Whiskey Review: Wild Turkey American Honey

There’s a current trend of flavored liqueur being made from bourbon. In some cases, the results are pretty good… but, on the whole, they mainly seem to be trying to follow in Fireball’s footsteps to capture that same market. American Honey is Wild Turkey’s take on the category, so today we’re giving it a spin to see how it stacks up — not only against its flavored liqueur peers, but against it’s bourbon origins as well.

History

Thomas Ripy built the Old Hickory Distillery in Tyrone, Kentucky in 1891. Thomas died in 1902 and this first incarnation of the distillery closed down during prohibition; however, the distillery was resurrected once that dark period ended and this second incarnation became a successful wholesaler for bourbon, under which other brands bottled their own labels.

Legend has it that in 1940, Thomas McCarthy (an executive for one of the wholesalers buying from Old Hickory) brought a bottle of the bourbon on a wild turkey hunt. The bourbon was so popular that his friends continued to ask for “that wild turkey bourbon” and McCarthy’s company, Austin Nichols, began distributing a Wild Turkey branded bourbon in 1942.

In 1971, with the massive success of the brand, Austin Nichols purchased the distillery and renamed it the Wild Turkey Distillery. The brand has changed hands over the years but is currently owned by the Campari Group, who built a new distillery near the original building in 2011 and continue to produce whiskey at that location to this day.

Product

The standard Wild Turkey bourbon reportedly starts as a dry mix of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. From there, the mash is fermented and distilled.

The spirit takes a rest in charred oak barrels for a while — there’s no age statement provided, but some claim it’s as long as four years. This used to be called Wild Turkey 81 (because at 40.5% ABV, it was 81 proof) but they seem to have dropped that in favor of a plain “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” appellation on this latest batch.

For the American Honey edition, the standard bourbon is blended with honey and placed into distinctive bottles.

Packaging

The bottle design here is actually really neat. The glass bottle itself is square shaped with faceted edges, giving it a visually appealing, almost art-deco look that stands out on the shelf. The Wild Turkey brand name is printed on a transparent label on the front, and a label on the back has the outline of a turkey on it to give it a three dimensional appearance. It’s a pretty neat trick that’s not only visually sleek and different, but (more importantly) also doesn’t hide the whiskey.

The bottle is long and slender, and topped with a metal screw-on cap.

Neat

It pours like simple syrup, thick and viscous. The liquid itself is a nice golden honey color, and in the glass it has a rather unique aroma for a bourbon. It says on the bottle that this is blended with honey, but I think the combination of normal Wild Turkey makes it smell oddly more like a margarita. There’s some solid citrus in there, either a lime or some lemon zest, and sweetness.

Taking a sip, the first thing you get is a massive wave of sweetness. Following right behind that is a bit of honey, and then some vanilla probably courtesy of the Wild Turkey bourbon. So basically: sweet followed by sweet followed by vanilla.

Other than that… I really got nothing. Those few flavors are so overpowering that there’s no room for anything else.

On Ice

Usually in our reviews, when we add a little bit of ice things get better. Overpowering flavors are toned down a bit, and any bitterness or unpleasantness is reduced or eliminated.

That’s not really the case here.

As with the other flavored and sweetened whiskies we’ve reviewed, there’s not a whole lot of change. The honey and vanilla in the whiskey is still there and is still the only flavor you’ll taste. What has changed is that there’s slightly less sweetness thanks to the dilution of the sugar content, but it’s still remarkably sweet. In other words: pretty much the same as when we first sipped it.

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

You know it’s bad news when you can’t even taste the bitters.

Normally, you’d at least taste the angostura bitters — even if they don’t interact well with the other flavors in the drink, you can at least taste them. In this case, though, the flavors are so overwhelmingly saturated that nothing else comes through. And what little bitterness you might find is instantly more than cancelled out by the sweetness in the spirit.

There’s nothing added here. Nothing new, no change. It’s just more of the same: sweet as hell.

Fizz (Mule)

Somehow, with the mixture of all of the flavors, this has now turned into a Mountain Dew.

The carbonation of the ginger beer really starts to lighten things up, which is very useful to cut through that sweetness. With the bitterness of the ginger beer, too, and there’s a little bit of a bite that finally starts balancing things out. Add in the lime juice and now you have… Mountain Dew?

I don’t actually hate this. As someone who grew up in the 90’s and 2000’s and played way too many video games, Mountain Dew is a flavor profile near and dear to my heart… but that said, unless you share a similar affinity and nostalgia for that carbonated beverage, this is probably not for you.

Overall Rating

It’s not terrible. It’s overly sweet (like all the other Fireball variants on the market) but at least honey is a more palatable flavor than the cinnamon. That said, it’s still not something that I would voluntarily spend money for ever again.

Wild Turkey American Honey
Produced By: Wild Turkey
Owned By: Campari Group
Production Location: Kentucky, United States
Classification: Flavored Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 35.5% ABV
Price: $17.49 / 750 ml
Overall Rating:

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Overall Rating: 1/5
Oh, honey. Oh, sugar sugar. You are my candy-flavored whiskey, and now I have diabetes.

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