Ep. 95 - Diving Deep into Wild Turkey and And Author's Passion For it

DAVID JENNINGS // Rare Bird 101 & Author

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Show Notes

Is there a whisky you love so much, you could write two books about it? Today, I talk to Wild Turkey superfan David Jennings (aka Rare Bird 101) and talk about his two books American Spirit: Wild Turkey from Ripy to Russell and his new book Wild Turkey: Musings.

We'll discuss his passion for the brand, what it took to research its history, how he built an audience behind his work, his first visit to the Wild Turkey Distillery, and what bourbon he would cheat on Wild Turkey with. It was a lot of fun chatting with another South Carolinian and whiskey author. Enjoy!

Listen to the full episode with the player above or find it on Spotify, Apple or your favorite podcast app under "Whiskey Lore: The Interviews." The full transcript and resources talked about in this episode are available on the tab(s) above.

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Drew (00:00:09):
Welcome to Whiskey Lord, the interviews. I'm your host, drew Hamish, the Amazon bestselling author of Whiskey Lord's Travel Guide to Experiencing Kentucky Bourbon. And today it is time to chat with another author, a whiskey enthusiast, and in this case, a Wild Turkey super fan author of two books about Wild Turkey, Amazon, or American Spirit, wild Turkey Bourbon from Rippy to Russell, and his latest book, which is called Wild Turkey Musings, and he's also the well-known blogger behind Rare Bird 1 0 1. David Jennings is on the show. David, welcome.

David (00:00:47):
Hey, nice to see you.

Drew (00:00:48):
Yeah, I had no idea that when we were chatting back and forth at first about having you on the show that we're both from South Carolina.

David (00:00:56):
Oh yeah. I mean, it's a small world, right?

Drew (00:00:59):
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Right down the road. So we're going to dig in a little bit into the history of Wild Turkey because everybody here loves the history part of things and talk about brands and the whiskeys themselves. But I wanted to first get people introduced to you and how you got on this journey. So talk a little bit, first of all, I think this is funny because as I've read up on you a little bit, and you also mentioned this in the book, I started out as with Jack Daniels and I didn't do very well with Jack Daniels at the beginning, and so I avoided it for a long time, 20 years of people saying, oh, he doesn't really like Jack Daniels and now they're my favorite brand. Oh,

David (00:01:45):
Well there you

Drew (00:01:45):
There. So it's once I got back into whiskey and then I got back into a mode, it was like when you watch a romcom and you see they start out diametrically opposed, but somehow they find something that comes together. And I understand you had that same kind of an experience with Wild Turkey.

David (00:02:07):
Yeah, it wasn't my drink of choice. So when I went to college, usually it was like Jack and Coke, Jim and Coke, crown and Coke, something like that. And then Crown at the time, this was mid nineties, so Crown was seen as kind of the higher class whiskey. Little did I know what American whiskeys were out there, it just was more that Crown was more popular. Again, I would drink Jack and Coke or Jim Coke or Ginger, whatever. It wasn't until mean, and that was pretty much my drink of choice. I mean, I enjoy beer, but I'm not one of these beer people. Nothing against that. It's just not my thing. It is just more of a casual drink every once in a while. I didn't get into whiskey as a hobby or even what I would consider taking the liquid seriously until around 2013.

And my brother-in-law had shared a real fancy Crown Royal, it was a hundred dollars plus, which at that time seemed like an insane amount to spend on a bottle of whiskey. So he asked me if I wanted some, I kind of assumed it would just go into a mixed drink, and he gave it to me over the rocks and I really enjoyed it. I was like, okay, I've never sat there and sipped at that point. I had never really sipped it that way. I'd done shots before, but I'd never really, I was being sophisticated, mad Men was big at the time and all that, and I'm going to have me a whiskey, and I really enjoyed it. So I thought, well, I'm going to go to liquor store and try to find either that whiskey or something comparable. And I started trying different whiskeys and buying whiskey books and buying whiskey magazines and going on Reddit and straight bourbon forms and stuff like this just to try to figure out what the best whiskey in the world is.

All the while avoiding Wild Turkey, because I remember Wild Turkey from college being that was the big shooter, that was Rot Gut whiskey, and I was wrong, but I did not discover that until around 2014 when I bought a little 3 75 of, excuse me, 3 75 Wild Turkey 1 0 1. I was doing some reviews on Reddit at the time, and I figured it would be a fun review because I could talk about this college whiskey and stuff. And I was surprised to find out that it was really good. I'm sitting there thinking, well, I can't say anything bad about this. I had this whole thing in my head of I was going to make a big joke about it, and I'm just like, well, this is not what I was expecting. And it quickly became a favorite. Every other bourbon I was trying just didn't really pound for pound didn't add up.

