Inaugural Wild Turkey Bourbon UK Cocktail Champion 2013

Wild Turkey

Gruppo Campari’s Wild Turkey Bourbon has announced the winner of it’s first UK Cocktail Competition held at the The Liquorists HQ in Manchester.

Henry Yates of Boilermaker in Nottingham clinched the top prize after competing with 10 of the best bartenders from across the UK in an exciting and heated battle to be crowned Wild Turkey Cocktail Champion 2013. Henry’s unanimous winning cocktail named ‘The Right to Freeze Peach’ voted by judges Simon Difford of Diffordsguide.com, Martin Taylor of Wild Turkey, and Hugo Mills of Gruppo Campari demonstrated passion, talent and an understanding of the kind of patience, outstanding attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes in to creating the perfect Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey cocktail.

Henry said of his creation “My inspiration for the peach, ice tea and mint cocktail originated from Wild Turkey country. I wanted to create a cocktail with ingredients which are readily available, as an introduction to Bourbon.” ‘The Right to Freeze Peach’ flavours were perfectly designed to compliment Wild Turkey 81 reflecting on it’s laid back nature. Henry added ” I am genuinely ecstatic about winning, the standard of talent was so high I can’t believe I am the Wild Turkey cocktail Champion.”

The 2 runners up Will Cox of Bon Vivant in Edinburgh and Michael Presley Sharpe of Milk Thistle in Bristol delivered their cocktails ‘Stuffed Turkey’ and ‘Feather of the Foul’ with flair and passion, worthy of a national final of this calibre. All three will now head to Kentucky on an all expenses paid trip visiting the Wild Turkey distillery, meeting Master Distiller Jimmy Russell and Associate Master Distiller Eddie Russell and attending the annual National Bourbon Festival. In addition, Henry will be presented with a bottle of Wild Turkey Forgiven, a high-end bourbon and rye blend signed by father and son Jimmy and Eddie.

The competition, which launched in July to seek out the best whiskey bartender in the country, received hundreds of entries from right across the UK. With entrants competing in exciting regional heats, taking place in the 5 host cities (Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and London), 11 of the best cocktail makers were selected to go head to head in the national final on 2nd September.

The contestants were asked to make two drinks, a signature cocktail of their choice as well as a twist on a classic cocktail. Contestants were given 5 minutes preparation time followed by a maximum of 10 minutes to make, perfect and present their creations to the judges.

Wild Turkey
The Right To Freeze Peach (courtesy of Tone Photographer)

To Make ‘The Right to Freeze Peach‘ by Henry Yates , the Wild Turkey Cocktail Champion’s signature cocktail, you will need;

50ml Wild Turkey 81
10ml Crème de peche
20ml Peach syrup (canned)
10ml Lemon juice
100ml Iced black tea (Chinese)
6 drops of Grapefruit bitters

Shake over ice, strain and serve in an empty peach tin can with a sprig of mint and garnish with a Wild Turkey 101 atomised peach slice.

Eddie Russell launched the competition during his whirlwind tour of the UK in July, which saw him travel from the Wild Turkey distillery in Kentucky to present master classes in six cities across the country.
Christophe Schaillee, Regional Director Europe at Campari International, said, “It was a wonderful opportunity to have Eddie Russell launching the first ever UK Wild Turkey Cocktail competition and at the same time host the master Bourbon classes. Wild Turkey is very respected by bartenders and is becoming very fashionable with consumers, and this is a great occasion for audiences to know and appreciate the brand even more. We are very proud of our product and these events are the best way to show the uniqueness and versatility of Wild Turkey.”

The national finalists were;

· Rosie Paterson of Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh and Will Cox of Bon Vivant, Edinburgh, winners of the Glasgow heat at Luac Bar
· Michael Sharper of Milk Thistle, winner of the Bristol heats at Haus Bar
· Benji Purslow of Archer Street and Nicholas Quattroville of Social Eating House, winners of the London heats which took place in The Hawksmoor
· Ed Belshaw of World Service Restaurant & Lounge Bar, Henry Yates from Boilermaker and Lucy Jane Horncastle of The Victoria, Birmingham who won the heats at Nottingham’s Brass Monkey
· Laurie Eaton of Berry & Rye, Liverpool ,Tim Laferla of Mr Coopers House & Garden and Jamie Jones of The Liquorists who won the Manchester heat, judged at Manchester’s Dusk til Pawn

Wild Turkey Tasting Notes

Wild Turkey

It’s not often you get to have lunch with a Master Distiller, especially one who has never even visited the UK before. But that’s exactly what happened today when Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey came to Manchester’s Room Restaurant and Cocktail Bar to talk about his and his fathers, Jimmy Russell, creations.

