For the first time, a Wild Turkey’s Master’s Keep release is not bourbon but rather a rye, and the distillery is pulling out all the stops. This fourth release in the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep series has been breathlessly touted as “the oldest rye whiskey ever released by Wild Turkey.” That may have you dreaming of 20-plus year old spirit, but temper your expectations a bit. Cornerstone (though it carries no formal age statement) is aged just 9 to 11 years, in line with the standard bottling of something like WhistlePig — and less than Bulleit’s new 12 year old offering.
To be fair, rye isn’t that big of a deal in the bourbon-obsessed Kentucky, and while Wild Turkey sells rye, it’s not really a focus. But the market winds have been shifting that way, so it makes sense that WT would use the Master’s Keep brand to make the case for some old barrels of rye that could fetch a pretty penny.
There’s no official mashbill information here, but it can be presumed this is the same juice as Wild Turkey’s other rye whiskeys, which are typically 51% rye, 37% corn, and 12% malted barley.
We got an early sample. Let’s give it a try.
One thing’s for sure from the start, this is high-proof rye, full of spice, heat, and Kentucky chutzpah. The nose is bold with ginger, baking spices, and barrel char — and quite racy at full proof. The palate is equally fiery at first, but let it air out and settle down and you’ll find a delightful sweetness, with notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and chocolate all in the house — though it’s all driven through ample notes of red pepper and toasted herbs, with a lasting, iconic rye punchiness. The finish smolders with barrel char, notes of dried fruits, and tons of spice.
It’s altogether a classic example of well-aged rye — though note that the experience doesn’t come cheap.