So I had a deal on my hands. So I'm bragging about how much I love Wild Turkey 1 0 1 on Reddit, our bourbon forum. And someone reached out to me and asked if I'd ever had any dusty wild Turkey. Of course I had not in the sense of sipping it that way. Yeah, maybe some shots back in college. And he sent me a 19 81, 1 0 1 8 year and 1992 cheese gold fall, which is a 12 year expression. And the second I noticed that 81 I was sold, I was like, whatever this is, I want this all the time. And proceeded to pretty much buy up every expression that wild made that you could find on the shelf, searching for a profile similar to that. Of course, that never happened and that's just not going to, I, the chances of finding any flavor profile that's dusty in a modern day expression from any brand is very unlikely.

But what it did teach me was that there are some amazing profiles with both the bourbon and rye whiskey that Wild Turkey makes that deserved someone singing praises of it because you didn't read a lot of it at the time. There was a lot of talk about Weller and the Blains and the typical bourbons that folks are taught to chase. And I became a super fan. I don't really know how to explain it. It's kind of like music. There's bands that grab you and you can't explain why. Why are you a U2 fan? I don't know. I like their music. Right. Somebody else may hate 'em, but yeah, you know, love it. And you can't really, it moves you. Same thing with sports teams. What makes you a Dallas Cowboys fan or Oakland or whatever. It's hard to explain exactly why. There are some things that I can point at as things that I appreciate about Wild Turkey and appreciated early on was the history and the stories about the Russell family. I of course loved the profiles and then I liked that it was kind of an underdog. It's kind of cool when you're talking about something that a lot of people have written off or afraid to dip their toes into it. It attracts a curious audience, I guess is the way to say it. Do

Drew (00:07:49):
You tend to root for underdog sports teams

David (00:07:53):
More often than not? I love watching a good comeback. I love watching a sudden shift where you think that the game is going one way and then it flips at halftime and starts scoring the other way. That's always exciting. It's like a plot twist and nobody likes to watch. Or I guess some people love to see their team win no matter what, but if it's just constant score, score after score, goal after goal, it gets kind of monotonous. And there's not really a lot of conflict, but just a good story if you have strong conflict and a good exchanges and a plot twist. I mean, that's a good time.

Drew (00:08:37):
So I, I'm kind of thinking about when you were talking about music and trying to put a experience I had, because I was a big record collector back in the days before. Vinyl was cool and it was still kind of fading away. And I was thinking, oh, I could put it back to when I heard Led Zeppelin, and then I bought a bunch of Led Zeppelin albums, but it's probably more like Bob Seger in that when once I got into Bob Seger and I started going back to find his albums, some of his albums are really obscure and they many went out of print, so they're hard to find. So it's kind of that kind of a scenario where it almost builds an obsession in you in a way to kind of see if you can hunt those down.

David (00:09:23):
Right? You want to know the grand scope, you know, don't want to leave a stone unturned. And that's been my journey with Wild Turkey. I mean, are there expressions I haven't tried yet? There are a few that I haven't tried yet. And then of course there are date ranges where I've never tasted any 1940s. Wild Turkey, for example, I've had fifties and sixties and seventies, but never had any forties. And then there's a lot, they sourced their rye for many years. So you have rye from pen co and rye from Illinois, which was probably Har Walker, and you have rye from Baltimore, pure Rye, which no longer exists. And I, I've been fortunate enough to try the Maryland rye. I've never tried the Pennsylvania or the Illinois Rye, but one day the cool thing is with all these whiskey brands, there's plenty to discover. Unless it's just something that was just created in the last couple years, chances are there's a very, very rich history to go back and dig through and plenty of liquid for you to kind of explore.

Drew (00:10:31):
Yeah. Well, dusty Dan and I actually, he had sent me a sample of the Decant 76 Bicentennial Wild Turkey. So that's the only dusty wild Turkey that I've tried. But we got into a discussion about how hard it would be to know exactly where that distillate came from, because that would've been the time period where they were probably sourcing some whiskey. Have you been trying to figure those eras out and what came in at what time?

