Wild Turkey (bourbon)

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Wild Turkey Bourbon whiskey
Wild Turkey (bourbon) logo.png
WildTurkeyBottle no1.jpg
Wild Turkey 101
Type Bourbon whiskey
Country of origin Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, United States
Introduced 1940
Proof (US) 80, 81, 86.8, 101, 108.2
Variants Wild Turkey 101
Wild Turkey 81
Wild Turkey Rye
American Honey
Wild Turkey Rare Breed
Russell's Reserve 6, 10
Russell's Reserve Single Barrel
Kentucky Spirit
Wild Turkey 86.8
Wild Turkey 8, 12

Wild Turkey is a brand of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey distilled and bottled by the Austin Nichols division of Campari Group. The distillery is located near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. It offers tours, and is part of the American Whiskey Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

History [edit]

In 1891, Thomas Ripy built the Old Hickory Distillery in Tyrone, Kentucky, near Lawrenceburg, on the former site of the Old Moore Distillery. After Prohibition, the Ripy family (Thomas had died in 1902) repaired the distillery and began to again produce bourbon. The Ripys sold the bourbon produced at this distillery to various wholesalers who bottled bourbon under their own brands. Austin Nichols was one of these wholesalers. The Ripys were bought out in 1949 by Robert and Alvin Gould.[1]

Austin Nichols began to bottle Wild Turkey in 1942. For the next three decades, Austin Nichols remained a non-distiller producer - bottling bourbon purchased on the open market under their Wild Turkey brand. Much of this whiskey was purchased from the Ripys' distillery in Tyrone.

In 1971, Austin Nichols purchased the Ripys' distillery in Tyrone, KY (then known as the Boulevard Distillery). The name was changed to the Wild Turkey Distillery.[2]

In 1980, the distillery and the Wild Turkey brand were purchased by Pernod Ricard.[3]

In 2009, the Campari Group acquired the distillery and the Wild Turkey brand from Pernod Ricard.[4]

In 2011, Wild Turkey began to be distilled at a newly constructed facility near the old distillery. The new distillery sits where the old bottling facility was previously located.[5]

In 2013, Campari opened a new bottling facility at the Wild Turkey Distillery. For the previous 13 years Wild Turkey had been bottled offsite in Indiana and, later, Arkansas.[6]

Origin of name[edit]

The legend of the origin of the "Wild Turkey" brand is that Thomas McCarthy took some warehouse samples on a wild turkey hunting trip in 1940. The bourbon proved such a hit that his friends continued to ask him for "that wild turkey bourbon." [7][8]


Campari bottles bourbon and rye under the "Wild Turkey" and the "Russel's Reserve" brands.

Current bottlings[edit]

Its current offerings under the "Wild Turkey" brand are:

  • Wild Turkey 81 Proof
  • Wild Turkey 81 Proof Rye
  • Wild Turkey 101 Proof
  • Wild Turkey 101 Proof Rye
  • Wild Turkey Rare Breed (a barrel proof blend of 6, 8 and 12-year-old stocks)
  • Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit (a single barrel 101 proof bourbon)

Its current offerings under the "Russel's Reserve" brand are:

  • Russel's Reserve 10 year (90 proof)
  • Russel's Reserve Rye 6 Year (90 proof)
  • Russel's Reserve Single Barrel Rye (104 proof)
  • Russel's Reserve Single Barrel (110 proof)

Rye shortage[edit]

Wild Turkey Rye 101 was absent from the market for about a year during 2012-2013 due to unexpected demand and then resurfaced in November 2013.


Wild Turkey 101 earned an 'Editor's Choice' award from Whisky Magazine.[9] Proof66.com, aggregator of reviews from various "expert" bodies, places the 101 Single Barrel in the 97th percentile of all rated bourbons.[10]

Warehouse fire[edit]

On May 9, 2000, a fire destroyed a seven-story aging warehouse at the company in Anderson County, Kentucky. It contained more than 17,000 wooden barrels of whiskey. Burning whiskey flowed from the warehouse, setting the woods on fire, causing limestone deposits to explode. Firefighters saved Lawrenceburg's water treatment plant from destruction. However, an estimated 20% of the whiskey flowed into the Kentucky River. The river contamination required the temporary shutdown of the water treatment plant. Officials ordered water usage restrictions. Businesses and schools were closed because of the water shortage. The alcohol spill also depleted the oxygen in the river, killing an estimated 228,000 fish along a 66-mile stretch. The EPA and the Coast Guard's Gulf Strike Team aerated the river using equipment mounted on barges.[11] The company paid $256,000 to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in an effort to restore the fish population in the river.[12]

