Wild Turkey (bourbon)

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Wild Turkey Bourbon whiskey
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]

The Ripy brothers built a distillery in Tyrone, Kentucky near Lawrenceburg in 1869, 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.[1]

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.[citation needed] The 80 proof version was introduced in 1974.[2]

Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell is the longest-tenured, active master distiller in the world,[3] and pioneered the flavored bourbon category in 1976. He is the creator of American Honey (originally known as Wild Turkey Honey Liqueur).[3]


The Wild Turkey label carries a vividly printed, seemingly engraved illustration of its namesake. In the United States, five varieties of the bourbon are generally available: 81 proof (formerly 80 proof), 101 proof, Kentucky Spirit, Russell's Reserve, and Rare Breed.[4]

Wild Turkey Rare Breed top-shelf bourbon

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is a single barrel version at 101 proof; Russell's Reserve, a 10-year-old named for master distiller Jimmy Russell, is 90 proof; Rare Breed (which is a blend of 6, 8, and 12-year-old stocks at 108.4 proof); and to a honey liqueur, called American Honey.

Other releases from Wild Turkey include the limited edition Wild Turkey Tradition,[5] Wild Turkey 81 proof Bourbon,[6] Wild Turkey 81 proof Rye Whiskey,[7] Wild Turkey Spiced,[8] and Wild Turkey Forgiven (blend of Rye and Bourbon).[9]

The Wild Turkey brand also includes rye whiskey, made from a mash of roughly 65% rye, 23% corn and 12% malted barley at 101 proof.[citation needed] 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.[10]

Wild Turkey 101 earned an 'Editor's Choice' award from Whisky Magazine.[11] 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.[12]

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.[13] The company paid $256,000 to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in an effort to restore the fish population in the river.[14]

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.[15] Because of his tie to Buffalo Trace and the perceived similarity of the crimes, there was public suspicion that Curtsinger was connected to the Pappy theft (below).[clarification needed]

On April 21, 2015 nine Kentucky residents, three of whom were employees at the both Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace, were indicted for thefts at the Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey distilleries dating back to 2008.[16] 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. Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton held a press conference [17] where he reported details and explained that seized barrels of bourbon will have to be destroyed after the trial is completed. Melton expressed his hopes to return the unopened bottles of Pappy Van Winkle to the Van Winkle Family.[16]

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,[18][19] All nine defendants are charged with being members of a criminal syndicate, engaging in organized crime. Because nine were said to be operating a "criminal syndicate," the name "Great Bourbon Syndicate" was coined to refer to the group of alleged criminals.[16]

As illegal steroid sales were involved, there were also a number of other charges.[18][20][21] 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. Authorities say they believe that there are still others involved in the syndicate who have yet to be identified along with other stolen bourbon still out there.[16] Additional indictments continue to appear.[22] Some of the suspects have plead guilty, while others are cooperating with authorities.[23]

"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.[24] Other brand promotional activities of the company also centered around the "Give 'em the Bird" slogan and gesture.[25] In August 2011, the review board of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), of which Campari USA is a member,[26] 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".[27] According to DISCUS, the company disagreed with the board's interpretation but agreed to withdraw the advertisement.[24]

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.[28][29] 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".[30][31]

In popular culture[edit]

Although in recent years Wild Turkey has gained a more sophisticated reputation,[32] 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 adult male leads 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, 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.


"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", 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 the Dogs D'Amour song "Princess Valium".

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


  1. ^ Cleary, Andrew; Sara Gay Forden (2009-04-09). "Campari Buys Pernod's Wild Turkey for $575 Million". Bloomberg. p. 1. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  2. ^ Austin, Nichols. "Wild Turkey History". Archived from the original on 18 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  3. ^ a b "Wild Turkey American Honey Sting Ghost Pepper Bourbon Liqueur;". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 2014-10-07. 
  4. ^ "Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon Review", Cocktail Enthusiast, June 24, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
  5. ^ "Wild Turkey Tradition Bourbon;". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  6. ^ "Wild Turkey 81 Proof Bourbon;". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  7. ^ "Wild Turkey 81 Proof Rye;". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 2012-03-27. 
  8. ^ "Wild Turkey Spiced Bourbon;". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 2013-08-23. 
  9. ^ "Wild Turkey Forgiven;". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  10. ^ "Wild Turkey Rye Reintroduced;". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  11. ^ Whisky magazine. "Wild Turkey 101". Retrieved 2007-02-12. 
  12. ^ "Wild Turkey 101 Page on Proof66.com". Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  13. ^ "Whiskey River Encore". Industrial Fire World. 2000.
  14. ^ John Whitehead. "Environmental Economics: Costs of the Black River fish kill". Retrieved August 16, 2005. 
  15. ^ Fischer, Tom (12 March 2015). "Wild Turkey Bourbon Theft Suspect". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c d Fischer, Tom (21 April 2015). "Great Bourbon Syndicate: 9 Kentuckians Steal Bourbon for 7 years". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  17. ^ Fischer, Tom (21 April 2015). "Pappy Bourbon Theft Full Press Conference". BourbonBlog.com. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  18. ^ a b Schreiner, Bruce (April 22, 2015). "Detective: Key man in bourbon theft promoted the victim". Associated Press. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  19. ^ Hall, Gregory A.; Loftus, Tom (March 12, 2015). "Stolen bourbon from Wild Turkey recovered". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  20. ^ Schreiner, Bruce (April 21, 2015). "Officials: Rogue workers targeted big bourbon distilleries". Associated Press. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  21. ^ 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. 
  22. ^ "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. 
  23. ^ Schreiner, Bruce (May 22, 2015). "Husband, wife plead not guilty in Kentucky bourbon thefts". Associated Press. Retrieved May 23, 2015. 
  24. ^ a b Wild Turkey Bourbon Advertisement, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) web site
  25. ^ "Give 'em the Bird", Bourbonblog, August 23, 2011.
  26. ^ Member Companies, DISCUS official web site.
  27. ^ Recent Code Review Board Decisions, DISCUS web site.
  28. ^ Schriener, Bruce, Wild Turkey takes 'Give 'em the bird' pitch to TV, Associated Press, May 1, 2012
  29. ^ Sanina, Anna, "Give 'em the Bird" Says Wild Turkey, Popsop Brand Magazine, May 3, 2012.
  30. ^ Wild Turkey Distiller Asks Obama to Give Kentucky the Bird,[dead link] Hispanic Business, November 19, 2012.
  31. ^ "Wild Turkey Bourbon Invites President Obama to Give 'em the Bird", Wild Turkey press release on Kentucky Distillers Association web site, November 15, 2012.
  32. ^ 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