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Wild Comparison: Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve vs. Wild Turkey 101

Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve, 45% abv (90 Proof), $30/bottle

Russell’s Reserve is the gentle giant (only not TOO gentle) of the Wild Turkey lineup with a creamy, sweet nose of brown sugar, heaps of vanilla, toffee, custard, and dusty rye spice. Even some hints of black pepper. The nose is overall balanced, sweet, and moderately spiced. The flavor in the mouth echo’s much of the nose with brown sugar, toffee and vanilla flavors playing front and center. Added to that is rich maple syrup and rye spice warming around the mid palate through to the end. In the back of the mouth the dry, toasted oak takes over, leading to a finish of moderate length. Your left with a nice mix of oak, char, sweet toffee, and spice. Delicious, balanced, and just an excellent pour of bourbon. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Excellent/Outstanding)

VS.

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, 50.5% abv (101 Proof), $23/bottle

Few bourbon noses disguise what’s about to kick you in the mouth more than Wild Turkey 101. Scents of spiced honey, honey suckle, dried apricots, dusty rye notes, light vanilla, and faint char rush forward. Then you take a sip……….and this brooding monster hits your lips like a porcupine running at 60 MPH. Heavy rye and prickly spice start from palate entry on through mid palate, where that honey comes to your rescue, calming things down just enough. The honey and confectioners sugar sweetness really anchor the spice well in your mouth and are ever present. This is one beautifully crafted whiskey that’s thick in the mouth and finishes with spicy cinnamon candy and barrel char. What a value – highly recommended!

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Excellent/Outstanding)

31 Comments

  1. Texas says:

    Jason, Fantastic review! Hopefully the word will get out about your site. Great service you are providing to bourbon drinkers, especially the new ones. After pondering this a bit, I do think I would have to agree that I would place the 101 ahead of the WTRB, although maybe on your scale I would give the WTRB an 8.4. Although I love the 101 and buy it most frequently, I would give a slight edge to the RR 10…but on a pure quality/price ratio the 101 wins hands down. Looking forward to the rye reviews!

  2. Jim McCulloch says:

    Great Site Jason very very interesting.
    Steve Noland showed it to me, now i love it and am considering doing a blog on Single Malt Scotch.
    I hope you do not mind me following in your footsteps
    Jim

  3. Hey Jim! I hope you and misses are doing well. You’re the perfect guy to do a Scotch site. I say go for it in a big way man. Have you checked out http://www.ralfy.com? Ralfy Mitchell does video reviews of whiskey, predominantly scotch but also features various whiskeys from around the world. He’s one of the best around.

    Keep Steve in line for me!

    -Jason

  4. Louisiana Grant says:

    Jason, I recently stumbled across your reviews, and am so glad I did. Your reviews are informative, interesting, and full of passion. You do an excellent job presenting the information in a way that the novice bourbon drinker like me can understand. You also do a great job of sharing your enthusiasm about bourbon with your viewers.
    Thank you so much for entertaining and educating me.
    Grant

  5. Grant, thank you very much for the comment. It means a lot. It’s also the reason I started this site so I’m glad my enthusiasm comes across. I really enjoy bourbon and whiskey in general, all of the variations on the market, and the commitment to craftsmanship that goes into it. You mention you are a novice – I’m glad you are trying bourbon. Let me know if I can ever offer any suggestions.

    As an FYI, I’m working on a series called Bourbonology 101 where I’ll be breaking down things into “what is bourbon vs. TN whiskey vs. American Whiskey”, “what are the main “flavor factors” that make whiskey unique”, “hot to taste whiskey and what to look for”, etc. etc. I’m trying to get the first couple out this month, and hopefully it will be a useful resource for some.

    Thanks again Grant, I really appreciate the comments.

