While the rest of the world is busy trying to imitate Kentucky’s famed spirit, those north of the 49th are improving it. As many of you know I’m more of a Scotch drinker; I appreciate the nuance. This is largely due to my experience with the endless lineup of one-dimensional drams that can often define college life. But we grow up. We try new things. And eventually, we even change our minds.
The drink: Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky Straight Bourbon
The method: Poured neat into a crystal whisky glass at room temperature.
Editor’s notes: Wild Turkey’s 81 Kentucky Straight Bourbon pours a deep amber (owing to the alligator char American oak barrels it is aged in) and lacks the syrupy appearance of bourbons with higher sugar content. Anticipating a slightly boozier kick (it clocks in at 81 per cent ABV), the first sip revealed instead a smooth blend of sweet tobacco, vanilla and spiced fruit. The spiciness lingers well into the finish, as does a hint of burnt maple sugar.
The verdict: A bourbon that can (surprisingly) be sipped as easily as it complements a cocktail. My favourite aspects of this bottle were the unannounced whisps of smoke that chased the aforementioned tobacco and burnt sugar. Along with the maltier elements of the bourbon, this spirit features a bold profile that’s still relatively smooth for its price. I’d stir it into an Old Fashioned; however, in sending me this bottle, Wild Turkey suggested the following recipe for a refreshing, mint-infused Manhattan.
The Manhattan 81
1 3/4 ounces Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky Straight Bourbon
1/3 ounce dry vermouth
1/3 ounce sweet vermouth
1 thin slice fresh ginger
3 mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar
1 dash aromatic bitters
Muddle ginger and mint in a cocktail shaker and add powdered sugar and bitters. Add bourbon, vermouth and ice. Shake and strain into a chilled glass.