In an interesting twist, the two different whiskey groups that I’m a part of on the West and East Coasts have a completely opposite opinion of this bottle.
The East Coast group hated this release and couldn’t understand why so many people loved it. The West Coast Group couldn’t get enough of it.
Meanwhile in Indiana, I couldn’t find a single bottle to buy after they were all instantly snatched up. But the one positive thing I gained by waiting a year since then has been that the hype has died down enough to look at it without much of a bias.
For now the focus seems to be on the newly released Russell’s Reserve 13 Year (which contains a healthy portion of 19 year old barrels).
Master’s Keep releases are basically the flagship of the Wild Turkey line. Yes, they’re not as rare as the dated Russell’s Reserve releases (1998, 2002 and 2003) but they’re a constantly evolving series that offers unique looks at what Wild Turkey can do. They give the Russell’s a chance to experiment in ways that they typically can’t with their standard releases.
At 17 Years Old and 100 proof, this was the best age-to-proof ratio of a Wild Turkey release in years. Most people were excited to see if this super-aged bourbon would have throwback notes to the way it used to be made.
17 years in a barrel should have also produced some amazingly complex oak notes too. So it was with great excitement and anticipation when I finally got my first drink. What did I think of this release? Read on!
Nose: Rich candy bar scents like milk chocolate, caramel, nougat and salted nuts. This has a really nice amount of toasted oak that is way more than your typical Wild Turkey release.
Candied citrus peel is paired with a very tiny amount of Brasso metal cleaner (?!). The vanilla is thick and pungent too. What’s odd is that while the nose is great, I am not picking up on a particular furniture polish scent I normally find with ultra aged bourbon. Was it somehow filtered out?
Palate: The oak is dominant but tastes somewhat astringent. Is this why it’s been proofed down rather than kept at barrel proof? To control the astringency?
Tobacco leaf and cinnamon spice add some complexity while baker’s chocolate and burnt sugars provide a little bit of alkalinity and sweetness.
As for the mouthfeel, it starts out oily but becomes thinner as the session goes on. I don’t have an explanation for that. There is lots of vanilla, which I usually see ramp up when whiskey ages for this long.
The fruit seems harder to come by but there is a mix of sour cherries and black cherries. I also am picking up a waxy note like candlewax or maybe a waxy eucalyptus leaf. This is strange and something I haven’t found in any other bourbons.
Finish: Barrel char and old wood notes remain. I finally find a little bit of furniture polish (which denotes age to me). Lingering tastes of caramelized cherries, peppercorns and dry cinnamon. Sweetness comes from scorched toffee but there is still a note of astringency that is floating around in the end.
As I wrote this review, I kept thinking to myself that I should not steer clear of comparing the new Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Bourbon with this Master’s Keep release.
It’s not like enthusiasts had the choice between one or the other a year ago anyway. But the voices in my head grew louder each time I did a revision that this is just not as good of a Wild Turkey product as the Russell’s Reserve 13 Year is.
I’ll go as far as to say that RR13 even tastes older than the MK17BiB does on top of generally being better in every way.
After sorting through a years worth of opinions and reviews on MK17BiB, I narrowed down the reasons that people either liked it or didn’t.
Those that liked it found much more sweetness and fruit within. Words like “bright” were also used (strange for such an old product). Those that disliked it often used the words “astringent,” “over-oaked” and “acetone” to describe it.
Sadly, I found myself in the latter group. For every positive I found, I also found a negative. The score it earned is generous, but feels right.
Had I been given this blind, I would not have guessed it was anywhere near the age on the label and may have assumed it was a barrel that got pulled early because it started to develop off-putting bitterness.
Therefore, the only piece of advice I can give to a person who is still seeking out this bottle is to find it at a bar and buy a glass first.
It would be a shame if you wasted all of that time and money to hunt down this bottle just to be unimpressed when you opened it. Bourbon aged this long was bound to be polarizing to many people anyway.
The notes that come out of the wood over this many years are obviously going to be much different than they are at around 6 to 8 years (which is where a majority of Turkey products are bottled at).
This should also be a good rule of thumb for any hot new release. Sometimes the bourbon inside just can’t live up to the hype.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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