A while back, I picked up a couple of full, never-opened decanters of whiskey at the flea market. They date to the 1970’s. IF a bottle is still sealed (tax stamp across the top) and has never been opened AND the whiskey does not appear cloudy when you open it, it is apparently perfectly fine to drink. I would add that you should be aware of the seller….that is, if the person seems sketchy, you may want to pass, but if it is a person who is getting rid of bottles their dad or grandpappy collected, you’re probably OK. So, I opened one of the decanters of Wild Turkey 100 proof. As is often the case with a bottle of that age, the cork disintegrated, despite my best efforts. SO….I strained the bourbon through some cheese cloth and poured it into a new (old) decanter (Shout out to my buddy, Doc, for donating this beautiful glass decanter to the Flying Aces!). I’ve done this once before, but I decided today might be a good day to do a head-to-head comparison between 1970’s Wild Turkey (at 100 proof) and present day Wild Turkey 101.
1970’s Wild Turkey: Nose: Before I get to the nose, I have to point out that this version is quite a bit darker in color than the “new” version. Since it was originally in a ceramic decanter, that color had to have come from the barrel and not the subsequent time it spent before being opened. Anyway…. this has a strong alcohol and antiseptic smell to it. It also smells toasty, a little bit malty and there were whiffs of corn. Palate: It started out pretty gently and then it built up steam. It wasn’t harsh at first, but it picked up heat through the mid-palate into the finish. It is spicy and peppery with some wood notes thrown in. It has hints of caramel and vanilla, but they are overpowered by the pepper. The mouthfeel is pretty light….not quite “watery” but there isn’t much there. The finish is about medium, with lingering heat. You continue to “taste” it at the back of your throat for a while. Comments: Since I didn’t drink this back when it came out (yeah, I wasn’t 21 yet), I can’t say I “remember” it. It does, however, give the impression of being what you would expect a large volume distillery would be putting out back then, back before the current rage for “premium” bottles and odd finishing. I think is was probably a very typical example of what your average bourbon drinker would have liked. Although higher proof, and it does let you know that, it really wasn’t as harsh and burning as I expected. Perfectly acceptable and fine for under the $10 flea market purchase!
Current Day Wild Turkey 101: Nose: The nose on this seemed sweeter to me and a bit lighter. There wasn’t any of the medicinal scents I got from the 1970’s. There was more fruity smells and even some floral scents. It is hard to describe, the scent on this was “crisper” than the 1970’s, which smelled more “robust”. Palate: It has a thicker mouthfeel and lots of spiciness. It has far less pepper, to the point where I may not have noticed it if the 1970’s didn’t have it and I had not had that one first. There’s a hint of dark chocolate and maybe some cherries, but the rye spice dominates. The finish on this is rather short. I found the rye flavors to be so dominant in this that if I had had it in a blind taste test, I might have mistaken it for a straight rye, not a bourbon. Comments: Wild Turkey 101 only comes out of the barrel at 109 proof, so it isn’t cut very much. If you like rye or high rye bourbon, I think this is an easy choice, especially given the price. Surprisingly, however, there is only 13% rye in the mash bill (w/ 75% corn, 12% barley). I was very surprised by that, because I got a lot of rye when I tasted it. [NOTE: At first it seemed that others did not get this at all, but I finally found one review that agreed.] The 101 is reportedly a blend of 6, 7 & 8 year old bourbons. Which did I like better?” I think the 1970’s beat the new by a small margin, mainly because, even though a bit harsher, it was more complex flavor-wise.