Finding a previously released limited edition whiskey collecting dust on shelves is a bizarre, yet ultimately exciting experience. In some ways it feels like discovering a time capsule, even if said bottle was originally released only about five years ago. Add to that the booming popularity of American whiskey and discovering one of these bottles suddenly feels that much more special. Late summer of last year brought one of these to my attention, one I hadn’t even heard about beforehand: Wild Turkey Forgiven.
The story behind this whiskey is somewhat amusing: A crew member accidentally combined high-proof rye whiskey with bourbon in 2010 which, when brought to Eddie Russell, was considered good enough to salvage and bottle. Reception was apparently good enough to justify a recreation of Forgiven in 2014, resulting in the bottle (numbered batch 303) I acquired not so long ago. It’s also gotten rather low, so I figured now is as good a time as any to give it a final breakdown and share my thoughts. They are as follows:
Nose: Juicy cherry. Some brown sugar and nutmeg. Caramels and light vanilla. Fruit salad—red grapes, red apples, maybe some strawberry mingled with vanilla and caramel–likely courtesy of the rye. Otherwise, it smells like all bourbon. Gentle but tangible presence of oak with sweet cinnamon and mint combo (cinna-mint). Decent depth, quite enjoyable. Cinnamon and almond butter join the apple note. Rye shines after sipping, with pepper and mint leaves to boot. Lemon citrus with a bit of lime, as well as nuts and tobacco leaves.
Palate: A bit thin, but has a small level of silkiness. Very easy to drink. The rye finally reveals itself. Sweet upfront with fruit, honey, and caramel followed by dry rye qualities: black pepper, rye spice. Light brown sugar and dry mint, a touch savory. A touch of dry roasted nuts.
Finish: Oak, pepper, and residual brown sugar and caramel. A bit more salt. Light, dry citrus. Cilantro perhaps? Quite lengthy, especially for the proof.
Talk about a transformation. On the nose, Forgiven is decidedly bourbon-like from the get-go, coming across like Wild Turkey attempting a Four Roses type of concoction. This is greeted with a good ol’ “hello there” from the rye after sipping, to the point that revisiting the nose is like smelling a completely different whiskey. What quickly becomes clear is that the rye whiskey is calling the shots while the bourbon seems to meander around. Even the lengthy finish can largely be attributed to the rye. The overall experience isn’t as balanced as I might have wanted or imagined, but to be fair, this is an allegedly accidental blend.
So where does Forgiven stand in the grand scheme? Honestly, this is one of the few limited releases I’ve tried that I don’t mind being limited. The balance of bourbon and rye here feels slightly off since the former takes a bit of a backseat and only occasions itself to quip every now and then. As for the rye aspects, they’re pleasant but feel just a touch stilted. I do appreciate what’s presented here, especially from an aromatics standpoint. It’s just a shame the rest of the experience can’t keep up, because there’s so much promise to find. This isn’t to say that I don’t like Forgiven (I do), I simply wouldn’t feel compelled to purchase a replacement bottle should one appear.