Another day finds me strolling through whiskey central searching for liquid gold to tell all you folks about. I glance in the direction of an old friend—a legend really—Wild Turkey. There’s the real Turkey, 101 proof of caramel and fumes. Thompson fuel. Next to that is a box, Wild Turkey 81. It comes with a hat. I briefly laughed as I glanced to the Beam white label. Then I thought about it, a bit further. 17 bucks and it comes with a Wild Turkey hat. Do I need a Wild Turkey hat? Well actually, yes, I think I really do! I don’t have a baseball cap, never mind one that shouts to the world, “screw you and your fancy drank, I drink what I want!” It even tells you on the back what you should do: “Give ‘em the bird.” Take that world. So I buy, obviously.
Later, I begin contemplating what I’ve purchased, and what Wild Turkey 81 really “says.” The original Wild Turkey is bourbon with an extra set of nads. It’s hot, and it gets you to that special place—fast. I was in a massive dive in Cleveland, the kind of place that isn’t often overrun with youth, and when I ordered Turkey the bartender hesitated to give it to me neat. He explained to me that he’d stopped carrying Bacardi 151 and was thinking of doing the same to my 101. It seemed clear why. It’s got a reputation. In my mind a lot of that reputation comes from the deranged swilling of one man, Hunter S. Thompson. The sloppiest of drug addled anti-heroes, portrayed by both Bill Murray and Johnny Depp in film. In “Where the Buffalo Roam” Murray’s Thompson struts around his hospital room with an IV of Turkey dripping into his mouth. It’s this image, this outlaw correlation that has me almost hesitant for a softened up version. It lies with you, Wild Turkey 81, to restore my faith.
The first sip of 81 struck me with a realization. This is the same as 101. Every time I put ice in the original Wild Turkey I made cold Wild Turkey 81. It just has more water in it, and saves you money in the bargain. Yes, the fire is far tamer, but the flavors come through the same, caramel, vanilla, and a touch of cinnamon spice that perhaps is lost in the heat of the big brother dominate the palate. This is sweet, clean and easy drinking. My fears, it seems were unfounded. Yes, this whiskey isn’t quite so “gonzo” as its kin, but it’s far more approachable, well balanced, and less likely to lead to death or severe injury. What would Hunter say? Well, he’d probably spout something about swine and Nixon, take a sip and say “hmmm. What’s that you say? Well damn, that’s damn good—I could drink a case of that, two, maybe, with the right cocktail of high blotter acid and greasy hamburgers.” Or something like that. If you didn’t read it in his mumbling ramble than that was probably the worst piece of writing this side of Facebook. So anyways, yes, I think Hunter would approve, because who wouldn’t want to be able to drink, and taste, a bit more whiskey while maintaining that perfect chemical balance. So I’ve gotta say, I hate to advocate a lower proof Wild Turkey, but it’s always worked for me.