Product theft[edit]

In March 2015, Buffalo Trace employee Gilbert 'Toby' Curtsinger, was arrested by Franklin County authorities when five barrels of stolen Wild Turkey Bourbon were found on his property. On April 21, 2015, nine Kentucky residents, three of whom were employees at both Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace, were indicted for thefts at the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries dating back to 2008.[13] Over $100,000 worth of the stolen whiskey was recovered, including more than two dozen bottles of Pappy Van Winkle and 15 barrels of Wild Turkey.[14]

The heists included Pappy Van Winkle (more than two score cases), 50 to 70 cases of Eagle Rare bourbon and other stolen barrels of whiskey that are still missing. The warrants recovered one barrel of 17-year-old Eagle Rare worth more than $11,000,[15][16] All nine defendants are charged with being members of a criminal syndicate, engaging in organized crime.[14]

As illegal steroid sales were involved, there were also a number of other charges.[15][17][18] It was an inside job which was linked to illegal trafficking in steroids. Sheriff Melton said this "Bourbon Syndicate" had met in a softball league with Curtsinger being the ringleader.[19] Additional indictments continue to appear.[20] Some of the suspects have plead guilty, while others are cooperating with authorities.[21]

"Give 'em the Bird" promotional campaign[edit]

In 2011, an advertisement video called "Give 'em the Bird" was featured on the product's web site, Facebook page, and YouTube page that prominently included a middle finger gesture and referred to other (non-existing) advertising videos featuring a nun and an adult blow-up doll.[22]

In August 2011, the review board of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), of which Campari USA is a member,[23] ruled that the advertisement violated the council's code of ethical practices and said that "the gesture is indecent and the advertisement fails to meet contemporary standards of good taste".[24] According to DISCUS, the company disagreed with the board's interpretation but agreed to withdraw the advertisement.[22]

The Australian version of the advertisement features the famous rock musician (and self-confessed former alcoholic) Jimmy Barnes.[citation needed]

Since then, the company has continued to use the "Give 'em the Bird" slogan and middle finger gesturing in additional advertising and promotional activities.[25][26] In November, 2012, Jimmy Russell, the Wild Turkey Master Distiller, publicly called for U.S. President Barack Obama to "Give us the bird", as a way of offering to provide a home for that year's White House Thanksgiving Day turkey (which is traditionally "pardoned" by the president) – saying the turkey would become the brand's official "spokesbird".[27][28]

Matthew McConaughey campaign[edit]

In 2016, Matthew McConaughey was hired as creative director and celebrity spokesman for Wild Turkey's latest campaign, to bring in more women and more international customers.[29][30]

In popular culture[edit]

Although in recent years Wild Turkey has gained a more sophisticated reputation,[31] 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 80 proof. More recent bottlings are at 81 proof (40.5 % ABV).

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 novel Infinite Jest has James Incandenza as an alcoholic filmmaker and tennis academy head who drinks Wild Turkey, as well as being referenced as Wallace's drink of choice in his biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story. 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". In Adrian Edmondson's 1995 novel "The Gobbler", the hard-drinking central protagonist, Julian Mann, has a penchant for Wild Turkey, particularly in combination with pints of lager.


The bourbon is the drink of choice for characters in Rambo: First Blood Part II and The Cassandra Crossing (which are both directed by George Pan Cosmatos), Rush, "Mystic River (film)", In the Heat of the Night (film), Silver Bullet, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Bad Lieutenant, Barb Wire, 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, With Honors, Thelma & Louise, Death Proof, Monster's Ball, Freddy Got Fingered, Out Cold, Crazy Heart, Cookie's Fortune, Frankenhooker, Trees Lounge and Tammy.


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"), "A Very Peculiar Practice" (season 2, episode "May the Force Be with You"), and Will & Grace (season 7), and "Married... with Children" (season 8, episode "Nooner or Nothing"). On the season 2 episode "Sweetums" of Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson mentions his old man used to put Wild Turkey on his Cornflakes, while explaining why his family has a preternaturally high tolerance for alcohol. The title character in "Jessica Jones" is frequently shown drinking from a bottle of Wild Turkey 101.


