How do you discover brands? As consumers, we’re now exposed to so many channels. The number of screens we use has exponentially grown in less than a generation and we consume content at breakneck speed without even realising it. In my early days of exploring whiskey, I watched an interview of Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey on YouTube for a movie he was promoting. During it, he said his favourite bourbon is Wild Turkey 101. I had never heard of it before and was therefore intrigued.
Celebrity endorsements have stood the test of time. It could be part of a great marketing strategy for increasing awareness and reaching a wider audience. It breeds growth, brand affinity, loyalty, and pride if done correctly. However, it’s not easy to pull off. Companies need to find the right celebrity who matches their brand’s core values, will help them reach a new set of customers, and won’t alienate the existing ones. Not to mention, it’s very expensive. Is it effective? There are studies supporting and against, but see for yourself; Michael Jordan and Nike, George Clooney and Nespresso, and even Snoop Dogg and Just Eat. If you were able to make a connection with those celebrities and brands, then I’d say it does.
There’s also no shortage of such marketing tactics in the drinks industry. David Beckham for Haig, Mila Kunis for Beam, Nick Offerman for Lagavulin, and most recently Aisling Bea for Jameson. Is this something whiskey brands should consider more to grow the industry? With the number of resources required to pull one off successfully, this will probably be limited to the biggest multinationals who own whiskey brands. One of those multinationals is Campari Group who in 2009 bought Wild Turkey Distilling Co. from Pernod to expand its footprint in the United States.
Wild Turkey is one of the most recognisable brands in bourbon and a mainstay in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Master distiller Jimmy Russell, hailed as the ‘Buddha of Bourbon’, is a hall-of-famer and is the longest active master distiller in the global spirits industry with over 65 years under his belt. There are now three generations of Russells working in the distillery. In 2016, Wild Turkey hired Matthew McConaughey as their Creative Director and spokesperson to reach an international audience. Looking back at the interview I watched on YouTube; he did the job really well.
Fast forward to 2021, after lockdown # 3, I was browsing in a whiskey shop, masked-up and itching to buy something in person. I was also looking for something ‘different’, not Irish or Scotch. Staring in front of me was a bald bird with big eyes and a crinkled neck. It was a bottle of Wild Turkey 101. The price was around €40. It’s cheap in comparison to a lot of Irish whiskeys I’ve bought but expensive compared to how much you can get it for in the States. I think for that price, I could get a 1.75L bottle of it instead of a measly 700ml. Alas, it was too late. I’m under the spell of the bird.
Wild Turkey 101 is a high rye Kentucky straight bourbon. As the number implies, it’s bottled at 50.5% ABV or 101 proof. It’s aged for six to eight years in Char # 4 barrels – the deepest char for more character, as declared on the label.
Colour: Dark amber.
Nose: Polished oak, caramel, with freshly peeled orange skin.
Palate: Light vanilla sweetness, coconut, ripe red apple underpinned by a warming cedarwood with candy floss.
Finish: Leaves a spicy tingle at the middle of your tongue that turns into a satisfyingly long oaky finish.
Alright… Alright… Alright… To me, this is quintessential bourbon. I haven’t tried as many, but there’s a certain sweetness I find familiar in bourbons, and Wild Turkey 101 has it in droves. It’s the bourbon I would recommend to someone used to drinking Scotch or Irish Whiskey, a good gateway to higher ABV bourbons. It mixes well, and you can drink it on its own. There’s a lot to like about it. If only I could get over the fact that I need to pay double the price by buying this in Ireland, I would have it as a permanent fixture on my shelf. Celebrity endorsement aside, this bourbon is more than capable of standing on its own.