Gift Pack Season, Give ’em the Bird and an Aging Kit

Happy Christmas, ya bastards.  I may as well be honest; I have a reputation as a bit of a scrooge.  That’s an under exaggeration, I’m an atheistic anti-capitalist with a tendency towards Seasonal Affective Disorder and a cynical heart. There is, however, one thing I embrace about this season:  gift packs.  Tis the season where buying a bottle of booze means getting a little bit more than a solid buzz and an excuse to hate mornings. Glasses and shakers, muddlers and nips—this is the glory of the season.  This year I feel I have found an extraordinary gift pack, and a gift that keeps on giving—the Wild Turkey cocktail aging set.  This year’s Wild Turkey gift pack, 101 mind you, includes a Wild Turkey embossed mason jar and a piece of charred spiral oak.  At the same price as a bottle of Wild Turkey.  Which also happened to be on sale for $20.  Ho, ho, ho-ly hell yes.

The oak aging concept is something that has been pretty hip for a while now—with mini-barrels on sale for aging white whiskey and bars serving barrel aged cocktail off the barrel, the movement has more legs than a Czech supermodel or a good scotch.  Though there is a chunk of hype involved, yes, but there is also a lot of benefit to aging a cocktail all wrapped in one lovely package, to mix and meld and smooth over the edges with a consistent dusting of smoky oaky goodness.  With this in mind, Wild Turkey have done isn’t anything new.  There are plenty of brands out there selling you decanters or plain old bottles with a spiral or honeycombed stick of charred oak.  The primary word there?  Sellinggggg.  You can buy a bottle with a charred oak stick as a “cocktail aging kit,” that’s $35.  You can buy a bottle of Wild Turkey for $20 and they give you that shit.  Merry Christma-hanna-let’s-get-ripped-akah.

Given my complete absence of holiday spirit it should come as no surprise that my interest in gift sets is purely selfish, and therefore it should be clear by now that I bought this set for myself.  I may be more for myself, because I’m not giving anybody gifts.  Ba-humbug. Anyways, in the world of infinite opportunities, known as mixology, I decided to use this lovely little perk of mine to make a twist on an old favorite—based on the materials I already had at hand.  I went with a twist on one of the oldest, some argue oldest, American cocktails: Le Sazerac.  The twist here is that instead of Rye I used the materials God and the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission gave me, Wild Turkey.  Now it is worth noting that this lil’ kit hold 500ml of fluid fire, which means scaling up your standard Sazerac Recipe significantly.  To make mine I briefly looked over a few interpretations of the standard recipe, thought about doing some math, then rapidly ignored it all and drank some of the other 250ml of Turkey.  I then put something together that may or may not resemble the following recipe.

Ye Big ol’ Sazerac

  • 2 oz Absinthe (La Muse Verte is what I had on hand)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters (the traditional)
  • 10-15 dashes Embitterment Aromatic Bitters (the one upper)
  • 10-15 dashes Embitterment Orange Bitter (at this point, what the hell)
  • 1 Lemon’s rind, careful to avoid the pith
  • 1 oak spiral
  • About 400+ ml Wild Turkey to the top

Let settle 2 weeks or so.

Sazer-that!

Sazer-that!

There probably should have been more science to it, but I like to go by feel and I’m definitely feeling what I made there…I decided to serve this little monster over a single ice cube. The result? Hail Santa (Satan?)!  There is indeed a wonderful alchemy that occurs when all of these ingredients merge into one, spending weeks together in the bar top equivalent of Stalag Luft III with a little bit of oak to mellow it all together.  Perhaps I went a bit above and beyond the call of absinthe wash, as exemplified by the louche this concoction takes on when chilled, but the ingredients played off oh so well together, with the star of the show being the garnish.  That’s right, the garnish—the tinsel on the tree—the lovely lemon shined after 2 weeks giving off the beauty of her essential oils and soaking in the wonder of the Wild Turkey.  The bitters come through wonderfully as well, warm, sweet and mellow.  A damned good cocktail…though perhaps not perfect—but therein lies the beauty.

