It’s no secret to anyone that I hate chicken. It’s not that I don’t eat chicken because I eat almost anything. Seriously, if you serve me something really disgusting, like, I don’t know, goats’ eyes those Chinese green eggs, maybe I’ll think about it for a few moments. After that, however, there’s a pretty big chance I’ll try it. Then I might say that it’s awful or absolutely disgusting and it goes onto the list of things that I’ll probably eat again, because I’m stubborn, but I definitely don’t like.
Chicken is there. I eat chicken very reluctantly. It’s not prejudice – it would be prejudice if I’d never tasted it – it’s ‘post-judice’. I’ve already eaten chicken many times in infinite places and it’s always bad. I hate chicken so much that I once went to a farm in the countryside and saw a chicken run. A chicken perhaps smelling (do chicken’s smell?) hatred in the air didn’t think twice about attacking me in flight, which was as aggressive as it was ridiculous. Then I started hating live chickens too.
Nevertheless, the beauty of the world lies in its diversity. On the other side of the chicken despising spectrum is Matteo Tranchellini. Matteo is an Italian photographer who adores poultry – so much so that in one of his projects (which is a bit of a joke, if you ask me) he photographed over a hundred hens and roosters, highlighting their (debatable) beauty. There are birds in every possible position, some bent out of shape and some with big legs and others with huge crests. There is even a really ridiculous one that looks like Chewbacca.
However, I think I am the strange one because people like poultry – so much, so that one of the world’s most famous and best-selling whiskies is named after one of our feathered friends: Wild Turkey. Its distillery is one of the most important in the United States and its two best-known bourbons are 101 – already reviewed here – and 81, the subject of this tasting.
You may be wondering why the Wild Turkey brand decided to name their whiskies after numbers. Well, the numbers refer to the alcoholic strength of the bourbon. Instead of using the ABV measuring system (Alcohol By Volume, currently used in the UK) the brand has opted for proof – simply double the ABV measurement. Wild Turkey 101 is 50.5% alcohol and 81, 40.5%.
In fact, to change the subject from chickens a little bit, maybe this is a good opportunity to tell the story of “proof”. The term was coined in the 16th century in England when drinks were taxed according to their alcohol content. Distillates were tested by dripping them onto a little gunpowder. If the gunpowder still ignited, the drink was taxed more heavily for being “proof”. At that time, the proof referred to 1.75 times the alcoholic strength. When the concept was exported to the land of fried chicken – we can’t seem to get away from chickens – it happened to be doubled, exactly.
Back to Bourbon: Wild Turkey 81 was launched in 2011 to commemorate the thirtieth birthday of Eddie Russell – son of the master distiller Jimmy Russell and manager of the distillery – at Wild Turkey. Four years later, Jimmy joined his father in the role of master distiller, to create a team with over ninety years’ experience in producing bourbon. In 2016, the whisky reviewed its visual identity and 81 was renamed Wild Turkey Bourbon – a name as good as it is vague.
As in all bourbon whisky, the main cereal in the mashbill of Wild Turkey 81 is corn – a firm favourite of the hateful poultry whose name I won’t mention again. The recipe is that same as that of its brother bourbon, 101: 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. Maturation takes place in new, charred American oak barrels. They are charred as much as possible, known as the “alligator char” because resembles reptile skin after the process. The whisky is removed from the barrels with an average alcohol content of 54.5% and subsequently diluted with water to reach 40.5%.
Wild Turkey 81 is a very sweet, smooth whisky with a clear caramel, brown sugar and vanilla flavour. Due to the taste and low alcohol content, it isn’t a very ‘challenging’ drink. Even those who aren’t used to drinking straight whisky won’t have any difficulty trying it this way. So, if you’re just getting started in the world of American whiskies, or if you’re simply looking for something to sip without too much worry or trouble, Wild Turkey 81 is for you.
Oh, if only all chickens were like this.
WILD TURKEY 81 BOURBON
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Brand: Wild Turkey
Comments on taste:
Aroma: Caramel, brown sugar, vanilla.
Flavour: Caramel and honey, brown sugar, vanilla. A medium after taste with more vanilla and sweet caramel.
With Water: Water makes the bourbon a little less sweet and emphasises the vanilla.