Wild Turkey Generations Bourbon Review
In recent years, Wild Turkey fans have been blessed with an abundance of quality releases, many of which pay homage to the distillery’s legendary Russell family. And when it comes to the Russells, there’s plenty to celebrate, with three generations of the family currently employed by the distillery: Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, Eddie Russell (Jimmy’s son, also Master Distiller), and Bruce Russell (Eddie’s son, recently named Associate Blender).
Wild Turkey’s latest limited release — appropriately titled Generations — is the first-ever collaboration between all three. It’s a blend of four different components, each selected by one of the Russells:
- 9 year bourbon (Jimmy’s long time preference and his claimed sweet spot for Turkey products)
- 12 year bourbon (selected by Bruce)
- 14 and 15 year bourbon (picked by Eddie)
The release is Bruce’s first as Associate Blender.
Generations is bottled at a cask strength 120.8 proof, making it among the highest-proof offerings to ever be released under the distillery’s own label. It’s also the most expensive Wild Turkey offering to date, with a suggested retail price of $450.
Let’s see if Wild Turkey Generations — historic in more ways than one — stands up to its ultra-premium price tag.
Wild Turkey Generations Bourbon: Stats and Availability
According to Wild Turkey, around 5,000 bottles of Generations will be sold at retailers across the United States. The suggested retail price is $450. Generations is (thus far, at MSRP) the most expensive release in the Wild Turkey portfolio, and one of the most expensive bourbons on the market based solely on MSRP. With such a high starting price, it’s difficult to say what if any premium this might command in certain shops or on the secondary/auction market. The highly limited bottle count, though, will almost certainly increase collectibility and demand among die hard Turkey fans.
Wild Turkey Generations Bourbon Review
As with all of VinePair’s whiskey reviews, this was tasted in a Glencairn glass and rested for at least five minutes.
Things kick off with bold, dark cherry on the nose — this is much more cherry forward than other high-end Wild Turkey expressions these days, with a bit less citrus on the initial aromas (especially compared to recent batches of Russell’s 13.) There’s some dark toffee and a kiss of sweet, barbecue smoking wood: mesquite and applewood.
Deep, rich oak fills the glass and builds over time, influence one assumes comes from the 12, 14, and 15 year bourbons. Frankly, this is nosing even older, reminiscent of some cask-strength bourbons I’ve sampled in the 18+ year range.
Right under the oak is a layer of sweet barbecue sauce, which accents those wood notes mentioned earlier. That comes with a healthy portion of black pepper, tomato paste, and cinnamon.
Sweetness starts on the very tip of the tongue and spreads quickly toward the back of the palate. The sides of the tongue play catch up, and a mouthwatering sweetness slowly envelops those quadrants; two sips in, and I’m salivating more than normal, even with great bourbon in a glass.
The proof is fully accounted for in the flavors the whiskey carries — more on those in a second — but there isn’t a lot of ethanol heat in the classic sense, even for a bourbon at the high end of the cask strength spectrum for Wild Turkey. That allows flavors to linger for a bit longer in the mouth, and the mid- and back-palates here last impressively long.
But let’s pick out some more specific tasting notes: Honey candy, ripe cherry, and apple pie (which, in my childhood home, often had caramel chunks melted over the top). Cloves and cardamom lead the spice elements away from that black pepper on the nose.
The whiskey tastes a little younger than it noses, and overall there’s a freshness here I worried (for just a second) might be missing. The apple pie note, for instance, is decadently sweet and spiced, but also a little tart. It’s those little undercurrents of additional flavor that help elevate the experience here from very good to truly memorable.
Heat builds, and the finish comes with a strong Kentucky hug that fills the chest on the way down; the relative lack of ethanol heat on the nose and palate gives way to something very warm indeed. It’s heavily oaky, the freshness of the younger bourbon quickly dissipating as those years in the barrel show their true colors.
There’s also dark, borderline bitter chocolate, which is mildly overpowering compared to other aspects of this finish. It’s increasingly savory and meaty the more time goes on, oak pairing with umami as if from beef stock, along with a sensation of cooling mint and menthol. As those components build on the finish, I found myself hoping for a touch of sweetness to bring some final balance, but in this regard the liquid comes up just short.
While I didn’t find a pressing need for any additional water here, a few drops help tamper down that lingering alcohol so that the flavorful elements have more time to shine at the end.
Wild Turkey Generations Bourbon Rating
Wild Turkey Generations is captivating on the nose and delicious on the tongue, and based on a first sip, it’s close to being one of the distillery’s best releases in several decades. The overall flavor profile is unique among Wild Turkey’s current lineup, and I applaud the Russell’s for blending something different; Generations is going to be a memorable experience for almost anyone who tastes it.
While Generations excelled early in the nosing and sipping experience, it didn’t quite stick the landing, especially compared to the brand’s other high-end offerings. It’s still a tasty bourbon, and I hope the limited allocation doesn’t dissuade drinkers from opening their bottles and sharing with friends. It’s almost certainly what the Russells themselves would want.