Wild Turkey Rye 81 Review

Wild Turkey Rye 81 Review

Wild Turkey 81 Proof Rye is great for mixing cocktails. That’s not a put down, it’s just the truth. For having such a high quantity of rye (65% vs the 51% of many ryes on the market now) the rye notes are strangely muted in the nose and not nearly as assertive on the palate as I was expecting them to be. Which is kind of a shame because that spicy rye kick is a major reason the rye 101 is so damn good.

Truth be told I feel a bit bad for the 81 because it’s bigger and, as already stated, more delicious brother the Rye 101 stole the scene before 81 really truly arrived. Then, soon after the 101 left the scene the Russell’s Reserve rye showed up in a big way and once again stole the show. These amazing products are unfortunately what this poor guy is always going to be measured against and while it might seem a bit unfair, that’s just the way the barrel tumbles.

Overall this isn’t my favorite rye, but it’s also not my least favorite rye. It’s sweet, kinda fruity and the rye spice just doesn’t hit as hard as I’d expect for something with this heavy of a rye content. Like it’s 81 proof bourbon brother, drinking neat just isn’t it’s strong suite. However cocktails are another story and that’s where this Tom really struts it’s stuff. The WT 81 Rye knocks it out of the park when it comes to mixing up something tasty, especially in classic cocktails like a Sazerac, Manhattan or Old Fashioned. Which means really, you have nothing to loose with trying a bottle because the worst case scenario is that, like me, you don’t care for it neat and end up making some killer cocktails instead. Which, as far as endings go, ain’t too bad.

Wild Turkey Rye 81 Review

ABV: 40.5%
Age: 4 years
Price: $24*
Distiller: Austin, Nichols Distilling Company
Mash: 65% rye, 23% corn, and 12% malted barley

Light amber almost gold

Strangely fruity nose that starts out with orchard fruit, vanilla, sugary tropical fruit and caramel. The rye spice is tragically low on the nose and there is a slight floral characteristic that haunts the background along with an underriding note I can only describe as “Skittles”. Interesting.

Caramel followed by orchard fruit and a decent dose of rye spice. What it lacked on the nose it made up for on the palate in the rye category. Following the rye’s triumphant return are notes of citrus, honey, raw grains and a touch of wood come waltzing through.

A bit off balanced with flavors coming and going and sweet and savory being at odds with each other. A thin and watery body mix with a lax feel to create a less-than-exuberant, but far from unpleasant, experience.

A medium finish of rye spice, dark fruit, raw grain and a mild astringency that perks up towards the end.

SCORE: 83/100

*This bottle was graciously provided by Wild Turkey’s PR team for the purposes of this review

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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Filed Under: Rye

9 Responses to Wild Turkey Rye 81 Review

  1. Josh – First off big fan of your work. You got me into blogging whiskey lately because of how fun you make this look! Although I am mainly covering flavored (whiskey purist sinning at its finest, I know) Its interesting to check in on your notes after I am done and we were really close on this one. The “floral” characteristic to me smelled like “Rose Jelly” my friend recently brought back from Paris. I went back and poured a glass today and compared it to the jelly, and it was dead on and more prominent to pick out! Just wanted to share this with you. Cheers.

  2. WT Rye is damn good for $19/750ML, particularly now that Geo. Dickel 90* rye (MGP’s “Bulleit” dropped thru charcoal) raised their 750 from $20 to $29.
    I think of WT’s rye as “reverse bourbon,” which somehow I prefer to 75% corn mash, and 95% tye.

  3. You’re score for this rye is the same as Old Overholt which is younger and has a mash bill of 51% rye. Which one do you feel is the better whiskey?

  4. Yup,love dat spicy Rye.The main review above, nailed it.
    I’m a Turkey fan. But, if you have a choice, always reach for the higher quality, fully rye bodied, satisfying, 101.

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