With perhaps the most ambitious pricing structure yet out of Campari, we are introduced to Generations - a tribute to the Russell family legacy spanning 3 generations with Jimmy, Eddie, and Bruce Russell all steering the Wild Turkey ship in some aspect. Whether it be Jimmy's 60 years of experience, Eddie's steadfast dedication to the craft of making good whiskey, or Bruce's love for rye - each had a hand in their first ever collaboration on a blend intended for public release. I have to be honest, I stood and looked hard at this bottle on the shelf for a long while before I ultimately decided to buy it. Perhaps it was because it was sitting at a store that I like to support. Perhaps it was the spirit of Christmas time. It may well be because I scanned through Frank Dobbins' wonderful review on the liquid while I was in the store, but after much deliberation I ended up doing what few others in the whiskey community around me have done for this release. I forked over $450 at the register for a 750mL bottle of bourbon.
Not being one for capriciousness, I wondered soon after what had possibly come over me. I had Christmas gifts yet to buy for friends and family... Was buying this really the right decision for me?
The only way I have ever been able to answer that question for myself (and I urge to you do so wisely based on your own circumstances my dear reader), is to open the bottle and taste it. So I did just that. I shared it with my dad. I shared it with my cousin. I shared it with anyone who was interested, no matter their whiskey experience, no matter their palate acumen. As I shared and sampled this... through stories, old photographs, and the joy of the holidays amongst family, I realized I was never going to miss those dollars that tore hell for leather out of my wallet the day I bought this bottle. I was glad to have a special moment with the people who stopped to listen. I had a deeper epiphany that the bottle didn't matter either, the act of drinking a pleasing liquid in itself in moderation was simply another way for me to meaningfully communicate with those around me. As a whiskey writer and reviewer, I do my best to capture some of these moments, translate them into a language you and I can understand within the confines of English or emotion, but some of these lessons you won't find below. You have to learn them on your own, through shared experiences with generations of your own family members that came before you and will persist beyond you.
So really, what gives with this release? Wild turkey's website offers a brief description of their own intentions, saying:
Wild Turkey Generations marks the first time three generations of the Russell family have collaborated on a single whiskey, blending storied past with compelling present to honor the family’s remarkable legacy. With over 100 years of combined experience between Wild Turkey Master Distillers Jimmy Russell, Eddie Russell and Associate Blender Bruce Russell, this bourbon is a blend of hand-selected barrels unique to each of their tastes. Bruce, like his grandfather Jimmy, prefers bold bourbon flavors, which comes through in the 12-year bourbon he selected for the blend. Meanwhile, Eddie has a penchant for a softer honeyed, vanilla-laden flavor that typically comes from older bourbons, such as his 15-year-old selection, and the 14-year-old whiskey he and Bruce picked together. Jimmy stayed true to his palate, as he has for decades, by selecting a nine-year-old bourbon consistent with the classic Wild Turkey profile.
With a moving tale about family legacy, tradition & paternal mentorship printed on one of the four glass walls that house this newest release from Wild Turkey, one can’t help but be curious if the liquid inside can equally instill the wonders of these words. Accoutrements aside, what if I told you that you could buy 18 bottles of Wild Turkey 101 for the same cost as this bottle? Would you be enthusiastically popping the cork with your friends and family, or running for the hills?
Blended in Lawrenceburg, KY as has been tradition since the Ripy brothers first opened their family distillery in 1893, this bourbon is the culmination of an interesting array of hand-selected barrels. I wonder… will the law of averages make this taste something like the modern Russell’s 13 year bourbon, or will the culmination of life experiences from the Russell family construct something never-before-tasted? Let's dive in and find out, shall we?
Company on Label: Wild Turkey Distilling Co.
Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Mash Bill Percentages: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Age: 9 years (a blend of 9, 12, 14 and 15 year old bourbons)
Further identification: Generations was released in late 2023 at an MSRP of $450
Nose: On first inhale I find wonderful barrel funk leads before old fashioned lemon drop candies invade my mind. A delicate florality can be found on returning the nose to the glass, reminiscent of a well manicured farm on a warm Kentucky Summer's day. I can feel the dry air between the flickering shadows as hills ebb and flow by on the roads around the Northern portions of the Commonwealth. Deeper inhales reveal candy shop sweets: cherry sweet tarts, sugary strawberry rock candy, and chocolate covered pretzels all waft past the senses. Old, rich oak illustrates a wonderful elegance that often only 15 year bourbon can. I find it transports me to a dimly lit, luxuriously designed wood paneled office with dark leather seats. and perhaps too many unread books. Hints of molasses, nutmeg, and thick, fibrous construction paper give this wonderful depth. Intimate layers of saffron draw me in closer, keeping my glencairn glass glued to my upper lip. A final swirl of the well-rested glass reveals nothing further to demand patience for the palate.
Returning my nose to the glass after a taste only amplifies the leading characteristics from before - leather & rich oak galore. Oily caramel sauce and butterscotch can be found between sweet sips. Late in the glass sweet candied cherry finally translates from the palate as most of the wood influence subsides. Hints of eggnog, coconut shavings, and peanut brittle throw out a few final surprises for the patient observer. The empty glass smells of milk chocolate, cashew and a hint of pear.
