Historically, Wild Turkey has offered their base whiskey at three different proof points: 80, 86.8, and 101. The biggest seller has traditionally been the 101 proof, and for good reason. It currently ranks as my #5 value bourbon. It is a damn good whiskey for under $30. However, I was not so fond of the old 80 proof. It was too light, and failed to present much complexity. In an effort to bridge the gap, Wild Turkey discontinued the 80 proof in favor of a new product, Wild Turkey 81. Although there is not much difference in the proof of the whiskey, the new 81 proof is aged 6-8 years, which gives it a flavor profile that more closely resembles the 101 than the 80.
On the nose, Wild Turkey 81 resembles the familiar Wild Turkey recipe. It is light and slightly floral. There is a solid backbone of rye spice and vanilla that provides the doorway to the bourbon. When you drink it, Wild Turkey 81 truly shines. There is a prickly rye spice that holds throughout the bourbon, with balancing notes of vanilla, strawberries, and blackberries. The finish is long and warm. There is a lot of heat at first, with a burst of cinnamon and wood spice, but it mellows with time as the notes of vanilla and soft oak re-emerge.
Overall, I think Wild Turkey has made a very good product that is a fantastic step up from the old 80 proof. This whiskey is still cheap enough to use it in a cocktail, but that would be wasting a good product. This whiskey can definitely stand on its own, and it is worthy addition to the Wild Turkey family. My grade: C+. Price: $20-25/750ml. This is a good sipper, and it also works well for mixed drinks, too. Definitely a good one to keep around.