Review: Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon

Review: Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon

Wild Turkey is famously — perhaps infamously — hot, coming in at a blistering 101 proof. Now our friends at WT have released a cooler, lighter, and smoother version of the same Bourbon, weighing in at a mere 81 proof. (It just wouldn’t be Wild Turkey without the extra 0.5% alcohol.)

First things first: Wild Turkey 81 is not (apparently) just Wild Turkey 101 watered down 20%. This is a new whiskey, a blend of six-, seven-, and eight-year-old spirits aged in a heavy #4 char barrel. The usual WT high-rye mash is used as a base. (Complicating matters further is the fact that there is an older 80-proof Wild Turkey bottling as well, but that’s another story.)

The results are quite a delight. Unlike the often scorching Wild Turkey 101, WT 81 is easy and sweet. No burn whatsoever, just a lovely caramel and vanilla body flecked with lemon, honeysuckle, and heather notes. Less rye influence than in any other Wild Turkey expression (and I’ve had ’em all). Extremely easygoing, it is a perfect sippin’ whiskey, one which needs no doctoring whatsoever.

Serious Turkey fans will probably find this a disappointment, too much of a change of pace away from the frontier style of the 101. (There’s also bound to be a chorus of boos over the price: At $20 a bottle, 81 is almost the same price as the 101 ($22), which, on a simple alcohol-percentage basis, represents a whopping 37% markup.)

Don’t mind the naysaying. It’s certainly different, but just as enchanting as the original… in its own way.

81 proof.


Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Wayne on June 30, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    At $20 it will be worth trying. I’ve always liked the 101 Wild Turkey so see what this one is like sipping neat.

  2. Brian A. on July 1, 2011 at 6:03 am

    I am confused. Hasn’t there always been an 80 proof version of Wild Turkey? Is this a new expression from them, or is it the same bottling, rebranded?

  3. [email protected] on July 1, 2011 at 9:54 am


  4. Christopher Null on July 1, 2011 at 10:23 am

    The 81 proof Wild Turkey replaces the 80 proof version on the market. According to WT it is a different recipe.

  5. Speedmaster on July 1, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Looks great, gonna have to try this one. ;-)

  6. carl on July 18, 2016 at 3:56 am

    I’ve been drinking the wild turkey 81 bourbon for quite some time now. I absolutely agree with every word you said. However, just this past Friday July 15, 2016, I purchased the 1.75 liter bottle of 81. Because the 1 liter bottle had disappeared from the shelves a few days prior. The label looked different but it was the same bourbon . Until I get home and open it to take a drink. It just about gagged me! It had an extremely harsh unforgiving start, and an even worse finish! Idk what happened! I turned the bottle around to read the label . It no longer says”aged up to 6-8 years, but”aged up to 5-8 years. And it no longer had the nice line after , either. What happened? I sent multiple emails to the website. No reply yet. I owed that to being the weekend. I’m still patiently waiting. Thank u, Carl.

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