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Review: Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey

Two months ago I did a simultaneous review with two other bloggers, Steve Ury and Tim Read. Steve’s (or Sku as he goes by) website is Recent Eats and Tim’s is Scotch and Ice Cream. We had a little fun with the collaboration review of Rebel Yell and thought it might be time to do another. So here we are.

The subject of this review is Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey. Recently it surfaced that Wild Turkey was putting out Wild Turkey 81 Rye Whiskey. This lead some enthusiasts to conclude that the 101 Rye was being discontinued after certain control state product listings showed the 81 Rye hitting the shelves and the 101 leaving them. Chuck Cowdery posted a good bit of information on this subject. Apparently 101 Rye will not be discontinued, but like Rittenhouse and others before, it may be tough to find on store shelves for a while.

The Rye whiskey boom is well into it’s second year as far as I’m concerned. As folks learn to appreciate more flavorful whiskey, I believe rye will continue to grow as a category, and this is great for whiskey lovers. However, whiskey takes time to make properly. Predicting what will be in high demand 4+ years in the future is a difficult proposition. Focusing on 81 right now gives Wild Turkey a little breathing room. The fact that it’s 20 proof lower than the 101 will certainly help Wild Turkey meet demand while the company ramps up stock.

If Wild Turkey 101 Rye is a whiskey you love and keep on hand, then I’d recommend stocking up at least for the short term. If you are unsure or haven’t had it yet, then it’s perfect timing to read my thoughts.

Wild Turkey 101 Rye Whiskey, 50.5% abv (101 Proof), $22-25

Color: Medium Amber

Nose: The nose is sharp and bracing. Honeyed with a crisp rye grain quality, mint, sour apple, sandalwood, menthol, flint, and sun dried oak. There is also some rustic corn mash in there as well.

Palate: Much like the nose – the sip is sharp with a crisp, dry quality to it. Rye and mint are present all throughout the sip with apple and honey anchoring things to a degree. It’s all about the spicy rye with increasing warmth leading to the finish.

Finish: The finish is long, warm, and spicy. We get a bit more of a cinnamon and wood spice quality along with some oak grip.

Overall: Wild Turkey’s lesser expensive products, like the 101 Bourbon and this Rye, are some of the best American Whiskeys available in their respective price ranges. WT 101 Rye is loaded with sharp rye grain character, spice, and warmth, without a lot of the “green” notes that I associate with the very high rye, former LDI-based ryes (Bulleit, Templeton, Redemption, etc.). For a well stocked bar I’d recommend this one be in your arsenal. The versatility for neat sipping and a fantastic Manhattan are pretty tough to beat at this price.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

26 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    I wasn’t a huge fan of WT Rye 101, but mixing a splash of this in with WT 101 Bourbon results in something very nice!

  2. Interesting vatting there Ryan! As soon as I get a hold of a bottle of the Rye, I will try it. I do enjoy WT101 though.

  3. Tim Read says:

    Yeah, that WT Bourye idea sounds interesting. If I had any WT Rye left over I’d try it for sure.

  4. Joe Serapilio says:

    Jason,I noticed this juice getting very scarce to say the least.This stuff is just right for me.Not as deep as Rittenhouse&not as green as Bulleit.I love Russell’s Reserve but,prefer this for price&proof.Took your advice&got three bottles today in a little old liquor store on the main drag. Joe

  5. sku says:

    We were together on the LDI comparison, which is pretty impressive for a mashbill that is probably not much over 51%. They really manage to juice the flavor out of that rye. It will be interesting to see if they maintain the flavor profile for the 81 proof.

    Thanks Jason and Tim, these are always fun.

  6. Sku and Tim, it was very fun. Thanks for doing it!

    Joe, this is a great value whiskey with little sacrifice. Sure it’s not too graceful but it’s a fun sip and extremely versatile.

    Ryan and Ryan – ditto on the vatting. Will try it. To me this is something that is not done enough. I “play” with stuff all the time. I have my own version of the Last Drop as well that quite honestly is pretty darn good. The WT 101 Rye would benefit nicely from the grounding effects of the Bourbon. That said, add this to a flatter wheater or something that needs some zip but has very good sweetness and “bass” notes, and you’d have yourself something even better I’d imagine.

  7. sam k says:

    I just read your comment on sku’s blog, Jason. You’re right, this comes down to being one of the best values in whiskey, right up there with the Dickels and the BT Wellers, which it may not quite be when it returns. Time will tell.

    I was also impressed that all three reviewers’ tasting notes were similar, both here and on the Rebel Yell. Well done, boys!

  8. iskch1 says:

    Nice to know. I will have to check the “candy stores” for the availability.

  9. Texas says:

    I read all three reviews..very good! I actually like WT 101 Rye just a hair better than WT 101 Bourbon. Sku is right, though, it does not do as well with water or ice. Neat though it’s very good stuff. I prefer it to Russell’s Reserve Rye and Rittenhouse. I like Bulleit Rye and Willet Ryes better though…just a slight edge though.

  10. JWC says:

    i was one of the guys hoovering up the wt rye 101 i could find when there was speculation that it was being discontinued (only went to 4 stores close to me so didn’t spend a lot of time or effort). the good thing up my bunkering a good supply: 1) don’t have to worry about shortages or if it really is discontinued and 2) i got a great price ($17.99 per bottle) for texas.

    i also bunkered up on the rittenhouse bib. it’s also being allocated and i’m assuming that the price will be going up.

    i think the key thing about the wt rye 101 is exactly what you said about it and the wt 101 bourbon: for the price, they are fantastic quality whiskies that few others can match for the same price right now.

  11. Texas says:

    Right on, JWC. And with OWA and possibly Weller 12 going away I will be spending more quality time with Eddie and Jimmy Russell’s products.

