Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary is a commemorative bourbon to honor Jimmy Russell, the longest-serving active Master Distiller in North America. Jimmy started at Wild Turkey in 1954, and he trained under legends Bill Hughes and Ernest W. Ripy (the son of the original distiller). Jimmy’s son Eddie is the fourth in a line of family distillers, and he’s been at Wild Turkey since 1981. Eddie worked with different blends to find the right way to celebrate his father’s 60 years.
Its first public tasting was on April 15 at the official grand opening of Wild Turkey’s new state-of-the-art Visitor Center, and it was released for sale only at the Visitor Center beginning on April 16. If you can’t make it to Lawrenceburg, be on the lookout for a limited distribution this August.
Bourbon: Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary (Limited Edition)
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Age: NAS, but a blend of 13 and 16 year-old barrels
Proof: 91 proof
Light amber and a bit bright. I was expecting darker given the ages, but I suppose that I’m seeing the result of the lower proof and filtration.
Sweetness from caramel and honey, along with dry grass, oak, cedar and old barn (but in a good way).
It initially seemed higher proof than it is, but that sensation went away after sitting for 5-10 minutes, and was replaced with a nice, warm sensation. There was less oak than I expected from the age. It was creamy with rye spice, subtle sweetness and some citrus. The citrus gave it lightness that is not typical with Wild Turkey. Excellent balance.
I thought that I would like it with ice, but didn’t (it muted the flavors). On my second day of tasting, I tried it with a Whiskey Disks stone, and that was exactly what it needed. Drink this one neat with your favorite whiskey stone to give it some chill.
The finish was lingering but not long, and it wasn’t particularly warm except on the tongue. There was more oak in the finish than with most Wild Turkey brands, along with pepper spice balanced with honey.
Diamond Anniversary is unlike everything else in the Wild Turkey stable. Some people were expecting a robust powerhouse consistent with the “#NEVERTAMED” reputation that Wild Turkey has earned (or its earlier “Give 'Em The Bird” campaign). Don’t expect Diamond Anniversary to be as in-your-face as those marketing campaigns or the new custom-built Wild Turkey motorcycle, which was also revealed at the release event:
Kudos to Eddie Russell for giving us something new and distinguishable. While this difference is bound to throw some people for a loop, can you imagine the criticism if Diamond Anniversary tasted like Russell’s Reserve or Rare Breed?
The price and sub-101 proof are also bound to startle devoted Wild Turkey fans. On top of that, Diamond Anniversary faces very stiff competition from other recent limited edition and commemorative bottles. Most recently, Wild Turkey’s Lawrenceburg neighbor, Four Roses, has hit another home run with its 2014 Limited Edition Single Barrel, which is priced about $25 less than Diamond Anniversary, and which is cask strength.
Given the luck of timing, then, Diamond Anniversary will strike some people as over-priced and under-proofed. While I admit that 101-proof would have been a nice part of the tribute, 91-proof is perfect for sipping and I’ll trust Eddie Russell any day of the week to add the right amount of water. There are better bourbons, and some of those cost less money (the price hurts Diamond Anniversary on my scale), but that can’t detract from the merits of Diamond Anniversary and the true master distillers behind it. This is a one-of-a-kind bourbon with great balance, so it deserves some room on your shelf.
Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale: 3.0
The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Wouldn’t even accept a free drink of it.
2 – Would gladly drink it if someone else was buying.
3 – Glad to include this in my bar.
4 – Excellent bourbon. Worth the price and I’m sure to always have it in my bar.
5 – Wow. I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.