Most of us are familiar with the Boss Ross quote, “we don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” Eddie Russell would likely agree, given he OK’d the original release of Wild Turkey Forgiven in 2013, an allegedly accidental blend of bourbon and rye. Turns out Forgiven was a fondly regarded release, given it saw a second batch in 2014. Then, for the eighth Master’s Keep release, Wild Turkey put out Unforgotten, a clear harkening back to the Forgiven releases.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Master’s Keep release play spiritual successor to a previously released LE: Revival followed in Sherry Signature’s footsteps by finishing bourbon in old sherry casks. To that end, Unforgotten takes its predecessor’s foundation and seeks to build upon it. We now know the age of each component: 8-9-year rye whiskey and 13-year bourbon; the bottling proof is noticeably higher (105 versus 93); and the blend of straights is finished in ex-rye casks while resting in “the pre-prohibition Rickhouse B—the favorite rickhouse” of Jimmy Russell (who isn’t fond of rye).
How does this enticing list of enhancements impact the final product? Let’s find out. I wasn’t able to procure a bottle, but recently came into a blind sample, so I had half blind and the other half after learning its identity.
Nose: Chocolate and clove. Holiday spiced nuts (cinnamon, nutmeg) creep up over time with a little coconut and hints of citrus. Get some red fruit and berries throughout with dessert-y caramel and vanilla notes.
Palate: Upfront flavors are great: Brown sugar, caramel, citrus, and anise. Has a spice that sneaks up fairly heavily, with vanilla and pepper combining to create a vanilla spice characteristic.
Finish: Moderate length. Some lingering pepper and vanilla-citrus flavors, along with tobacco and moderate oak. As the spice settles in, a light and almost watery effervescence enters the picture. It’s drying, but not in a way that carries the strong notes hinted at by the nose and upfront palate.
Since its inception, the Master’s Keep line has felt like an accurate representation of interest in American whiskey and Wild Turkey alike. Not long ago they’d collect dust on shelves, back when people would struggle to justify a bourbon purchase anywhere north of $60. Nowadays? The word is out on many brands and drinkers are eager to part ways with their money for the right bottle. To say Wild Turkey hasn’t enjoyed some success in the whiskey boom would be nothing if not tone-deaf. Unforgotten (along with Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse) kept the train rolling by being an LE that many swept up and sung great praise for. I just wish I could say the same for my time with it.
The pour starts off promising enough on the nose, emanating aromas befitting of the holidays in the best way. This only becomes more so after sipping. As for the drinking experience? It starts great only to fall surprisingly flat. I enjoy the way the vanilla, citrus, and pepper spice notes intermingle to create something of a baking spice-laden creamsicle personality. The proof point and lack of chill filtration also lends a welcome texture, elevating its consistency above the likes of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye (104 proof and also NCF). However, that promising start is fleeting and soon fades to a finish that feels oddly watery and drying without the flavor to back it up. What ensues is, frankly, a hollow final impression with each sip.
I want to stress that this is far from a subpar pour; Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Unforgotten delivers high marks in a couple areas. The nose is easily the best part of the overall experience, which is nice since you can return to that aspect as much as you want. I also like that the proof point is higher than all but one Master’s Keep release (Cornerstone) and is non-chill filtered. Combined with the whiskey’s composition as a finished bourye, Unforgotten does feel like a creative and properly elevated release…up to a point. It doesn’t crack into my three favorite Master’s Keep releases, and I can’t say I regard it as positively as a solid Russell’s Single Barrel either. Good whiskey, but not a bottle I need to have in my collection.