  6. Louisiana Grant says:

    Jason,
    I would really appreciate it if you would share some bourbon (or Tennessee whiskey) recommendations with me. So far, I’ve tried Wild Turkey 101 and Maker’s Mark. I like the Wild Turkey, but am not crazy about MM. I have a hard time drinking either straight, but like WT with ginger ale. It’s probably sacrilegious to drink it that way, but it is good. I’ve never been much of a drinker, so my palate is undoubtedly immature.
    Thanks again for your help.
    Grant

  7. Grant, Thanks for the comment. Appreciate your continuing to visit!

    First off there is nothing sacrilegious to whiskey if you like it. Sounds cliche but it’s truer than anything. If it’s good to you it’s good. Plus my grandmother (I write about her a bit in my “About Jason” page) and many of the bourbon master distillers would sip their products with ginger ale. A noble drink in my opinion.

    Now you mention something very interesting that I think we can start with. First WT101 is a very rye forward bourbon. In my opinion it makes a “bourbon drinkers cocktail”. That heavy rye can really cut through other ingredients and stand out. Even in soda it comes out far more than Makers Mark. Makers is a wheated product. There’s no rye in the recipe so it’s softer and smoother. It “hides” in the cocktail and for that reason it’s more universally used. It’s a good product, it’s just not as flavorful to my palate.

    Now, the reason I bring this up is because I think that little nugget leads me to believe you have the palate of a guy that could really build a taste for neat bourbon with a little time and “work”. I think you have to begin with something probably a tad softer than WT101 to start if you are going to sip it straight. I also would recommend you use water. Maybe start with a 2-3 ounce pour and a couple teaspoons full of water. This way you bring that alcohol down and are able to taste more of the bourbon flavor. Here’s some products I think are really fantastic for both the experienced whiskey drinker and novice. The common theme is they are very “drinkable” and easy to find:

    1) Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2000 (you can still grab 2000 off the shelves, though 2001 vintage has come out just recently)
    2) Elmer T. Lee (Rich, sweet, with a wonderfully balanced spiciness. A comforting bourbon for sure)
    3) Four Roses Small Batch
    4) Elijah Craig 12 Yr
    5) Woodford Reserve

    I’ve reviewed each of these above and I listed them because they are also in the price range from WT101-Maker’s Mark that you mentioned. Give ‘em a try. I hope you like them.

    -Jason

  8. Jeff says:

    Great review!

    Wild Turkey 101 is a classic, plain and simple. This is what a textbook bourbon should be: a higher proof, rye-heavy kick in the nuts while still being easy to drink with plenty of flavor and balance. Yes, there is always better bourbons out there but the versatility, price and availability of WT101 is tough to beat.

  9. Jeff, thank you much. I definitely agree – 101 is just a classic expression of bourbon and sits in my cabinet at all times. I love it. Appreciate the comment!

  10. BrownMichelle says:

    Okay – reading this confirms it – you’re my bourbon blogger. After trying and liking other bourbons, Wild Turkey 101 was a revelation. I always have it around, and it never disappoints in a glass, on the rocks. If you love it, then I have a feeling I’ll get some great recommendations from you.

  11. Michelle, you’re way too kind, and as mentioned in my response to your other comment, you clearly have great taste. Wild Turkey 101 is truly a cabinet staple. It is one of the finest values in beverage alcohol….period. Glad to hear you love it!

  12. GT1JIMI says:

    “like a porcupine running at 60 MPH” Well said, indeed. A few years ago, I pulled out a bottle of WT 101 while sitting around the campfire, and one of our party, a classic hillbilly character, smiled and said, “All right – The Kickin’ Chicken.” That nickname for WT 101 has stuck with me ever since.

    You are spot on – every time I get a bottle of “the Chicken,” I am surprised anew by how really great this whiskey is, and for such a great price ($20, without too much obsessive shopping). On a whim, I picked up a bottle of the Russell 10 and, while a fine bourbon in its own right, it still is not as satisfying as the 101. I wholeheartedly concur with your review.

    Lastly, I am returning to the bourbon realm in a serious manner after many years, being drawn back by all the fine product being brought to market right now. This could be seen as a new “Golden Age” – time will tell, but things look good for the near term. On your recommendation I picked up some Maker’s 46 and am enjoying it far too much. Also upon your advice, I have sourced some Evan Williams Single Barrel 2000, and I am looking forward to delving into that as well. In all of this, your website is a valuable asset to anyone looking to explore this rapidly expanding field of fine American whiskeys. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  13. GT1JIMI, I have always enjoyed the 101. I think it’s an excellent whiskey. Welcome back to bourbon. You have indeed picked a fine time to return to American Whiskey. There are fantastic ryes, some up and coming craft distillers, and of course excellent bourbon to be had at good prices. Thanks for the comment and for visiting also.