David (00:11:06):
I mean, I think I've got it. You'll never find exactly, because it was just a different industry back then. You have to look at it in a lot of ways, much like a farmer's market and the way that people buy and sell and trade produce, you know, might have bushels of corn and some tomatoes at your stand, but you don't have any blueberries or strawberries or something, and you would like some at your stand. So you trade some of your produce for someone else's produce so that you can have that at your stand to sell. And with whiskey, if you go back far enough, a lot of these brands, I mean, they just traded stuff with each other. They needed barrels or they needed distillate or they needed yeast because their yeast went bad. Especially in Kentucky, there was a lot of helping each other out.

It wasn't frowned upon. Things weren't owned by these large foreign conglomerates, and everything wasn't locked down and tight where you don't share things like back then it was, if your neighbors still was broken, you'd lend them the tools or the parts that he needed to get it back up. Nowadays it'd be like, oh, your Sol, good luck. But back then it, that's just not how it worked with a lot of these old school distilleries for Wild Turkey. I mean, when it was fortunate, first introduced around 1942, it was owned by a wholesale grocer at the time, Austin Nichols and Company. And that whiskey was sourced from Kentucky. A lot of it came from the ripe distillery, which would become Anderson County and eventually become Wild Turkey. But a lot of it came from old Boone, old Joe, a lot of these Anderson County and close to Anderson County distilleries.

But I mean, I talked to one of the distillers, well, I apologize. I talked to a grandson of one of the distillers that started the year before Jimmy, and he asked his grandfather a series of questions for me and was able to come back with some really cool answers. And one of the questions was, what was the source of the whiskey? And a lot of it was that distillery there was operating under D S P K Y 27 at the time, so a lot of it was coming from Rippy or Anderson County, but they were getting barrels from Old Boone. And he said every once in a while they would just have to drive to Bardstown and buy bulk. I mean, just whatever needed to go in. It wasn't as proprietary as it is now.

Once Austin Nichols purchased the distillery in 71 and just knowing Jimmy it was his preference to use what they made, and that was the whole point of buying the distillery, was to make sure that you could keep your product going because you controlled it from the start. So once it hit the seventies that the source whiskey started going away, they sold a lot of barrels to Gillian Van Winkle. So those early pappies are actually not Weeded Bourbon, it's Ry Bourbon, and it was sold to Gillian from those old boon stocks that Austin Nichols had. Matter of fact, I believe the Pappy that won all the acclaim that got the 99 and the wine magazine or whatever was the old boon stuff. Really? Oh wow. So everybody assumes that Pappy was always weeded, and that's not the case. But yeah, so once they bought the distillery there, Jimmy would much rather use his own whiskey than someone else's, and his is the best. So why source?

Drew (00:14:58):
Yeah, exactly.

David (00:14:59):
But your original question was my journey. So it started with dabbling and whiskey, discovering a brand that I fell in love with and still in love with to today to where I'm at now with two books behind me and continuing to research whiskey every day.

Drew (00:15:21):
And so what got you into writing a blog?

David (00:15:24):
I just had a bunch of reviews I was doing for Reddit, and it became one Wild Turkey review after another, I'd done a i'd, I probably had over a hundred reviews on my old Reddit account. By the time I started getting serious about starting my own blog, I had maybe 20 to 25 Wild Turkey reviews, and I thought I oughta put these on a blog as an archive type of thing where I was still going to post a Reddit, but you could go back to my blog and easily find all my Wild Turkey reviews. And then once I did that and it started getting attention, then I thought, well, maybe I need to look out the other direction, which is make the blog the focus and then publish to Reddit. And then eventually I just stopped publishing to Reddit only because nothing against Reddit. I enjoy going on Reddit and reading what people review on there, but I don't necessarily for my words to be somewhere else. Right. Once I committed to having a blog of my own, I wanted my words to live there and in order to share your review on Reddit, which I agree with this practice, I mean, you know, can't spam it, you can't just post a link, you have to post the full article and review, which totally fine with it, just I chose not to do that because I like to have ownership of my words.

Drew (00:16:38):
It's kind of interesting that your current book is another step into preserving your content into the future,

David (00:16:48):
Right? Yeah, it's interesting that grew to be something bigger than I had originally planned. I knew I wanted a little a Reader's Digest type of annual where it's like I went back and found the original idea was to have one per year. So have an annual each year and just do it at a local printer. No pictures, just have it. And then the more and more I started compiling it and putting together and figuring it out, I'm like, I might as well just do a book and just do a five year book, just do one book. And that's when I launched the Kickstarter and I was really kind of nervous. I was like, is anybody even going to want this? I was very apprehensive to try that because you are repurposing content, and I didn't want people to feel like I was ripping them off.

