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Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival Review

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival Review

I was thinking that I would begin this review of Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival by commenting that this was the first time Wild Turkey introduced a barrel-finished bourbon onto the market.  But after a little bit of research, I found out that wasn’t true. 

Wild Turkey did, in fact, have a barrel finished bourbon that was launched around 2004.  It was even Sherry-Cask finished just like Master’s Keep Revival was.  But one of the main differences (aside from proof and age) was that the “Sherry Signature” (as it was called) also had some Sherry added into the batch.  The addition of that Sherry into the batch effectively meant it could not be called a bourbon anymore.

Revival would forgo blending Sherry in with the bourbon for the 2018 release.  Instead, the makeup was a blend of 12- to 15-year-old Wild Turkey bourbon that was only finished in Sherry casks.  These were personally hand-picked by Eddie Russell on a trip he took to the Jerez region of Spain the previous year.  It would also be bottled at 101 proof – a proof practically synonymous with the Wild Turkey name. 

Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival

It wasn’t until recent years that any of the major Kentucky distilleries bothered with finished bourbons.  That’s mainly something that only Independent Bottlers or Non-Distiller Producers dabbled in.  Out of all of the big distilleries, it seemed like only Woodford Reserve (Double Oak and Distiller’s Select) and Buffalo Trace (Experimental Collection) were adventurous enough to play around with them; albeit in more limited one-off releases.  Some distilleries – like Four Roses – outright rejected making barrel-finished whiskies. 

But I think that fans of the brand were genuinely surprised to see a finished bourbon with the Russell’s name on the bottle for the 2018 release.  Sherry is one of the most popular finishing barrels for whiskey, so it made sense that Wild Turkey would start there.  Plus, the spicy nature of Oloroso Sherry should pair well with the spicy nature of Wild Turkey bourbon.

A word about the bourbon used in Master’s Keep

I think one of the more interesting facts that went unspoken with the first 5 releases of Master’s Keep (17 Year, Decades, Revival, Cornerstone and 17 Year Bottled-in-Bond) was that they all used bourbon (or rye whiskey) that was distilled before Wild Turkey changed their barrel entry proof (BEP).  It was a big deal to many enthusiasts when the distillery officially increased their BEP from 107 to 110 in 2004.  Then they increased it again in 2006 to 115.  So, if you ever hear a Wild Turkey enthusiast complaining about “the year they changed it,” they’re probably talking about any Wild Turkey bourbon made after 2004.

As far as availability went, Revival was comparatively easy to find on shelves for at least a year after it was released.  This was mainly due to its high price ($150-170) when compared against the proof and age statements of other brands.  I also found myself passing on this many times until one day in 2019 when they all disappeared.  Nowadays your only bet is to find them on the secondary market for around $350.  But is this a $350 bourbon (or even a $150 one?)  Let’s find out.  I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The first thing my nose is greeted with is a nice punch of oak.  I wasn’t expecting this in a finished bourbon, but I’m happy it’s there.  Moving past the wood tannins (and some wood varnish notes), I find the aromas of sweet, red fruit jam.  Chocolate and toffee add an additional bit of sweetness but more importantly, depth.  This is going to sound odd, but I swear I’m also picking up on a little bit of banana in the background.  It’s just as light as the vanilla bean pod scent is.  And of course, there is some of the telltale nuttiness that I find in almost all Turkey products. 

Palate: Chocolate and wine are the two most obvious flavors upon my first sip.  Then come the nuts and vanilla.  Spice notes like cinnamon and nutmeg effortlessly blend in with the mature oak notes.  This bourbon surprises me with how old it tastes – almost like the 15 year component was the majority of the blend.  The spice and heat I get from each sip is noticeable and never gets out of control, but it makes me think it has about 15 more proof points than it actually does.  That’s not a bad thing!

The more I drink this, the more I find that the Oloroso Casks show themselves.  By the end of the glass, most of the notes I find are from that wine.  But I’m okay with that because it still seems so balanced.

Finish: Oak and red wine notes linger for a long time and melt away as more of a stewed fruits and cedar cigar box the longer the finish goes on.  I hope that made sense.  Otherwise, the chocolatey and nutty flavors never seem to leave (fine by me!) while the rye-forward nature of the Wild Turkey bourbon finds a way to show itself towards the end with mint and menthol.  The finish is one of the more impressive ones I’ve tasted in all of the Master’s Keep releases.

Score: 8.4/10

Revival was excellent in so many ways.  It may go down as one of my most favorite examples of a Sherry-finished Kentucky bourbon.  If there was one bourbon that seemed to come close to this release, it might be Belle Meade’s (now discontinued) Cask Strength Madeira finished bourbon.  That’s right, I said Madeira instead of their Sherry finished bourbon – which was admittedly a bit too funky for my liking.  But I felt like the Madeira finish added a perfect layer of sweetness and wine to the bourbon underneath just like this bottle of Revival does.

I was also impressed by how much oak was able to be found throughout.  That’s not something that happens much, but I could definitely tell that the bourbon was a key factor in why that was.  Most Sherry-finished whiskies err on the side of too much Sherry, but Eddie and the team really found the right balance.

Final Thoughts

While Revival is surely a “love it” or “hate it” bottle for many die-hard Turkey fans, I found nothing but love for it.  I would rank this as my second-favorite Master’s Keep release with only Unforgotten besting it.  That says a lot about the care that went into it.  It might also be one of the more affordable Master’s Keep releases on the secondary as well – another point to consider if you’re considering getting one for yourself.

If you are a person who wants to experience everything a brand has to offer, then make Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival a bottle that should be sought out sooner rather than later.  There might not be another one like it released ever again.

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