For the last 40 years, Master Distiller Eddie Russell has been distilling rye whiskies for Wild Turkey. That legacy has been building to this—the release of Wild Turkey’s oldest rye whiskey ever.
Rye whiskey has always been a mainstay for Wild Turkey. During prohibition, rye whiskey fell from favor, and most distilleries abandoned the spirit. “Wild Turkey is one of the few legacy distilleries that remained loyal to crafting Rye even as vodka and gin became the new, hot thing,” states Russel. That commitment resulted in several expressions, including Wild Turkey Rye, Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Russell’s Reserve 6-Year-old Rye, and Russell’s Single Barrel Rye. The new expression adds to that legacy of distilling rye. “Cornerstone Rye celebrates our continued commitment to the grain. As my own son Bruce has reminded me given his devotion to rye in working with the bartender community, it’s a fundamental part of our history.”
The fourth expression in the Master’s Keep Cornerstone Rye has been aged 9 to 11 years—most rye whiskies are only aged four years. This expression also has the distinction of being handpicked by Russell from the oldest #4 alligator char barrels available. “Alligator char” refers to how long the barrel is charred before distilling. For alligator char, the barrel is burned for 55 seconds, which results in the wood taking on a shiny, rough texture of an alligator. Charring helps infuse sugar into the whiskey but also to filter out any impurities. “We use the deepest No. 4 ‘alligator’ char in order to extract as much flavor as possible from the wood,” explains Russell. “When charring at this level, the wood starts to peel off the barrel, which gives the liquid more surface area to come in contact with, thus infusing it with more flavor. This offers a surprising amount of variation.” For the Master’s keep Cornerstone Rye, the charred barrel leaves the whiskey with notes of warm vanilla, black pepper, and toasted rye with lingering notes of sweet spice and oak. It finishes off with honey and backed apple flavors. Bottled at 109 proof, the whiskey will be limited to approximately 16,000 bottles available for $175 per 750ml bottle.