  14. Ryan says:

    Jason,
    Thanks for the great reviews of bourbon! Your site has already provided me with a list of bourbons to try that I probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, including Wild Turkey 101. Based on my experience, Wild Turkey 101 is probably the most complex whisky (bourbon, scotch, or otherwise!) you’ll find at $20, so it’s definitely worth trying. I find that the 50% alcohol does pack more of a punch here than in some more expensive (i.e. longer aged) bourbons such as Knob Creek. So because of that, I wouldn’t want WT101 to be the only bourbon in my cabinet, for those days you want something less intense. Keep up the good work!
    -Ryan

  15. Jim says:

    I’m going through your site and testing some of the “value priced” bourbons that you’ve rated in the 8.3 and higher categories and decided to try the Wild Turkey 101 and the Old Granddad BIB. I’ve had the WT101 in the past (and had never tried the OGD BIB), but it’s been some time and it was before I got my renewed interest in bourbon.

    I’ve recently finished a bottle of the Russell Reserve and remember it, and I would have to agree with your review – I like the WT101 better and it comes in at a better price point.

    While the WT is rye forward, (and I got a lot of rye in the OGD) I believe that the WT comes across as a much more complex and better pour than the OGD.

    I also like the fact that for a under $25 bottle, it comes with a cork stopper rather than a plastic (or metal) screw cap. Nice attention to detail.

    Thanks again for the reviews!

  16. Jim says:

    I just went to the Wild Turkey web site and noticed that, at least now, they are marketing WT101 in three different offerings. It seems they have WT101, WT101 8 year and WT101 12 year. Is this something new? Reading the descriptions of the WT Rare Breed, it says it is a mix of the 6-, 8- and 12-year old stocks, leading me to believe that the ‘regular’ WT101 is 6 year old.

    Just wondering if you had seen this or had any additional information.

  17. Jim I believe that’s about right on the 6 year old. That’s a new deal on the 101. I like it though – love the 101 and this gives a good opportunity to taste it at different ages.

  18. Ron says:

    Jason great reviews here as usual. I have to confess I am not a big Wild Turkey fan, I have bought a few bottles of WT 101 in my time and just found them too gasoline-like for my taste, but thats why bourbon is so great, different strokes for different folks! I really give Jimmy Russel props for his longevity and the integrity of his products. I think WT 101 is a good bourbon for certain occasions or those bone-chilling cold winter nights like for a cocktail or something. Since I like mine straight, I find it a bit too rye-heavy. I would go for Knob Creek over WT 101 because its much more drinkable and complex to my tastes. It doesn’t overpower you, but it’s still potent, which I love. But I have yet to try the Rare Breed which I’m curious about. WT 101 is definately a good buy for its proof and I’m glad they kept the proof the same while so many others have watered them down.

  19. Ron, I am a big fan of 101. I think it’s WT’s best whiskey, but I can understand why you enjoy Knob Creek. Cheers to you.

  20. Arthur says:

    Jason, thank you for your job! Very intresting. You tasted a lot of WT whiskeys, but I can’t find a tasting notes of WT 8 and 12 years old. Do you try them, and if you do what can u say about them? Which WT is the best for you? Standart WT 101, Wt 101 8yo or WT 12 yo?

  21. Arthur Bishop says:

    Jason, good call! I have been drinking 4-6 ounces do bourbon 4-5 nights per week for two years. I have tried it all. From Pappy 15/20/23 all of the Buffalo Trace collection down to Evan Williams Black & even Benchmark. While I love Elmer T, Wild Turky 101 Is more consistent and my current best value! In other words, I will pick it over Premium bourbons because the others are not worth (to me) the higher cost. Love the Dirty Bird!

