Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Wild Turkey 101 Rye Is Back, Sort Of
Early in 2012, Wild Turkey introduced a 40.5% ABV rye and announced that the original 50.5% ABV rye was in short supply and on allocation. Allocation plus panic buying soon created a widespread shortage and bottles of the 101 rye have been thin on the ground ever since.
Last week, with modest fanfare, Wild Turkey announced its return, sort of. It will be available in only 21 states and only in the one-liter bottles preferred by bars and restaurants.
“I have been working in this business for 60 years and if someone told me just five years ago Rye Whiskey was going to be one of the hottest categories in the spirits industry, I would have balked at the notion,” said Jimmy Russell. “To be completely frank, we didn’t realize bartenders had such a passion for it.” It’s true that rye whiskey has been booming. It’s up 41 percent in the past 52 weeks (according to Nielsen data).
Wild Turkey still sells Wild Turkey 81 Rye (40.5% ABV) and Russell's Reserve Rye (6-years-old, 45% ABV).
Before Prohibition, rye whiskey outsold bourbon in the United States. It was made primarily in Pennsylvania. Rye never really came back and nearly died out entirely during the 1970s and 80s, when the entire whiskey category went bust. The Pennsylvania industry died off and what little rye production remained shifted to Kentucky. Wild Turkey was one of the few distilleries that consistently produced rye throughout that period. The others were Jim Beam and Heaven Hill, and National until it merged with Beam in 1987. Others made rye sporadically.
The ryes made by Wild Turkey, Beam (Jim Beam Rye, Old Overholt, Knob Creek Rye), Heaven Hill (Rittenhouse, Pikesville), and Sazerac (Sazerac Rye) are 'barely legal' at 51 percent rye. Today you can also get a 95 percent rye made at MGPI of Indiana (Bulleit Rye, Templeton Rye, George Dickel Rye) and a 100 percent rye made in Canada (WhistlePig, Mastersons, Jefferson's Rye).
Look for Wild Turkey 101 Rye in the following states. Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York (NYC only), Ohio, Oregon, Washington, Washington D.C., Texas. (That doesn't add up to 21, but that is the list they provided.)