View Full Version : Wild Turkey: 1940s-1960s

01-04-2011, 20:49

Does anyone have any Wild Turkey from the original release (1940's) through about 1969? The oldest stuff I've personally seen dates from the early 70s. I haven't seen anything older and would really like to do a vertical (between what I've got and another Tucon bourbon hound has it should be interesting).

any information would be great.

01-05-2011, 05:49
Can anybody speak to where was it being made during that period of time, too?

01-05-2011, 06:43
Can anybody speak to where was it being made during that period of time, too?

It was a bulk whiskey.

01-05-2011, 07:39
I came across a bottle a while back that I believe was from the late 1950's. I drank 1/2 and put 1/2 away in a 375ml. It was very dark and rich, but had an off flavor to which I am particularly sensitive.

It is definitely fair game for tasting at any future New England gathering or the next time I make it down to the Gazebo.

01-05-2011, 07:50
Finally was able to find my copy of Cecil's book, under the entry for Ripy Bros. Distillery, RD #27 (pp45-46):

[After being shut down by Prohibition t]he distillery was dismantled and the building partially razed. The distillery was rebuilt and reorganized about 1935 as Ripy Bros. R.D. No. 27.

The plant was bought out by Bob Gould and run as J.T.S. Brown for a period and then sold to Austin Nichols on July 1, 1972; they were distributors of "Wild Turkey" which was owned by Tom McCarthy Sr. and Jr. Ernie Ripy was the manager of the operation for many years and later relinquished the reins to John Center. [As of 1999] Tom Perry is the engineer and Jim Russell distiller...

I asked Tom McCarthy Sr. one time where his Wild Turkey distillery was and he admitted they did not own one but would not disclose where the whiskey was made.

Cecil goes on to name the usual suspects as possible sources for WT: Beam Clermont, Barton, and Bernheim. He states that McCarthy had "a long-time relationship with Schenley," and even stored whiskey at Old Joe and Dowling.

So any WT before 1972 (and maybe even well after that) would have been bulk whiskey. Maybe that accounts for the off flavors Mike noticed.

01-05-2011, 08:22
IIRC, multiple sources of bulk whiskey were reported to supply the Wild Turkey label until the distillery was acquired. I "acquired" the contents of a liquor cabinet that belonged to a former Austin Nichols sales rep. There were all sorts of imported liquors (mostly italian), Wild Turkeys, etc with the "Distributed/Imported By" Austin Nichols label. These were from the early '60's. I am not sure of the timeline when Austin Nichols transitioned from being 1) a food distributor to 2) a food and liquor distributor to 3) primarily selling Wild Turkey. My guess is that when they purchsed their distillery.....that became their focus.

I also don't recall the WT's from that period being remarkable. But they had been sitting around a long time when I tasted them.


01-06-2011, 15:50
All I would add to what has already been noted is that I have always been told, I believe by Jimmy Russell, among others, that one reason Austin, Nichols bought what was then called the Boulevard Distillery was because it was already their primary supplier. Not sole supplier, but primary.

When the bottom fell out of bourbon sales, Wild Turkey was largely unaffected on the sales side, but with commodity whiskey producers folding or being acquired left and right, obtaining a stable supply on the bulk market was becoming increasingly difficult. The reason Wild Turkey didn't lose share was because it was sold as a premium product and like Jack Daniel's, Jim Beam and a few others, its customers were very loyal. Many of the brands that were hurting, such as Old Crow and many others, started to compete on price. Wild Turkey never did and continued to be highly profitable, which justified the distillery purchase.

Turkey's premium positioning also means Austin, Nichols had high standards as to what whiskey was good enough for Turkey, starting with the fact that it had to be at least eight years old. So even though, yes, it was 'bulk whiskey,' it was some damn good bulk whiskey.