Well, you know, can find the reviews on my blog, why would I want to buy the book? So I made sure that if I was going to do this, I was going to add something, add more than one thing, so wasn't going to reuse photographs from the blog. We're going to get all new shots with Victor, have Ricky design a really cool book, and then for each post, insert my author's notes or kind of a director's cut. And as you've probably seen it flipping through it that it kind of explains the why for each blog post. And some have deeper stories than people probably realize. Others maybe not as much. But I tried to explain the purpose behind every post. And then also I gave an introduction or a prologue and epilogue to wrap it all up and kind of explain where I started and where I'm at after the five years. So it was a lot of fun to do. It was very hard figuring out which posts were going to go in it. I went through probably three or four versions of the book before I ended up getting to the one that I actually used. I look back now and I still kind of debate on whether I should have included this or that or taken this or that out. But at the end of the day, I'm happy with it and maybe another four or five years I'll do another one.

Drew (00:19:06):
So this is one of those things where, and in the book you get a chance to learn your first experience at the Wild Turkey Distillery, but you had actually met Jimmy and Eddie prior to that visit. So i's right. I understands, right?

David (00:19:21):
Yeah. I met them for the first time in 2018, which was about two years after I had started the blog. And I met them right after I had written the Masters Keep 1894 review, which was wasn't brutal, but it wasn't nice. I mean, it was honest, let's just say that it was honest. And I was really nervous because I was like, I don't know if Eddie reads this stuff or if it was just on his radar at all. But I was nervous about going into it and him saying something like, I read that review yours, but that it didn't even really come up. It was if it did, I mean, I don't really remember it being a thing. And I met him and Jimmy and met a friend of mine for the first time there named Bryant. He and I have stayed really close since then and just hung out and sipped whiskey and talked about the brand, and I had no idea at that time I'd write a book. This was just a blogger visiting as heroes, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. So every opportunity I had to see Jimmy Nitti after that, I made sure I took that.

Drew (00:20:38):
I guess they're not out on the road. Eddie's probably on the road. I don't know. Does Jimmy still travel around?

David (00:20:43):
Jimmy stopped. That was the last time Jimmy traveled. Okay. I mean, with the exception of I think maybe a whiskey fest or two after that. But that was the last kind of tour with Jimmy. We didn't know it at the time. Eddie continued to hit the road for another year or two until Covid hit, and then everybody stayed home. But ever since that, Eddie really hasn't traveled that much. Bruce is done a lot of the traveling, and Joanne Eddie's niece has done a good majority of the traveling. I see Joanne and a lot of, if you follow her on social media, especially Instagram, see her traveling all over the country hosting tastings in Nashville and Chicago and wherever. So she's all around. And Bruce now is kind of anchored at the distillery a lot of the time. He still travels to my knowledge. But if you go do a barrel pick at Wild Turkey, for example, it's going to be Bruce.

They're popping the bongs and filling your glass, which gives it that nice Russell touch. It really, it's so it's fun watching these changes over the years. Just going from Eddie kind of handling that to Bruce handling that and then kind of seeing the transition between, it's the limit for Wild Turkey. I, I've really been impressed in the last year with a lot of the profiles that are coming out of the Single Barrel program, and I think we're kind of returning back to some of those profiles that you could find, like 2015 to 2018 and real excited about it.

Drew (00:22:28):
One of the things that you talk about in the book that I did not know from their history was that they were actually purchased by Preo Ricard at one point and Preo. Ricard's interesting because with my research on the Irish whiskey industry, pero Ricard was part of the reason why Jameson became a worldwide brand again after having disappeared. And so there's this appreciation for how Pero Ricard had brought the Irish whiskey industry back. And what was interesting about what I read on in your book was that I don't know that this was a time period where there were a lot of brand ambassadors, but they had made the choice to put Jimmy in that position, which seems like an inspired choice at this point.

David (00:23:18):
Yeah, I mean, I'm sure that there were marketing reps throughout the country. I mean, obviously you have to have someone go into the stores and try to sell the product and get it placed, but as far as getting someone out there to go to the different festivals, to go to real large clients like bars and restaurants, to have someone there to talk about the brand, who better than Jimmy Russell, and he wasn't the only one. I mean, Booker no would get out there and Elmer t Lee would get out there, and I don't think Parker being traveled as much, but he did travel some, and a lot of these old school guys, I mean, that was how you got in touch with your customer. And back then it was, bourbon wasn't anywhere close to as big as it is now, so you wouldn't have very large crowds.

