Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Voyage Bourbon Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Voyage Bourbon Review

If you’re aware of the entanglements of ownership in the spirits industry, then sometimes you can see certain limited edition collaborations coming before they actually happen. So it is with the iconic bourbon producer Wild Turkey, owned by Italian alcohol megacorp Gruppo Campari since 2009. When Campari likewise acquired Jamaica’s J. Wray and Nephew Ltd in 2012–and the instantly recognizable Appleton Estates rum brand with it–the savvy observer would no doubt conclude that one day we’d eventually see collaboration between the two, likely in the form of bourbon finished in Appleton Estate rum casks. And though it may have taken a while to arrive, that product is here now, in the form of Wild Turkey’s newest expression in the Master’s Keep series, Master’s Keep Voyage Bourbon.

This is pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to be: The marriage between mature, 10-year-old Wild Turkey bourbon selected by Master Distiller Eddie Russell and select rum casks selected by Dr. Joy Spence, the industry-renowned Master Blender of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum. Notably, this bourbon was laid to rest for its secondary maturation in casks that previously held 14-year-old pot still rum, which to rum geeks will tell us that the rum and estery “funk” character are likely to be on the stronger side, given that most of the Appleton Estate products on the shelf are blends of lighter column still rums and the “heavy” pot still portion to beef up the intensity of flavor. Master’s Keep Voyage was bottled at 53% ABV (106 proof), with a rather gaudy $275 MSRP, a notable jump from last year’s $200 Master’s Keep Unforgotten, which was itself already an increase. Another day, another big jump in limited edition bourbon pricing, eh? Voyage at least has some unique aspects to point to–those well-seasoned rum casks are not cheap–in justifying its price point, but you still can’t fault any drinker for feeling that the segment has drifted out of their price range at this point.

With that said, let’s get to tasting and see how these pot still Jamaican rum casks have influenced Wild Turkey’s classic bourbon spirit.

On the nose, Master’s Keep Voyage is redolent in distinctly rummy qualities, overflowing with heavily caramelized sugars–loads of brown sugar, molasses cookie and related spice notes of cinnamon and especially clove, slightly suggestive of allspice. There’s some roasted banana-like fruitiness that gives is a slight tropical impression, and searching further you can dig up hints of sweet corn/graininess, but the caramelized sugars really dominate the nose. Over time, there are also traces of dried fruit emerging as well. All in all, the nose suggests big sweetness.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find that the palate of Master’s Keep Voyage was not really quite what I was expecting from how the nose initially presents. I had thought that perhaps the rum casks would be celebrated above all else, but on the palate it’s Wild Turkey’s bourbon that authoritatively strides to the center stage. Big oak is present here, with heavy char, ashy roast and vanilla cream. Herbal rye is also present, with more herbaceous and peppery flavors than I ever expected from the sweet nose, along with roasted plantain and currant fruit. It’s not that the sweetness isn’t there, presenting with some of the same brown sugar, but there’s an edge to it contributed by oak and roasty astringency, nor does it all scream “rum” right off the bat. That is, until the finish of this dram, where–minutes later, even–a distinctly pot still rum funk, spicy and almost rubbery, creeps to the forefront. That may not necessarily sound appealing, but it’s very typical of the Jamaican rum funk known as hogo, which adds a wonderful aspect of complexity to the back end here. All in all, as with so many Wild Turkey products, this one feels like it grows more complex with each subsequent sips–one of my favorite things about the distillery in general.

This is a really interesting, very engaging bottle of bourbon, offering some character that many American whiskey geeks may not have experienced before. The MSRP likely presents a barrier to entry for many, but it may also keep bottles on the shelf a little bit longer if you’re trying to seek one out.

Distillery: Wild Turkey (Campari)
City: Lawrenceburg, KY
Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 53% (106 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $275 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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