The genius that is the 2014 Wild Turkey gift pack is that it is the gift pack that keeps on giving.  Yes, perhaps you could make a cocktail to share—give, if you will—but that’s not where the pleasure stops.  This kit is reusable.  This time around I made a Sazerac.  Next time I could make a Manhattan, age it a bit longer, and maybe even impart a bit of that Sazerac.  I could then make an Old Fashioned that winds up with a hint of sweet vermouth note.  Even when that charred oak has exhausted all it has to give, you have a free mason jar emblazoned with the Wild Turkey emblem—the latest in whiskey chic.  So, though I have not gone on an all-out gift pack spree (yet,) I do declare the coolest (thus far) gift pack of the year is Wild Turkey 101’s do it yourself, drink it yourself, gift that keeps on giving, aging kit.

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Wild Turkey Rare Breed, the Rise of “Friendsgiving” and Deep Regression Hypnosis

I left New Hampshire from work, just a hair past 6 p.m.  My car was loaded with the following: a sleeping bag, a back pack with enough clothing for two sober days, a Martin 000-15sm guitar, a case of beer, a roasting pan containing roughly 10 pounds of Cajun cornbread stuffing, and a bottle of Wild Turkey Rare Breed.  From the last two contents you may have guessed—I was bound to give some thanks.  This journey was part of a growing movement known as the “friendsgiving,” or some corny ass shit like that, in which young friends get together to reunite, eat, drink, and talk about all the grown up shit they’re doing to convince themselves that the world isn’t beating them bloody and the floor under their feet isn’t about to rot out from cultural decay and student loan debt.  Sounded like a great idea, so I cruised my way down to Philadelphia.  The plan, if I had one, was to get rather intoxicated, review this whole cultural phenomenon thing, eat a mountain of starchy foods, write a review of the aforementioned Wild Turkey Rare Breed, then proceed with the blasting until I awoke with throbbing liver to drive back to New Hampshire.  I succeeded in some respects; at least I made that whole “painful internal organs” thing occur.  I must not have eaten that much though because I came home 3 pounds lighter somehow, still pondering.  Let us behold the mysteries of Turk.  Which brings me to my point—I completely did not take notes on that Wild Turkey.  So here is where things get ambitious.  I’m going to try to piece through my cubist recollections of the weekend and give you some kind of goddamn.  This could be difficult, because I drank a lot of other whiskies, and I need to try to parse them out of my memories.  But buried beneath all of absinthe, beer, chipotle, stuffing (that stuffing, gahhhhd yes), madness, depravity and shame, I think I may pull this together.

First off, the googled portion:  Wild Turkey Rare Breed, a fine product by the Austin Nichols Distilling company, barrel proof (108 and change) bourbon whiskey.  108 proof, seems to explain things a little… Wild Turkey Rare Breed comes in at about the mid-range price point, just ahead of $30 around me, which points it within reasonable grasp.  But is it worth it?  That’s where my impressive memory comes into play.  I swear I remember most of it.

I remember the nose as having a surprising smoothness—warm sugar notes and rich spice, a touch of citrus and surprisingly little heat.  I think that was about 3pm on Saturday, that memory…Now very vividly I remember Friday morning about 1am, shortly after arrival.  Ben and I were commiserating with the Turkey—the body of which was rich, and oily, with a pleasant but in no way overwhelming warmth that revealed, as the nose had, caramel and toffee notes and a full spectrum of spices. Also, I got a good deal of citrus, but on further review I was being enthusiastic with orange bitters (Embitterment plug).  The grand finale?  Warm, happy belly, a few more whiskies, increasing joviality—dare I say, a loss of shits being given?  There was music and wonderful roses.  Wait, no roses.  There was a glass boot that one of the multiple other bottles of Wild Turkey (101) came with though.  That would make a fine vase, Ben.  There were also Cards Against Humanity, because depravity can make for a fine parlor game, too.

This is definitely were I would a picture, if I'd taken one...

This is definitely were I would a picture, if I’d taken one…

So what conclusions can I draw?  First, on the idea of the “Friendsgiving,” it’s a good thing.  Damn terrible name, but the mix of youthful indiscretion and burgeoning maturity is kind of cool.  Also, I really should not be allowed in polite company.  As for the Wild Turkey Rare Breed?  It’s a fine breed, worth every penny, and given it’s festive name, perfectly seasonally appropriate flavor profile, and barrel proof ability to make the oncoming holiday season bareable—it was the perfect choice. Also, I’m pretty sure wild turkeys are now my spirit animal.