Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Unforgotten Whiskey

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Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Unforgotten Whiskey

Almost any whiskey geek who has been interested in brown spirits for a decade or more will have heard the story of Wild Turkey’s Forgiven at some point, but to those who came to the spirits world more recently, it’s one of those fun little bits of industry legend that may have slipped their notice. In short, Forgiven was a brand that Wild Turkey has released on a few limited occasions, originally having occurred as a mistake in the company’s blending facility around 12 years ago. According to the legend, a careless employee accidentally blended together barrels containing mature bourbon and young rye whiskey … but distiller Eddie Russell (now Master Distiller, along with father Jimmy) ended up liking the resulting “bourye,” and it was thus released under the title of Wild Turkey Forgiven. Since then, it’s had a few more, small releases.

Now, the legacy of Forgiven is being celebrated by Wild Turkey in a bigger and more elegant way, via the release of the new Master’s Keep expression Unforgotten. This is, for all intents and purposes, an upgraded version of Forgiven, featuring barrels of both bourbon and rye that are much more mature, presented at cask strength. Specifically, Unforgotten is made from 13-year-old bourbon (which is quite old, for WT), blended with 8- and 9-year-old rye, which ranks among the oldest rye that Wild Turkey has ever released. The whiskeys were blended together and then given time for a secondary maturation in rye casks, before being bottled at 105 proof (52.5% ABV).

Obviously, this is a limited release like all the entries in the Master’s Keep series of special, experimental whiskeys from Wild Turkey, with an elevated MSRP of $200. I will note something here: I feel like I’ve been complaining about a lot of MSRPs lately in the limited edition whiskey world, but this is one of those cases where you can look at the specs and concept of this expression and see quite clearly what makes this one unique and special. Even if the hotly desired Russell’s Reserve 13 Year is merely $100 in terms of MSRP, the combination of elements here makes this price point easy for me to rationalize. Wild Turkey is not a company that puts out extra-aged rye very often, so to those Turkey purists this is a red letter day.

So with that said, let’s get to tasting this promising experiment.

On the nose, I’m getting a potent and complex combination of oak, char, subtle smoke, vanilla and lots of caramel, met by plenty of earthy rye spice. There’s a slight mustiness, but also a brighter fruitiness, with orange and cinnamon or cardamom, and toffee rippled with cigar smoke. After a while in the glass, I’m catching some kind of faint berry that almost reminds me of fresh strawberries.

On the palate, Unforgotten features moderate residual sweetness and lots of char/coffee, along with earthy rye, plenty of pepper, citrus and black cherry. The fruit has an almost slightly juicy quality, supported by char and herbal rye. The effect, quite honestly, is hard to describe—there are a lot of delicate tones here, and the more I taste it the more I’m admiring the beautiful balance between sweetness and spice. It’s really beautifully composed and balanced, never feeling indebted too strongly to bourbon or rye whiskey flavor profiles. It’s subtly sweet, but nowhere near desserty or decadent. It has a slightly drying finish, but one wouldn’t really describe it as “dry” overall. It’s a lot of things at once—lightly honeyed and fruity, but also spicy and slightly smoky.

In short, the complexity here is really working for me, and I’m immediately feeling like Master’s Keep Unforgotten will be one of those bottles that is a joy to revisit time and time again, always expecting to pick up new little nuances. It’s immediately among my favorite whiskey releases of 2022, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this crack a fair number of year-end whiskey lists. If you love both Wild Turkey bourbon and rye, it’s one to seek out.

Distillery: Wild Turkey
City: Lawrenceburg, KY
Style: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 52.5% (105 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $200 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.