Wild Turkey (bourbon)

Wild Turkey (bourbon)
Chris Snow
WildTurkeyBottle no1.jpg

Wild Turkey 101
Austin, Nichols' Flagship brand Bourbon
Type Bourbon whiskey
Manufacturer Austin, Nichols Distilling Co.
Country of origin Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA
Introduced 1940
Proof 80, 86.8, 101, 108.2
Variants Wild Turkey 101
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Russell's Reserve
Kentucky Spirit

Wild Turkey is a brand of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey distilled and bottled by the Austin, Nichols division of Campari Group. Its nicknames include "The Dirty Bird", "Gobble Gobble", "Bombed Tom", "Thunder Chicken", "Boat Gas", "Whiskey Tango", "The Screamin' Eagle", and "The Kickin’ Chicken",[citation needed] the reference of some of these being to the 101 proof of its most common bottling, as compared to the 80 proof of standard bourbons. Recently, the company's marketing has referred to the product as "The Bird" (with an intentional double meaning).[1]

The distillery is located near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. It offers tours, and is part of the American Whiskey Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.



The Ripy brothers built a distillery near Lawrenceburg in 1869 and had consolidated the current facility by 1905 and resumed distilling after Prohibition. The Ripys were bought out in 1952 by the Gould Brothers. In turn the distillery was bought by Pernod Ricard in 1980. On April 8, 2009, the Campari Group announced the acquisition of the brand and of the distillery from Pernod Ricard.[2]

Distillery executive Thomas McCarthy took some warehouse samples on a wild turkey hunting trip in 1940. The next year his friends asked him for "some of that wild turkey whiskey", and a brand was born. The 80 proof version was introduced in 1974.[1]


The Wild Turkey label carries a vividly printed, seemingly engraved illustration of its namesake. In the USA, six varieties of the bourbon are generally available: 80 proof, 101 proof, Kentucky Spirit, Russell's Reserve, Rare Breed, and American Honey. In June 2011, Wild Turkey released Wild Turkey 81, an 81 proof bourbon meant to replace the 80 proof variety.[3]

Wild Turkey's Rare Breed
Austin, Nichols' Top-Shelf Bourbon

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is a single barrel version at 101 proof, the 10 year old named for Master Distiller Jimmy "The Muscle" Russell is 90 proof, and the Rare Breed is a blend of 6, 8 and 12-year-old stocks at 108.4 barrel proof.

Versions available in other countries include the 101 proof at 8 and 12 years old, a blend at 106 proof, an 86.8 proof and alcopops pre-mixed with cola or dry ginger.

One reviewer from Whisky Magazine, proclaimed that Wild Turkey 101 is, "A Clint Eastwood of whiskeys." It also earned an 'Editor's Choice' award from the same publication.[4]

The Wild Turkey brand has also been extended to a 101 proof rye whiskey, made from a mash of roughly 65% rye, 23% corn and 12% barley,[5] and to a honey liqueur. International spirit ratings organizations have consistently given favorable reviews to the Wild Turkey 101 Single Barrel. Proof66.com, aggregator of reviews from various "expert" bodies, places the 101 Single Barrel in the 97th percentile of all rated bourbons.[6]

Kentucky River Fish Kill

On May 9, 2000, a seven-story warehouse in Anderson County, Kentucky was destroyed in a fire, spilling the contents of thousands of gallons of the company's whiskey aging barrels into the Kentucky River. The alcohol spills killed hundreds of thousands of fish along a 66 mile stretch of the river. The company paid $256,000 to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in an effort to restore the fish population in the river.[7]

In popular culture

Although in recent years Wild Turkey has gained a more sophisticated reputation,[8] its prior reputation for being an inexpensive, highly-alcoholic product had the bourbon showing up in popular culture often, usually to suggest a rough, macho persona; a person who has fallen on hard times; or even a person with "white trash" traits.


Wild Turkey, Real Kentucky
Austin, Nichols' 80 proof
Economy brand Bourbon.

Wild Turkey is known for being a favorite drink of journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and is mentioned in his 1972 book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (as well as the film of the same name), and the 1973 book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. In Stephen King's book It, when asked what the bar whiskey is, the bartender replies, "For everyone else in this dump it's Four Roses, but for you I think it's Wild Turkey." David Foster Wallace's seminal novel Infinite Jest has James Incandenza as an alcoholic filmmaker and tennis academy head who drinks Wild Turkey; and in Scott Sigler’s science fiction book Infected, main character Perry Dawsey is described several times as drinking Wild Turkey. In Patrick Neate's 2004 book "City of Tiny Lights" the private investigator anti-hero and narrator of the tale, Tommy Akhtar, subsists on a diet of mostly Wild Turkey and Benson and Hedges cigarettes, referring to them as "Benny and the Turk".


The bourbon is the drink of choice for adult male leads in Rambo: First Blood Part II and The Cassandra Crossing (which are both directed by George Pan Cosmatos), Rush, Silver Bullet, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Bad Lieutenant, The Eiger Sanction, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Punisher, Where the Buffalo Roam, and The Guardian. It is also referenced in numerous films, including The Color of Money, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Thelma & Louise, Death Proof, Monster's Ball, Freddy Got Fingered, Out Cold, Crazy Heart, The Eiger Sanction, "Cookie's Fortune" and Trees Lounge


NCIS and Justified routinely shows characters with a bottle of the product, and on occasion television shows have made references to it, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer (episode "Beer Bad"), The Sopranos (season 3, episode 10), Seinfeld (season 7, episode "The Hot Tub", also season 5's episode "The Dinner Party" shows George holding a bottle), Trigun, True Blood (season 3, episode "Beautifully Broken"), "Frasier" (season 2, episode "Roz in the Doghouse"), and Will & Grace (season 7).


"Wild Turkey" was the title of a 1982 top-ten country single for singer Lacy J. Dalton (the song employed the names of various whiskies as nicknames for drunken patrons in a bar).[citation needed]

Wild Turkey is mentioned in the lyrics of the song "Sober" by Muse; in Ray Wylie Hubbard's 1973 hit (with Jerry Jeff Walker and others) "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother", and in ZZ Top’s "Arrested For Driving While Blind". Danny Barker's version of "St. James Infirmary Blues," The Cowboy Junkies' "Where Are You Tonight?," Justin Moore's song "Run Out of Honky Tonks," and George Thorogood's "I Drink Alone" refer to the product.

Wild Turkey was popular with Pantera and inspired the name of what the band considered it's fifth studio album, Official Live: 101 Proof.


External links

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