BOLD!" This was the most oft-repeated word shouted out by Bubba, our colourful tour guide at Wild Turkey Distillery. This was an elderly Kentucky good ol' boy straight out of Central Casting (think a warm, friendlier version of Strother Martin from Cool Hand Luke..."What we got here is.....a BOLD bourbon!") The tour was tons of fun, Jimmy Russell sat in the lobby holding court (Pam and I got a picture with him) and I picked up this bottle (on sale!) in the gift shop.
Master's Keep is a occasional Wild Turkey release of a bourbon at a higher-end price point - the first release was a 17 year old, and I believe this is the second release, called "Decades", to celebrate Eddie Russell's 35 years as Master Distiller (the current release is the third, called "Revival") It is non-chill filtered and bottled at 52% ABV. This bottle has been open for about two weeks.
The colour is a deep, dark caramel. On the nose we get soft, nutty aromas with cinnamon, nutmeg, dark chocolate and bread pudding. Creminis. Walnut skins. Real vanilla pods. Herbal (Italian parsley and thyme). Earthy, like damp forest floor. A drop of water brings out cherry compote and more of those herbal notes. Not overpowering, which might be what you would expect, but instead quite elegant.
Sharp on the palate with apple cider, 70% dark chocolate, cloves and peppery oak. Mouth-drying. Rum-raisin. Bovril. Leathery. Wood smoke (but not from a campfire, if that makes any sense? Maybe more like if you branded the wood.) Hint of Angostura. Water thickens the mouthfeel and adds more umami, smoke and freshly ground black pepper. As Bubba would say, it's bold but we are still sipping a very classy, elegant bourbon.
The endless finish is surprisingly gentle with charred oak, dark caramel, cinnamon and toasted walnuts. This is a stunning bourbon, I believe the best Wild Turkey I've ever had. I love that it tries not to overpower you (like some BTACs can, for example), and yet is bold enough for Bubba to approve. Whisky Advocate scored this a 94 and ranked it their #3 whisky of 2017. An appropriate Happy Thanksgiving to our wonderful neighbours to the south!