Wild Turkey 81 Review

Wild Turkey 81 Review


A few years back Wild Turkey 81 replaced the not-so-popular Wild Turkey 80. Wild Turkey 80 was a 4 year bourbon that was watered down from barrel proof to meet the minimum legal proof (80) to be considered a bourbon and was rather lack luster. The 81 is only 1 proof (.5%) higher in alcohol content which still doesn’t bring the kick I like in my bourbon, but it is a blend of 6-8 year old whiskey that does bring with it some extra maturity and a bit more flavor. Compared to the 80 it’s a vast improvement. Compared to the amazing Wild Turkey 101… well there just isn’t any comparison.

Overall this is a decent bourbon. It’s not a stellar world class bourbon like the 101 and the Rare Breed, but it mixes easily in cocktails where you don’t want a strong bourbon taste. The bourbon pro probably won’t find anything interesting in it when drank neat, but the bourbon novice definitely will. The basic bourbon flavors and aromas are all present and if you think of it more as bourbon training wheels than a serious contender to the Wild Turkey throne it’s easy to see that it’s good for what it is. A simple and approachable 81 proof bourbon that still manages to deliver some quality bourbon flavor.

If you’ve had the Wild Turkey 81 add your own thoughts or notes in the comments below. I’d love to read them.

Wild Turkey 81 Review

ABV: 40.5%
Price: $16 (750ml)
Distiller: Austin Nichols / Wild Turkey

Light honey

Bourbon spice strolls out of the glass. It’s not a powerful aroma like it’s big brother, but it isn’t completely lack luster either. The usual characters of caramel, vanilla and oak show up with some orange zest and corn sidekicks.

Bourbon spice is again the first to arrive but this time it brings a bit of cinnamon with it. Caramel, corn on the cob, ‘Nilla Wafers and some bitter orange meander onto the palate along with a hint of raw alcohol. Which is a bit strange considering it’s been cut down.

This is where I start to struggle with it. It’s a bit watery and has almost no body to it at all. Smooth whiskey should still have a bit of bite to it, but here it’s missing completely.

Surprisingly long finish of corn, caramel, wood and alcohol that fade out to a caramel coffee syrup (think Torani) and alcohol. That hint of alcohol which was initially on the palate gets stronger as the other flavors fade. Not my favorite finish in bourbondom, but definitely not the worst.

SCORE: 81/100

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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12 Responses to Wild Turkey 81 Review

  1. Your review is on point. I bought a bottle to try it out, and I won’t be buying another. It’s not bad, but this Bourbon is built for people that don’t like bourbon. A beginner’s bourbon as you put it so nicely.

    Where is all this cinnamon flavor coming from? They are screwing with bourbon and getting too fancy. Just go back to the good ol staple.

    • Thanks Greg, I appreciate that. The cinnamon notes are a bit strong here, I think it comes from the lower proof. If you water down some 101, I’ve noticed it comes out more there too.

  2. Josh,
    I would agree with Greg when he says, your review is on point. The only thing I would add (and this is not necessarily a bad thing) but I’m getting hints of a cough syrupy aftertaste. I would definetly say this is a bourbon with training wheels.

  3. I find the quality of 81 closer to 101 than the reviewer. I’d rate them 89-85. There’s just not that much different between the two. I love them both.

  4. After tasting G. Dickel 12 (2 glasses) I tried Wild Turkey 81 which unfortunately was the only one available to me here in BC.
    I couldn’t get my paws on the 101 that I REALY wanted to try.
    Still; not bad (not great either) have to agree with Peters on the most part.
    I prefer Dickel 12 over this but could be, because I had it first.
    And whatever you taste first, usually tastes better.
    However I stil am looking very much forward to tasting the 101 somewhere, though.


    PS, though this is about Bourbon; Josh P, you should do a review on Alberta Premium 100% rye, (you’ll have to skip the line into the True North of America (Canada) in order to get your paws on a bottle cuss the don’t export, (ain’t that STUPID? I.M.H.O. you won’t be disappointed.


  5. I’m a big WT fan, especially the 101, Rare Breed, and Russell’s Reserve. I also like the 81 for those times you want a little milder whiskey in your glass. I know you can dial in the 101 with a couple splashes of water or an ice cube to get your own perfect glass of whiskey and that’s what I usually do. But I think this also has a place on the shelf. It’s good, it’s cheap, and it’s still Wild Turkey. Oh, the Wild Turkey Honey, does not have a place on the shelf. No thank you.

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