With bartenders coming from some of Manchester’s finest including Australasia, Simple, The Living Room and The Liquorists, ex Manchester based Martin Taylor (of Black Dog Ballroom, Corridor and Fluid Bars fame) who is the UK Wild Turkey Brand Ambassador, introduced Eddie and his fascinating insight into a brand that many of us know of in some way or form. I myself didn’t know too much about the name, although I’ve had many a dram of it’s two main expressions,  so with my new-found knowledge and initial research, let’s take a look into the Bird –

Eddie Russell
Eddie Russell

The brand can start its history way back in 1869 when the Ripy brothers opened their family distillery on Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Initial interest of the distillery came from the Ripy brothers representing Kentucky at the 1893 World’s Fair, but with the beginning of Prohibition in the US in 1919, the distillery closed until 1933. In 1940 though, Thomas McCarthy, a distillery executive, brought some of his whiskey with him on a wild turkey hunt and shared it amongst friends. It’s said that they enjoyed it so much that they requested he bring some more ‘Wild Turkey’ bourbon on the next hunt. 1954 saw Master Distiller Jimmy Russell (Eddie’s father) join the company, and in 1980, Eddie himself started to work in all parts of the distillery process and bottling, eventually rising to his current role as the associate master distiller. Before Eddie joined though, 1971 saw the Ripy brothers bought out by Austin Nichols Distilling Company, who were subsequently acquired by Pernod Ricard in 1980. Now though, its name is under the Campari Group who purchased the brand back in 2009.

It’s hard to believe that Jimmy and Eddie Russell have a combined 93 years of loyal service in producing Wild Turkey, even more so when Eddie reveals that his father still works at the distillery every day, producing their 15 strong portfolio. It would also be common to see him chatting to other industry distillers like Booker Noe of Jim Beam and Elmer T. Lee of Buffalo Trace (who has very unfortunately passed away this past week) over a dram of his favourite – Wild Turkey 101. But how does Jimmy and Eddie create their biggest seller?

It begins with the selection of sweet corn, rye, and barley malt for distilling, and then using water that comes straight from the Kentucky River to cook the grains during the mashing and malting stage. Once the malted barley gets tossed in, sour mash is added to start the fermentation process. During this process, the yeast turns the starch into sugar. The yeast strain used is the same from the very beginning, and kept in various places (including Eddie’s fridge and even another state in case the power goes and warms the strain, rendering it useless) and is added to the corn, rye, and malt to create the yeast mash. Once the fermentation has finished, the liquid mash is pumped into a continuous still where it is heated so the alcohol can disperse from the mash, rise up the still and into a condenser where it forms back into a liquid.
After distillation, the spirit is poured into new #4 alligator char, white oak barrels and then stored for aging. The whiskey is tasted annually after two years until ready to be drawn from the cask (Wild Turkey age there whiskey longer than most distilleries). Once Jimmy and Eddie believe that the Wild Turkey is ready, the bourbon is poured through a filtration system and into a bottling machine.

Wild TurkeyThe UK only have three of their fifteen strong portfolio available, but two of them have been created by Eddie Russell himself, and their 101 has been a mainstay since the beginning. But how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Wild Turkey 81 – 40.5%

Introduced in 2011 and has aged bourbon of 6-8 years. A nose that begins rather light, but develops aromas of vanilla and caramel to have a rich finish. Smooth on the palate with a velvet texture despite lots of wood flavours. A slow spice and vanilla finish that’s long and mouth-watering.

Wild Turkey 101 – 50.5%

A marriage of primarily 6, 7 and 8-year-old bourbon. Aromas of light wood with lingering notes of caramel and vanilla on the nose. A sharp slice of spice and the vanilla at the beginning of the palate, with the spice developing a warmth that freshens and lingers for a long finish.

Wild Turkey American Honey – 35.5%

Introduced in 2006 and is a blend of pure honey and 4-year-old Wild Turkey. Soft and light on the nose with a lingering scent of honey and sweetness. Almost aromatic. Soft again on the palate, with the sweetness carrying on to oak and vanilla flavours. A great blend of flavours that leaves a fresh aromatic experience.

A fantastic range, with the 101 your traditional sipping bourbon, the 81 introduced by Eddie for the cocktail mixer crowd, and the American Honey to introduce non-bourbon drinkers to the American spirit. As mentioned, the 81 would go great with one of these –

Prohibition Era Manhattan
Prohibition Era Manhattan

Prohibition Era Manhattan

Glass – 

Coupette

Ingredients – 

60 ml Wild Turkey 81
30 ml Cinzano Rosso Vermouth
1 dash of Angostura Bitters

Method

Stir all of your ingredients with ice in a mixing glass until well chilled. Strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with an olive and a lemon twist.

Wild Turkey is a growing brand, with Australia and Japan huge fans of the brand (Eddie and Jimmy once spent 45 minutes signing items on their first visit to Japan, and they had only just left their car!), but the UK is seeing more awareness in the name, especially within the bars as they compete in Wild Turkey’s first ever cocktail competition. If you’re in cities including London, Bristol, Edinburgh and of course Manchester, expect many a bartender to try out their creations on you all as they try to win themselves a prize to the Wild Turkey Distillery!

A brand that is worth gracing your drinks cabinet, and a name that covers all aspects of bourbon drinkers too. What more could you ask?!

* A special thanks to Martin Taylor for allowing me the time to come along and meet Eddie Russell in person.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.