"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]


  1. ^ Lipman, John; Lipman, Linda. "The Boulevard Distilling Company". American Whiskey. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  2. ^ Veach, Mike. "Wild Turkey Timeline". Bourbon Enthuisiast. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  3. ^ Jolly, David. "Pernod Sells Wild Turkey Brand to Gruppo Campari". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  4. ^ Cleary, Andrew; Sara Gay Forden (2009-04-09). "Campari Buys Pernod's Wild Turkey for $575 Million". Bloomberg. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  5. ^ Cowdery, Chuck. "Wild Turkey Unveils New Distillery". The Chuck Cowdery Blog. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Cowdery, Chuck. "Wild Turkey Opens New Bottling Plant". The Chuck Cowdery Blog. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  7. ^ Austin, Nichols. "Wild Turkey History". Retrieved 2016-12-14. 
  8. ^ Knollewe, Julia (April 8, 2009). "The History of Wild Turkey". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Whisky magazine. "Wild Turkey 101". Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  10. ^ "Wild Turkey 101 Page on Proof66.com". Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  11. ^ "Whiskey River Encore". Industrial Fire World. 2000.
  12. ^ John Whitehead. "Environmental Economics: Costs of the Black River fish kill". Retrieved August 16, 2005. 
  13. ^ Conlon, Kevin (April 22, 2015). "Sheriff: Criminal whiskey syndicate uncovered in Kentucky". CNN. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Kentucky bourbon theft ring targeted Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, Pappy Van Winkle". AL.com. Associated Press. April 22, 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 
  15. ^ a b "Detective: Key man in bourbon theft promoted the victim". Times Free Press. Associated Press. April 22, 2015. Retrieved April 12, 2016. 
  16. ^ Hall, Gregory A.; Loftus, Tom (March 12, 2015). "Stolen bourbon from Wild Turkey recovered". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  17. ^ Schreiner, Bruce (April 21, 2015). "Officials: Rogue workers targeted big bourbon distilleries". Yahoo News. Associated Press. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  18. ^ Hall, Gregory A.; Karma, Dickerson (April 22, 2015). "Pappy Van Winkle theft may be tied to syndicate" (Video). The Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV. Louisville, Kentucky. Retrieved June 13, 2015. 
  19. ^ Patton, Janet; Kocher, Greg (April 21, 2015). "Nine indicted in thefts of bourbon from Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace, including rare Pappy". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved April 12, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Former security guard indicted in bourbon theft scheme; prosecutor says she turned 'blind eye'". Fox News. Frankfort, Ky. Associated Press. May 19, 2015. Retrieved May 19, 2015. 
  21. ^ Schreiner, Bruce (May 22, 2015). "Husband, wife plead not guilty in Kentucky bourbon thefts". Yahoo News. Associated Press. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Wild Turkey Bourbon Advertisement, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) web site
  23. ^ Member Companies, DISCUS official web site.
  24. ^ Recent Code Review Board Decisions, DISCUS web site.
  25. ^ Schriener, Bruce, Wild Turkey takes 'Give 'em the bird' pitch to TV, Associated Press, May 1, 2012
  26. ^ Sanina, Anna, "Give 'em the Bird" Says Wild Turkey, Popsop Brand Magazine, May 3, 2012.
  27. ^ Wild Turkey Distiller Asks Obama to Give Kentucky the Bird,[dead link] Hispanic Business, November 19, 2012.
  28. ^ "Wild Turkey Bourbon Invites President Obama to Give 'em the Bird", Wild Turkey press release on Kentucky Distillers Association web site, November 15, 2012.
  29. ^ McMahan, Dana. "In Nod to Female Bourbon Fans, Wild Turkey Hires Matthew McConaughey". Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  30. ^ "Wild Turkey Bourbon: Matthew McConaughey Short Film". YouTube. WildTurkey. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  31. ^ Beverage Dynamics Magazine "Born in the USA" by Robert Plotkin September/October 2004 issue

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°02′19″N 84°51′02″W / 38.03861°N 84.85056°W / 38.03861; -84.85056