You would go there and it would would be this nice intimate gathering. And if you have someone, especially Jimmy who, I mean you could talk to Jimmy for hours and it just flies by mean there is no dull moment. So really, I mean, to have the person in your presence talking about the brand, and they're the ones that make the actual product, I is always a plus for the consumer. And they leave feeling like they know the brand and the product better than they ever thought before. And just a great way to introduce people to what Wild Turkey is really about and not what they assume Wild Turkey is about. And the only thing I think that we're, and it's always 2020, if you look at those last years under Perino's ownership, there was a lot of this, give them the bird and advertisements. They're in biker bars ordering Wild Turkey 1 0 1, and it was this very roughneck type of sales pitch. And looking back, it didn't need that. That didn't help. And I think that Campari, I don't think they realized it immediately, but I think they did kind of realize that that was not the image that they needed to go with. See,

Drew (00:25:38):
Seems like maybe what they were aiming for was the Harley Davidson crowd, but they don't really understand that Harley Davidson, even though it has this roughneck kind of audience, it's actually more of a classy kind of a brand. I mean, there is something that makes you appreciate the brand behind it, that if you're going to get too down in the grime of things, then it is a negative and would keep somebody like you from wanting to try that particular whiskey.

David (00:26:15):
That's right. So

Drew (00:26:17):
Let's talk about your first journey to the distillery. What was that like? Had you been to a distillery before then?

David (00:26:24):
No, no. That was my first experience at any distillery. And what better experience than to visit Wild Turkey? I write about it, well, it's in Wild Turkey musings. I wrote about it for my blog, but it's in my second book if you want to see it in detail with some additional pictures. It's in Wild Turkey musings. But I wrote about it, called it in the Presence of Greatness because I felt like I was right there, not just, I'd met Jimmy Nettie before, but to see them there at Wild Turkey in the Element and having your glass filled from the thief and you're walking the floors of this rick house that was built in 1894, and you're seeing all this old lumber and the angels share that's soaked up into that wood for over a century. And it was quite moving, and I felt like it was in some ways, an out-of-body experience.

If I think back, that's kind of like a dream. I didn't want it to end. It's still to this day, my favorite barrel pick. I've had every barrel pick at Wild Turkey. I love, I mean, never had a bad one. It's always been a blast. But that first one you have in your mind what something is going to be like when you do your first anything. So your first baseball game as a kid, when your dad takes you to your first pro game or whatever, you have it in your head what it's going to be like. And depending on what that experience is, it may or may not meet those expectations. With Wild Turkey, it was so much more than I ever imagined and really just gave me that feeling that I had inside that I knew it was going to be special, was affirmed, and it was an experience that I'll never forget, and every time I go, I relive it.

Drew (00:28:28):
So were you thinking about the book at that time? Had you gotten to that

David (00:28:32):
Point? Yeah, yeah. The first book, I had a draft and a successful Kickstarter going. I had launched, I think the Kickstarter was campaign when I went to the distillery. So I had a draft and we had photography in the works at the time because Vic was there. A lot of the pictures in the book, the first book come from that barrel pick, actually a lot of the B roll and stuff was used in the book. But yeah, so I knew I was doing the book at that point, and I had reached out to Campari and got permission and that for photography and that type of thing, but that was not on my mind. It was like, yeah, when I got there, I was in the moment, and I've always been that way. Nothing against anyone's way of doing things, but I know that there are, whether it's a blogger or a podcast or a YouTube or whatever, a lot of folks, they go to these barrel picks and they're doing selfies and they're recording the experience and they're talking over it.

And that's great entertainment for your fans. And I'm sure that there are probably people that follow my blog and read my books up that wish I would do that. That's just not me. When I go something like that, I want to zone out of everything else and just be in that moment because I feel like if I'm in that moment, I can write about it better later. So you won't see very many pictures or selfies or videos when I go to these things because I'm really just dialed in and trying to pick the best barrel.

