With its corporate history dating back to 1855, the founding of the Wild Turkey brand in 1952 by Austin Nichols can now be looked back on as a moment that affected the development of bourbon's popularity both in its homeland and overseas.
The brand was founded by Thomas McCarthy (who at the time was the president of Austin Nichols) after some friends where impressed after McCarthy had brought some private stock on a wild turkey hunt. When his friends requested more of the spirit calling it the "wild turkey" bourbon, Austin Nichols launched the brand in 1952, while honoring McCarthy's friend's nickname for the product.
Two years after the brand's founding, Jimmy Russel became the distillery's master blender and would soon play a part in the brand's success, a role that he fills to this day.
Wild Turkey becomes a local success story, becoming popular with locals and distribution growing within the state rapidly. However, it wasn't until 1964 that the United States government would officially introduce standards in bourbon production, specifying aging requirements and distilling techniques.
Jimmy Russel is instrumental in the introduction of Wild Turkey 80 Proof in 1974, giving consumers the ability to sample the brand's bourbon in an uncomplicated and relaxed manner which is unsuitable for barrel proof spirits.
Expanding the brands range and appeal to its consumers, the company releases Wild Turkey Liqueur with Honey in 1976, becoming one of few bourbon based liqueurs in production. This brand diversification alone with the 80 proof release drives demand for the brand to growing heights, soon becoming known throughout the country for its high quality but low cost products.
By 1980, the continuing success of the business had attracted the attention of the international beverage business Pernod Ricard and Austin Nichols (and therefore Wild Turkey) was acquired late in the year. This purchase assisted Wild Turkey greatly by opening distribution of the product to overseas markets.
The brand extended its product line again in 1991, introducing Wild Turkey Rare Breed, a bourbon designed to rival the some of the finest scotch whisky. This ultra-premium bourbon is barrel proof and distilled at the business's exclusive distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.
Wild Turkey's commitment to high quality products continued with the release of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit which is a single barrel bourbon which is only available in the United States.
To celebrate Russell's 50th anniversary as master distillery for the company, Wild Turkey commissioned the creation of a very limited 15 year old bourbon in 2004. Interestingly, the products purpose was kept a surprise from Russell himself who was told that it was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Austin Nichols, Wild Turkey's parent company. Only 5500 of this special bourbon was released.
Today, the Wild Turkey distillery is a complicated combination of old and new, and it is this character which has made the brand one of the leading bourbons on the US market.
Awards & Recognition
Wild Turkey has been honored multiple times throughout its history. Early in its life it became part of the historic American Whiskey Trail, which specifies the influential distilleries and companies in the industry.
The brand has also found success in spirit competitions achieving a gold and silver medal in the 2000 International Wine and Spirit Competition and achieving a gold and 2 silver medals the following year.
- Wild Turkey 80 Proof
- Wild Turkey 101 Proof - 8 year
- Wild Turkey 101 Proof - 12 year
- Wild Turkey Rare Breed
- Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve
- Wild Turkey Freedom
- Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit
- Wild Turkey Rye
- Wild Turkey Liqueur
- Wild Turkey & Cola
- Wild Turkey & Dry