  12. JWC – good for you man. Way to stay ahead of the game. It’s delicious rye at a great price – very little not to love.

  13. Texas, I’m just the opposite – I like the bourbon a bit better – more balanced while still maintaining that great spice and character.

  14. J. Sabin says:

    After talking with a local distributor in our area, I found WT Rye 101 will be back on the shelves 1 May, 2012. I might buy a case or so

  15. J. Sabin – great to hear. Thanks for the info. Let’s hope that come through.

  16. Bob says:

    Went to the store tonight to pick up some WT 101 (bourbon, not rye – no hope of getting the rye any time soon around here, I sadly live in a “control” state)…anyway, I noticed they had about five bottles of the 101 with the same new stye label that they’re using for the 81, along with two bottles of the old style label. I intuitively went with the oldie, reminding myself that bourbon doesn’t necessarily get better the longer it’s been in the bottle. On getting home I’m enjoying the WT and I read on Chuck C.’s blog about Wild Turkey/Austin Nichols opening a new distilling facility (-in Kentucky? or Indiana?!!). Is it reasonable to connect the re-branding/relabeling of their bourbon and rye with this change?

  17. Bob, that’s a good question. I don’t think this has much to do with that at all, but I am not for certain.

  18. Mark says:

    I was lucky enough to come across 2 bottles of the 101 Rye in Atlanta tonight. So naturally, having read your review earlier this year, I bit and bought one of them. I tried a little neat and I definitely got the mint and pepper flavor. Tasted a little “young” to me neat. That being said, I used it to make some Old Fashions, 2oz WT Rye, 1 Teaspoon Simple Syrup, 3 Shakes of Bitters, an Ice Cube and a Lemon Zest. The Wild Turkey Rye made one hell of an Old Fashion. Great find, I’m glad I snagged a bottle before it disappears for a while.

  19. Downunder Dave says:

    Finished a bottle of WT101 on the weekend so thought I’d pick up the 101Rye for a comparison. I must admit, the Rye was a nice change up. The one issue I find with WT101 is a slightly sweet mealy aftertaste (I’m a complete novice when it comes to tasting notes so please excuse me if the description is off the mark). What I liked about the Rye was it had all the qualities of WT that I like without that one element.

    On a side note, it brings tears to my eyes when I see US prices quoted. In Australia, thanks to ridiculously high taxes on alcohol, we are forced to pay $50 for the 101Rye and $55 for the WT101. If you bear in mind that the Aus dollar is on parity with the US at the moment, we’re basically paying double. To think that we once had a Prime Minister who held a record for drinking beer out of yard glass….

  20. Brian says:

    Jason – picked up the LAST bottle of Wild Turkey 101 Rye at the state store. Hard to find around here, so I had to look for it, and they said they are only stocking the 81 now. I got at at the same price as the 81 proof – $20. I found it to be a tasty one, but somewhat harsh – smoothed out with a drop of water – and was able to appreciate the flavors more. Not as rich tasting as the Rittenhouse, and didnt have the rye content or rich nose of the Bulliet, but its a keeper. I was curious as the rye content and the age – the 81 label states 4 – 5 years, but nothing like that on the 101. I also picked up some Glenlivet Nadurra – but you dont wanna hear about that : )

  21. Brian, always interested in hearing about our brothers from across the pond’s stuff. Not sure of the mashbill on the 101 and 81. I’m guessing around 20%. Definitely north of 15, probably not as high as 22-25.

  22. CB says:

    I just got back from Total Wine in CA. I was able to score 3 bottles of the 101 Rye. Funny thing: the 81 proof had a tag indicating a price of 18.99. The 101 did not have a price on the shelves but rang up as 17.99 at the register(one dollar LESS than the 81). I was definitely good with that.

  23. Jim Listerman says:

    Visited Wild Turkey Distillery for tour of new distillery (2012). Extremely interesting to see “State Of The Art” production. New facility and modern technology allowing Wild Turkey to increase production to meet worldwide demand. New “Bottling Plant” facility (under construction). 500+ acre Distillery Grounds allow aging warehouses to be spread out on hilltops. Stop & Tour !

  24. John K says:

    Tucked away in my hall closet are eight bottles of Wild Turkey 101 Rye. In Youngstown, Ohio, my hometown, only one retailer was currently stocking this whiskey, as it had disappeared from the shelves of two other purveyors. I didn’t hesitate snatching up the last eight bottles. I thoroughly enjoy this rye and would be disheartened to see it absent from the marketplace.

  25. Bob says:

    Hmmm… maybe I had a bad bottle. I tried this six or seven months ago – doing sort of an “under $50″ rye tasting. (Bulleit, Templeton, Jefferson, Rittenhouse, etc…) The Wild Turkey 101 Rye was truly disgusting. It tasted like modeling clay and nail-polish remover with a chemical plastic or titebond-glue sort of taste coming in just before it finished. The finish was like vermouth that’s been sitting around too long and gone off. It put me off of Wild Turkey. I’ve wanted to try a few of their nicer bourbons but haven’t pulled the trigger because that bottle put such a bad taste in my mouth (literally and figuratively). I thought it was just a horrible swill of a whiskey and I was actually a bit ticked off that they’d put out something so bad, but given your reviews and comments, I wonder if I got a contaminated bottle. It’s the only bottle of whiskey I’ve ever poured down the sink.

  26. Bob, I would imagine it’s not a bad bottle, just might not align with what you like. cheers.

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] and Ice Cream, and I have done a couple of collaboration reviews already. Please take a peek at the Wild Turkey 101 Rye reviews we did together to understand a little background on how this whole thing got started. [...]

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