The Wild Turkey Master’s Keep collection, the bird brand’s annual limited release, came back this year with a twist as they presented, for the first time in the series, a rye whiskey. Now famous Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell has gone on record as not being a big fan of rye whiskey whereas his son, and current Master, Eddie rather enjoys the spicy spirit. So one can imagine that Eddie Russell took great pride and care in crafting this years release.
With this release, Turkey presents us with a marriage of ryes between 9 and 11 years old - some of the oldest rye’s they have in stock. Eddie Russell has also mentioned this batch is primarily made up of the 11 year old stock. This higher age makes this rye standout as most ryes, especially Kentucky ryes, aren’t often aged more than 4 to 6 years. Also of note is that many of the barrels came from the infamous Camp Nelson, the site of many Turkey fans’ favorite barrels. So with all that, I was very excited going in to this one not only for the uniqueness and age but because I am continuing to explore the world of rye as I’m still, at heart, primarily a bourbon drinker! Maybe Jimmy and I should talk...
Full Disclosure: As you can see in the picture the bottle I received was personalized by Eddie Russell (…because why pass up that chance?) and was provided by Campari. However this was not received as compensation of any kind for this review/post. It was simply provided as a consolation as I was attempting to arrange a barrel pick event with Turkey/Campari and as we went back and forth both logistics and my schedule made it difficult. But no harm and no foul on anyone's part as we will look to arrange again in the future! But I appreciate them providing this bottle with no expectation or strings attached.
So without further ado - let’s run down some stats and get into the juice!
WILD TURKEY MASTER’S KEEP: Cornerstone Rye
- Batch 1
- 109 proof / 54.5% ABV
- 9-11 year old barrels (mostly 11 year)
- 51% Rye / 37% Corn/ 12% Barley
- Non Chill Filtered
- $175 MSRP
NOSE: Before I even dive into specific notes I can honestly say it’s one of the best rye noses I’ve come across. Once again, however, I am generally not a rye guy so take that as you will. This comes off very bourbon-esque perhaps in part due to the high corn content in the mash. This is certainly not a Maryland/Pennsylvania style rye. There is more sweetness and softness and less floral notes in this than in a typical 100% (or close) ryes. Returning to it again brings an almost candied spice, as if you took a peppermint, dunked it in vanilla, then dusted it with pepper. Maybe I should try that?
PALATE: A wave of spicy vanilla and a very viscous mouthfeel wash over everything. Baking spices move from the back to the middle palate as well. Those herbal notes do show up now and kind of dance off the roof of the mouth leaving some fruitier notes during the finish. A little bit of leather comes through later, but only a small hint. Overall a very coating feel to this. I love it.
FINISH: Long and lingering - classic. The spice works from back to front on this one and like mentioned before there are floral and fruity notes left on the roof of the mouth for a while.
OVERALL: I’ll say it again - one of the best ryes I’ve ever had. Super rich and layered. While I'm generally not a rye drinker I could sip on this ALL day. I would definitely describe it as a bourbon drinker’s rye as it’s much softer and sweeter. If a pure rye is your bag than this may not be fore you. However for me this was pretty on point.
But that brings us to the elephant in the room…the $175 price tag. Is this a $175 whiskey? It’s hard to say in this booming brown water market. I'd say there are few bottles truly worth breaking that $100 mark let alone over $150. But perhaps that’s based in the market of a few years ago. Either way while this is certainly an outstanding whiskey and the bottle is beautiful (could account for some of the price as well) I believe you can find very good whiskies for less. For example, after tasting this I did a side by side with Heaven Hill’s Pikesville Rye (6 years old, the same exact mash bill, and nearly same proof - $59) and while the Cornerstone was still the bolder, richer of the two…I don’t know if it’s nearly 3x the price better. If you love special bottles and love a sweet Kentucky rye whiskey this one to seek out for sure at a bar and if you’ve got the cash you won’t be disappointed with the juice in the bottle.