Wild Turkey makes many great bourbons. In fact, NO WT bourbon is bad or even anywhere near bad. If I were to run a Bourbon Training School for novice drinkers, I might introduce WT bourbons first and say something to the effect that in my opinion this is the whiskey that is most expressive of the American Character.
I have inflicted my thoughts on this topic upon BE folks before and come I back to do so again. We Americans (somehow United States ers doesn't work does it?) have had our character formed from many sources............ Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Africans, Asians, American Indians all have influenced our culture. The folks who came here (excepting the Africans, who did not come here of their own free will and paid far and away the heaviest price among all immigrants in terms of suffering) were the most adventurous from each of the places from which they left. Native Americans were callously pushed aside by the ambition of the newcomers and the diseases they brought........ and by their (the Indians who were seperate tribal groups and were at war among themselves) lack of any coordinated defensive response to the invaders.
These new folks were risk takers and to one degree or another were not blindly devoted to their place of origin. They were rugged, individualistic, often irreverant and violent, and certainly believed themselves to be capable of standing toe to toe with anyone. While this independence of spirit served them well, Africans slaves developed a subtle form of resistance primarily through their music and passive aggressive defiance. American music, rather than American whiskey, is where their creativity found expression.
Now, how can I assert that Wild Turkey whiskies best embody the American Character. I submit that two very astute observers of the American Character offer my own thesis help. Alexis de Tocqueville, an early French political and social scientist, who wrote a two volume study in the mid 1800s on Democracy in America holds an important place in defining who Americans are. He noted that the drive toward equality in the new United States meant that the poor man today could be the rich man tomorrow. The notion of Equality was a driving force in the formation of the American Character......... he was right, by the way.
The other asture observer (whose 'Frontier Thesis' (1890's) has been almost shredded by modern historians, but I think it is very useful still) was Frederick Jackson Turner. His 'Frontier Thesis' claimed that the American Character basically derived from the availability of the frontier as an outlet for restive Easterners (and for immigrants) who sought their fortune from the sweat of their brows. The 'frontier' promoted and allowed room for the expansion of the equality noted by de Tocqueville as a key to our character and allowed it to continue to flourish. Those folks going West during much of the 1800s were a rough and ready bunch with lots of spirit and a willingness to take on the challenges, and any man or Indian who stood in their way.
I think you will grant me that these Americans making the Westward trek were unlikely to consume Cognac or other highly refined and delicate spirits. They were almost forced to consume, as were their Eastern brethern, spirits that were young and firey, often made from rye which itself imparts a wild and spicy aspect to its taste. Given the stresses and strains they faced they did not often drink just for the pleasure of a sip, but more, I think, as a form of release.
Wild Turkey, in my opinion, still retains, among major American whiskey makers, more of that wildness in its high rye bourbon recipes than the other major distillers (some of whom still offer high rye recipe bourbons, e.g. Old Grand-Dad). But, through its master distillers such as Jimmy Russell, Wild Turkey has also mastered the art of extracting the essence of the barrel, the sweetness and richness. Few bourbons, by any other distiller, manage to achieve the richness of the best WT bourbons........... while at the same time retaining the robust character that comes from the right amount of rye in the recipe. Even the best are imitating Wild Turkey. Few can match its exquisite balance between the barrel and the grain recipe.
What we are privy to these days is the best of the young wild whiskies which the individualistic and untamed American whiskey drinkers of early America were able to produce and the barrel aging which Wild Turkey raised to an art and to its epitome (at least for us in modern times).
I drink Wild Turkey whiskey because I like it, not because it is the most true to history. Still, I think one reason I find it appealing is that I am an American through and through (how could it be otherwise?) and history lives in me, as it always does in any people.
Rightly or wrongly, I have an awareness of this when I enjoy Wild Turkey Bourbon. It is time for them to release another bourbon of the quality of Tribute! While writing this extended post, I have had sips of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, Wild Turkey 12 Year Old, Wild Turkey Tradition, and Wild Turkey Tribute
bourbons. Each and every one of them is first rate American Whiskey.
DISCLAIMER - These are only my opinions and I make no claims that they are TRUE, but what I offer (for those who might be interested) is a reasonable and defensiable agrument about how our whiskey fits our character............. saying all the while, 'How could our taste in whiskey not be a part of our national character?'
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas