DSR – KY – 003: Longbranch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Company/Distillery: Wild Turkey Distilling Company
Location: Lawrenceburg, KY
Mash Bill: 75% Corn, 13% rye and 12% barley
Age Statement: No age statement (website indicates 8 year old Straight Bourbon)
Proof/ABV: 86 Proof/ 43% ABV
Color: Apple Juice
Purchase Price: $39.95 from NC ABC store; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”
“Oak & Texas Mesquite Charcoal Refined”
“Matthew McConaughey and Eddie Russell”
“Distilled and bottled by Wild Turkey Distilling Co. in Lawrenceburg, KY”
Wild Turkey Distilling Co.
The Wild Turkey Distiller, as it is known today, has only been around since the early 1940’s, despite seeming like it has been around since the beginning of bourbon. Starting at their beginning, however, would not give the distiller’s story the justice it deserves. Wild Turkey’s story actually begins almost 100 years earlier. In 1855, a grocer by the name of Austin Nichols began selling wine and spirits at his general store, eventually becoming one of the largest sellers of home goods around. He was the equivalent of a Sam Walton but during the Civil War era. Despite his success in selling wine and spirits, Nichols was not an actual producer of wine or spirits. Instead he sourced his products for wholesale from several of the distilleries around at the time. It is believed that one of those distillers would have been a distillery purchased around 1869 from the Ripy Brother’s Distillery located on Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
Fast forward almost 100 years to about 1940– an Austin Nichols executive by the name of Thomas McCarthy, went turkey hunting with some friends and acquaintances. It is rumored that Mr. McCarthy shared a fine bourbon from the Nichols stock that was greatly enjoyed by his friends. On future hunting trips, as the story goes, these same friends would ask McCarthy for more of the “wild turkey bourbon,” thus creating an enduring brand that is still used today. Just 2 years after that hunting trip, the Austin Nichols company would release its first batch of the Wild Turkey bottling. For approximately 30 years, they would continue to source this Wild Turkey bourbon. Starting in 1971, the Austin Nichols company would purchase the distillery creating the Wild Turkey bourbon and begin taking over the distilling of its whiskey on site for the very first time. Since that time, the distillery has seen its ownership change multiple times, most recently falling into the hands of Campari Group in 2009. Campari would quickly invest $100 million into building a new distillery, which opened in 2011. In addition, a new bottling facility was built and completed in 2013. Finally, a state of the art visitor center was constructed and opened in 2014. Wild Turkey now has approximately 700,000 barrels aging in over 28 rickhouses on its facilities. If you ever get a chance to visit the Wild Turkey Distillery, we highly recommend it.
A Lasting Legacy as Master Distiller
In 1954, a young man by the name of Jimmy Russell would follow his dad’s footsteps and begin his career at the Anderson County Distilling Company (later J.T.S. Brown & Son’s Distilling and Austin Nichols Distilling). Russell would begin his career by sweeping the distillery floors and quickly work his way up through the facility. In his early years, Russell would learn distilling from Master Distillers Bill Hughes and Ernest Ripy, Jr. In 1967, Jimmy Russell would become the fourth Master Distiller at the Wild Turkey Distillery. Mr. Russell has built an amazing legacy as Master Distiller at Wild Turkey. With 60 years experience, he is the longest-tenured Master Distiller in the worldwide spirits industry. In 2000, Mr. Russell was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. He is also a lifetime honorary member of the Kentucky Distillers Association, Whiskey Hall of Fame member, and a key holder to the town of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
In 1981, Wild Turkey would add a third Russell to its history books. This time Jimmy’s son, Eddie Russell, would join the team. Like Jimmy, Eddie began at the distillery on the lower rung of the ladder as a relief operator. Eddie would work his way up through the company, like his father, and eventually be inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2010 and promoted to Master Distiller in 2015.
The Russells have had a lasting impact on Wild Turkey by developing different offerings such as Rare Breed, Kentucky Spirit, Russell’s Reserve, Wild Turkey 81, Unforgiven, Diamond, and many others.
Wild Turkey’s Longbranch is a collaboration between A-list Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey and Wild Turkey Master Distiller, Jimmy Russell. The product boasts of bringing together the best of Kentucky and Texas to create a fine whiskey. The whiskey is said to be aged 8 years. A double filtration process is used, with the first run being filtered through charcoal from white American Oak. The second filtration is run using charcoal from Texas mesquite wood. The goal to make a smooth, yet slightly smoky, whiskey that can be enjoyed by all.
Tasting Date/Vessel: August 9, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass
Christian: The nose on this whiskey is unlike anything that I could have anticipated. At first nose, I pick up the flavor profile of Juicy Fruit gum. As I hold the glass at more of a distance, the flavor of sweet caramel syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla extract rise up out of my Glencairn. Rather pleasant and inviting. The addition of water really brings the caramel and brown sugar forward. This pour smells so amazingly sweet and pleasant.
Mike: A very sweet and inviting nose. Light brown sugar and sweet tobacco present initially. Chewy caramel candy and sweetened condensed milk emerge as I nose in deeper then gradually pull back.
Christian: The mouth feel is silky smooth and creamy. The flavor profile is sweet and delicate with hints of light vanilla and a smidge of honey. This reminds me of a creamy vanilla pudding or custard. The flavor profile is not overwhelming but remains subtle and soft. Water brings a bit of a buttery taste to the palate. Flavor becomes a little more developed with tastes of vanilla wafers and brown sugar.
Mike: Wow! This has an incredibly light and creamy mouth feel. A burst of vanilla extract at the apex eventually yields to notes of eggnog and custard. This offering has the richness of those flavors without the density.
Christian: Longbranch brings to the table, a short and smooth finish with a little dryness. I picked up a slight taste of cornbread alongside the charred oak barrel. As the flavors begin to dissipate, I notice my first subtle note of smokey Texas mesquite wood and nutmeg. The addition of water really makes the finish much like any other non-alcoholic drink. What little Kentucky hug may have been present is now gone. The baking spices move forward with a slight hint of oakiness remaining.
Mike: Velvety smooth and elegant finish. As the sip slides to the back of the tongue and down the throat, there is a pleasant tingle of heat. Also present is a delicate charred oak/mesquite bitterness that tries to linger on the palate but eventually fades.
Christian: This is an enjoyable, high quality pour–and not just because I enjoyed the great Matthew McConaughey in the movie, Lincoln Lawyer. While it’s true that it lacks a bit of complexity and maybe doesn’t have a grandiose entrance or exit, it remains incredibly smooth and approachable. I preferred it neat without the addition of water or ice. Someone newer to the bourbon scene would probably be satisfied either way because that’s how smooth this offering from Wild Turkey is. Longbranch appears to be at a good price point, offering a reasonable value for a quality pour. I could see this becoming an everyday sipping bourbon with a permanent residence on my bar at home.
Rating: 3.5 Rickhouses
Mike: This bourbon is not as complex as some of the other bourbons we’ve reviewed but it also does not possess an ordinary flavor profile. The vanilla extract flavors transition perfectly to eggnog and custard in the nose. The aromas from nose to mouth to finish marry perfectly in the glass. The charcoal filtering post maturation adds an unmatched silkiness that I’ve never experienced. It might be cheesy but this bourbon is more than “Alright, alright, alright.” I have a feeling you’ll be pleased if you purchase this one for your own personal consumption.
Rating: 3.5 Rickhouses
Conclusion: Wild Turkey Longbranch is a quality pour offered at a good price delivering excellent value. A very approachable and tasty pour that surely will satisfy both the new bourbon drinker and the more experienced whiskey fan. If you have never tried it give Longbranch a shot. We think you will enjoy.