Palate: From the moment this hit my lips, I knew I was in for a vintage vibe. Orange peel leads before medicinal cherry, cranberry, elderflower, and slightly tannic chokeberry swing into the fray. Another sip shows a great effervescent mouthfeel carried forward by vanilla frosting laced with nutmeg and a shot of espresso deeply cooled by a bit too much milk. Sipping further in the glass adds significant weight to the cherry tones which build well alongside grenadine and Peychaud's bitters. The linger is a touch thin, but it carries a swirling, slightly bitter array of tart stone fruit. My last sip demonstrates a splendid return to the citrus tones from the beginning, not unfamiliar to those who love Russell's Reserve single barrels, but increasingly uncommon these days. The medium finish continues to drive home a vintage feel with light clay notes, red grape skins, and white pepper. The vintage feel isn't quite dusty Wild Turkey (known for its funk), but something more synonymous with low barrel entry proof & old growth oak generalities.
TL;DR: Sweeping sweetness, vintage vibes, and ubiquitous uniqueness make for a great pour
This definitely does not taste like any other Wild Turkey release to date.
Just because limited access and a surprising pricing scheme accompany this bottle doesn't diminish the Wild Turkey brand in general. If this is out of your price range for a bottle of whiskey, by all means pass on it. Whiskey enthusiasts aren't expected to try everything from every producer in the world. I think Wild Turkey 101 bourbon drinks just as wonderful as this does, with distinctly different flavors. I think Russell's 13 year drinks even better. When I am in the mood for something deep, brooding and overtly sweet - I'll reach for the Generations (especially if I am in the company of those who have not tried it yet). If I just need a tasty dram and don't want to sit and dissect my whiskey for all that it can offer, I'll still enjoy the heck out of my $25 bottle of Wild Turkey 101.
Comparisons - As Promised...
Wild Turkey Generations
Russell's Reserve 13 Year Bourbon Batch 1
1994 Wild Turkey Split Label 12 Year Bourbon
On the nose, the Generations continues to have wonderful depth of oak with the hyper-age statements really shining on the blend. The nose is all that modern, rich, deep barrel funk (think George T. Stagg for you Sazerac lovers). Russell's 13 year (RR13 for short) comes across more creamy and balanced in the nose with supple fruit layering in well-crafted elegance. Plum is a key differentiator while chocolate tones show parallels. As I move into the dusty 1994 Wild Turkey 12 year, I find that spectacular funky clay note that older vintages of Wild Turkey are known for. It's decadent, even creamier in the nose than the RR13 and carries with it all kinds of toffee and butterscotch notes. Returning to the Generations glass I find that all 3 of these are distinctly different, perhaps Generations the most so. Lemon hard candy is once against distinct, as it was in my notes above, before I start turning nostalgic as I reminisce on the woodchip covered playgrounds of my youth.
Onto the taste.
Woo! Zesty orange peel once again makes a dramatic entrance on the Generations pour. It sizzles and pops before slinking into a fruit parfait medley. Sipping the split label dusty turkey illustrates wonderful maraschino cherry, lemon frosting and soft Bazooka Joe bubble gum - completely different to the Generations in every way. The 1994 pour lands distinctly softer on the palate, unsurprising given the 19 proof point difference, but it does not lack in flavor in any way. Buttercream frosting and soft croissant flavors come to mind. Vintage funk sits gloriously in the linger. Moving into the RR13 reminds me every bit of why this pour earned my 5/5 score. Rich, viscous cherry coats the entirety of the mouth before strawberry, raisin and balanced tannin bellow from the echoing depths. Goodness gracious, I'm still in love with this pour. As I take another sip of the 13 year before I even think of moving on, I do find the biggest common flavor between the RR13 and the Generations is that chocolate note. It leans more towards milk chocolate than dark chocolate for those who are picky about their cacao content. Finishing up my pour of Generations leaves me thoroughly satisfied with the espresso tones reminding me I should probably make a coffee and take a cold shower after this tasting. It's all gorgeous whiskey well fit for consumption.
Ranking: Russell's 13y > 1994 Wild Turkey 12y > Generations
In this lineup the Generations pour doesn't carry the boldest profile, but it does stand out once again in a testament to its uniqueness. While it may not be the most exuberant of the three glasses before me, I love the Generations for what it brings to the table. Like a gripping page-turner of a novel, Generations manages to captivate full attention whether nosing or tasting.
The dusty turkey was clearly outclassed in heft (due to proof differences), but danced on the tongue with such grace that I have to give it the nod over the Generations. The citrus forward profile of the Generations is not my favorite flavor wheel, though I'm sure my lemon lovers will be enamored. I intend to keep sharing this with folks who haven't tried it and will be including it in an upcoming tasting that aims to explore the long, storied history of Wild Turkey... Stay tuned & subscribe to my newsletter below if you're interested in staying abreast with everything Amongst the Whiskey. Cheers!