  22. Gerard says:

    WT101 has been my go-to bourbon for a few years now. Anyone know why there has been a recent increase in price? $5 a bottle more in the past month in my area (Anchorage AK). I haven’t noticed the increase in other brands. At the price and taste it’ll still be in heavy rotation – but wondering if anyone knows the reason for price increase.

  23. Adam G. says:

    Hello Jason, just picked up my first bottle of Russell’s Reserve last night and enjoyed it very much. Today I did a blind taste test with Elijah Craig 12 year, to me they both carry a lot of the same characteristics, the Russell’s Reserve has more of a toffee influence, your ratings numbers of both were almost equal, I feel if if anyone likes Russell’s Reserve they wont be disappointed with Elijah Craig 12 year. Thanks for you great reviews, I find your reviews and site a benchmark for my exploration into whiskey drinking.

  24. Jamie says:

    101 palate was not comforting and creamy soda like with 101 rye for me. Even a 86 I prefered the palate. Is this the alcohol overwhelming everything or different char levels. I had trouble on Rare breed too.

    on a positive side on 101 the aroma just keeps opening up. Stone fruits, honeys, woods, maybe even biscuits.

  25. Paul Munsch says:

    Thank you Jason for the great review. I am new to this community and just picked up a bottle of WT101 – Now a huge fan.

  26. Andy says:

    Jason -

    Just getting back into bourbons and enjoyed your review of WT 101. This truly is a great bourbon. Very focused. I enjoy WT Kentucky Spirit too (always a great nose on that), but have liked the finish on 101 a bit better. I’ve played around with vatting (~50/50) WT 101 and Kentucky Spirit. Sounds crazy since KS is a single barrel version of 101, but I find I can dial in a bit of what I like about WT 101 but add some of the nose and complexity of KS. This works pretty well since they are of the same mash bill/alcohol strength.

  27. california woman says:

    hmmm…i’ve seen wild turkey 101 in stores and always thought it looked good in the bottle but stayed away because of its low cost (silly, i know!). now i have to give it a try. thank you jason for the great reviews!

  28. Karl says:

    Hi Jason!

    I feel in love with Bourbon and have been following your youtube videos and blog! I have it on my bookmarks. I have a question for you!

    I recently fell in love with WT 101, and have tried their Rare Breed which I like too. Both I like to drink with a small cube of ice, but I think Rare Breed falls a bit short of the classic 101.

    I’ve now expanded my collection to some top shelf items, Bookers, Willett Pot Steel Reserve, Noah’s Mills, which I do enjoy but not as much as my usual go-to 101.

    Do you have any alternative recommendations that are similar to 101? I don’t mind paying/saving for a nice bottle of bourbon, but I don’t think I can drink Bookers, Noah’s Mills, (haven’t tried the Willett as it was a gift…) daily. Maybe because they’re a higher proof? Any help would make me so happy!

  29. Dawn says:

    Jason, We’re playing around with home blending at the table these days. With a cabinet groaning with partial bottles of 20 or so odd remainders, it’s been lots of fun. The best result found so far is made from equal parts Wild Turkey 101 and Russell’s Reserve 10. I find the two “brother whiskies” complement each other (natch) and sorta fill in holes in the other’s profile, to make the sum is greater than either part alone. Smoothness meets intensity. It’s worth the 3 oz experiment, if one has both on hand.

  30. GBro says:

    I feel the same about maker’s I found it to plain on the palette, either way I found WT101 to be a good bourbon and even better in a Manhattan.

  31. harry says:

    My brother had a couple of bottles of wt101 sitting in his closet, he gave me a bottle and I opened it at a party I hosted, man the first taste blew me away, awesome whisky! best bourbon Ive had, truely exceptional! I didnt think wt101 was that good, truely up there with the top shelf bourbons.

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  1. [...] fruits (peaches?), caramel, and pine sap come through as well.  Jason Pyle at Sour Mash Manifesto (http://sourmashmanifesto.com/2010/11/11/wild-comparison-wild-turkey-russells-reserve-vs-wild-turkey-…) describes Wild Turkey’s mouth feel as “a porcupine running at 60 MPH,” but I think the [...]

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