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  1. #1
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    Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    Late last night I had my first drink of bourbon of the day, and I settled on Kentucky Spirit, a generous two ounces in a Rare Breed glass.

    As I settled down to take a look at Fox News on TV, I casually sniffed my drink. I found it very pleasing, even though no vivid descriptors came to mind.

    A few sniffs later, I took a sip. It was disappointing. It simply didn't provide a continuation of the enjoyable aroma that had impressed me earlier.

    As I pondered my sensations, I couldn't help but wonder whether I was being fair. Did my emotional attachment to the Wild Turkey image and my knowledge that I was drinking their top-of-the-line bottling in the domestic market cause me to expect too much? Or could it be that the bourbon delivered too little?

    I tried to imagine (a risky approach, at best) encountering KS in a blind tasting. Never mind whether I would recognize it; after careful tasting, would I conclude that I was drinking a special bourbon, one worthy of a $40 price label? Absent any knowledge of its source, and without the recent memory of feeling the hefty weight of that magnificent stopper in my hand, would I find this bourbon more enjoyable than any number of others that sell for half the price, or a bit more?

    What causes me to favor any bourbon over another? Complexity? Hardly. I seldom identify more than two or three flavors (never coriander, candlewood or cattails ). Lack of burn? Yes, to some extent, but it can't be too sissy-fied, either. A vague sense of a quality of richness in the flavor? Frequently. Yet on occasion I find a quality of focused clarity appealling. (Think "Virgina Gentleman, 90 proof, six year-old".)

    I'm not sure where all this leads, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Kentucky Spirit may end up on my do-not-replace list, joining such disparate entries as Jefferson's Reserve, Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel, Kentucky Pride, Evan Williams Single Barrel '92 and Benchmark.

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2003 and Super Moderator
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    Feb 2002
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    Kentucky
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    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    Don't feel bad about that Dave, I am not so fond of Kentucky Spirit. The way this bird flies for me is, WT 12, best they make that I've had and in short supply and getting shorter. The plain vanilla 101 , the one with a picture of a turkey on the label. Russells Reserve is fine but I think if I wiegh a cost factor in , I'm back to the plain ol' 101.

  3. #3
    Administrator in exile
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    Aug 2002
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    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    Dave,

    Was this your first experience with KS? If not, what has been your previous conclusion? I must admit I almost passed out when you put it in the same catagory as benchmark

  4. #4
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    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    Dave, I agree. I have a bottle of Kentucky Spirit. I like it fairly well. But, is it one of my top favorites? Not really. Is it worth $46? I don't know. Will I buy another bottle when this one runs dry? I sort of doubt it.

    My two faves are Rare Breed at $31 and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon at $37 (but, the last time I bought it, it was on sale for $33).

    I'm not even 100% positive that I'll replace my bottle of Blanton's at $45 when it runs out. Even though I voted for it in the recent "Favorite Single-Barrel Bourbon" poll.

    I am fickle, too. Just yesterday, I posted about my current inclination to go more upscale with my bourbon purchases.

    Tim

  5. #5
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    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    Jeff,

    The reference to Benchmark was intended to dramatize my point that I may not buy KS again, not to imply that there is any similarity between the two bottlings. I extend my apology to anyone who sustained an injury while reading my post.

    Yes, I have had some prior experience with Kentucky Spirit. This is my second bottle, which is about half gone.

    Back on Super Bowl Sunday I did my own Super Bowl of Bourbon by switching back and forth between KS and WT 12-year, which I found to be far more enjoyable. Up until that day I had regarded KS as the king of the rye-formula bourbons. I was stunned at the magnitude of the difference between it and the 12-year.

    I took another sip of KS just moments ago, and I have to admit that it tasted better than it did last night. However, considering price vs. enjoyment, it's still on the bubble.

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

  6. #6
    Connoisseur
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    May 2003
    Location
    Virginia
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    621

    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but Wild Turkey products just don't do it for me. It's really weird, because I can't really put my finger on exactly what it is I don't like. I imagine it's the mashbill, because whatever I taste in their midshelf bottlings I also get in the top-shelf.

    I got my bottle of KS during a Montgomery County, MD sale for only $29.59, so I wasn't entirely heartbroken when it became a dust-collector.


  7. #7
    Administrator in exile
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    Aug 2002
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    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    I took another sip of KS just moments ago, and I have to admit that it tasted better than it did last night. However, considering price vs. enjoyment, it's still on the bubble.

    It's good to see you're comming around I completely understand the value argument, as it is an expensive pour. But IMHO, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is the ultimate reflection of the Distiller's artwork. Perfectly balanced with the full spectrum of tastes and nuances. This is just how bourbon should taste. Now, we talk from time to time about extrordinary releases like Stagg and the Birthday Bourbon, but for a general production-run bourbon Kentucky Spirit is king

  8. #8
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
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    210

    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    I agree...about plain ol' 101 that is.

    I'm a big fan of Wild Turkey in all its shapes and forms but the difference in quality and taste between Kentucky Spirit and the plain 101 does not even come close to justifying the dramatic price difference (KS is $45 here while 101 is under $20).

    I might've mentioned this before in another thread but the last bottle of 101 I had was incredible. It was actually better than my current bottle of KS.

    -Troy

  9. #9
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
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    Sep 2002
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    Toronto, Canada
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    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    One of the things I find in the WT line-up is their more-than-usual charred taste, resulting from heavy (nos. 3 or 4) firing of the new casks. Also, WT tends to have a rye-oriented palate. These two factors, or either, may explain your approach to these products. I find them all very good, very traditional in the senses indicated. It took me some time to accustom to the barbecued wood effect, but now it seems part of the traditional bourbon taste. I can't seem to get away from history and must note that old Doc Crow from Scotland is said to have devised barrel charring for bourbon. Even if he didn't do it singlehandedly, he surely (by virtue also of being a chemist) promoted a systematic approach to whiskey aging and maturation. And, in the early 1800's, whisky in Scotland meant malt whisky (unblended) and most of that would have been smoky in taste. A pet theory of mine is that Dr. Crow developed or systematized charred barrel aging in Kentucky as a way to emulate the peat smoke effect he was used to back home. And in truth, peat smoke infused in the kilned malt lends complexity to malt whisky, just as a good layer of wood smoke does to bourbon whiskey. And then too, the Scots (maybe returning the favour) came to like American bourbon casks to age their own whisky in, so it kind of all ties together - maybe.

    Or, what goes around comes around... Come to think of it, isn't that an old Scots-Irish expression?

    Gary

  10. #10
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    Re: Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?

    Jeff,

    ... but for a general production-run bourbon Kentucky Spirit is king.
    Perhaps. If so, it's only because the previous king (the magnificent WT 12 year-old) has abdicated and gone into exile in Japan.

    If you've never tasted the rapidly-disappearing-from-USA-shelves 12 year-old, perhaps you shouldn't. It may ruin you, too, for Kentucky Spirit.

    Yours truly,
    Dave Morefield

 

 

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