Drew (00:30:15):
Yeah, I totally agree with you on that. It's part of my frustration actually in some ways, of all the places that I've been in terms of distilleries, that there are very few pictures of me actually at the distillery. I'm snapping pictures of everything else, and if I'm sitting there thinking about how I'm going to produce this thing or how this is going to fit with something else, then I'm not asking questions that I think that my audience would want to know about when I actually do sit down and put something right together. So it's so easy. Usually it's a rush in terms of the information coming at you anyway, so it's hard enough to hang on to what you're getting. But yeah, I mean, I think if I could have somebody, a producer follow me around, sometimes I think that would be the ideal that I'd have somebody just filming me as I go, and then I could talk about it later on. But even at that, you still have somebody who is distracting and people aren't themselves. If you'd have brought a camera in and been there talking to Eddie and Jimmy, it wouldn't have been the same conversation because they would've either held things close to the vest or just that having a camera on you or whatever that may be, just changes the whole dynamic.

David (00:31:38):
That was one thing I really appreciated having Victor there, because he did photograph that first barrel pick, but Vic was, I mean, he's very well known in the bourbon industry. He shoots for a lot of brands formally, so he was trying the barrels too. So he was part of the group, and he had a very good sense about, well, he was very professional, and it was almost like he didn't even know he was there. There wasn't flashes going off and all kinds of distraction, distractions or telling people, no, no, don't stand here. Stand there. It was like you did. I didn't even know it was there. And then when we got done, I was thinking, did he even get any pictures? And then when he showed me what he had, it was just hundreds of awesome photographs. I'm like, dude, I didn't even know you had taken all these things.

And so it was nice to have that. And then the last barrel pick I did there, one of my Paton supporters, clay, his wife came and brought her camera and did the same thing. She was trying to whiskey with us and everything and hardly even knew that it was even happening. And some really nice photographs came out that you have, like you said, you kind of have to keep your mind focused on everything else. And you don't want to be thinking about, well, should I get any pictures of that, or should I get any pictures of this or wonder if I'm standing in the right place? I was like, you don't want to have to worry about any of that. You don't want to focus on picking the right barrels and having a good time, and you can write about it later. And that's one of my favorite things to write about is I do a lot of these travel things now.

So if I travel to the distillery, I like to write about and share that experience with my readers, and it's a lot of fun. They're very long posts. It usually takes me a week or more to get it all out, and I have to really try to think hard and remember about what exactly happened. But they're a lot of fun for me. They're a lot of fun for me because I get to relive it in words. But I think a lot of people enjoy 'em. They're long reads, but I try to make 'em a fun narrative.

Drew (00:33:53):
Yeah. What's kind of interesting, when I wrote my book on Kentucky Bourbon and doing the Bourbon Trail, I kept thinking about what are these distilleries going to think about me writing a book where I'm not really reviewing, actually, I'm just kind of giving a description of here is what the experience has involved in it and why you might want to choose this distillery over another one to visit. But I was doing small little narratives on each, you're writing an entire book on a brand. And it's interesting to see when I contact some brands, how closed up they are and you know, have to tell them how many people are listening to your podcast and they get really specific. And then you get other ones that are just like, oh, we'd love to have, yeah, sure, let's make this happen. And I understand it because they invest a lot of money in trying to keep that brand going. What was your feeling when you started working on this book? Did you feel in a way, because you have honest reviews in there, you have, if you taste something and you're like, that's probably not my favorite, you say that. And what was your experience and did you feel like you needed to be walking on eggshells or did you get the open door to just go for it?

David (00:35:19):
Well, I have never felt that way with Campari ever. I have never felt like I'm walking eggshells. I've never felt like it was expected of me to write things in a certain way. And I have never been even hinted at that. Maybe I should do something like that, never. And I felt more confident about it early on because one of my first conversations with Eddie, it might have been the second time when we picked a barrel in Columbia, South Carolina, I can't remember if it was the first time I met him or the second time, but he had told me about how one thing he always liked about Chuck Cowdry, who I look up to, and I really enjoy Chuck's writing his style. I really enjoy his style. And Eddie told me that his favorite thing about Chuck is that Chuck was always honest. So anytime Chuck writes about something, he gives his honest take unfiltered.

And that's in a lot of ways what those old Kentucky distillers are like. I mean, Booker know was that same way, very unfiltered. He would tell you how he felt about something. And I think there is a, there's respect there, and I really appreciate it because it's very easy to take criticism the wrong way. I mean, that's human nature. If someone says something negative, human nature tells you that, well, you should disagree with that and defend yourself. But when you don't and you kind of offer up a quiet respect to, okay, well, that's their opinion, and they're entitled to that. And sometimes even take it and go, you know what? Well, if I didn't impress you with this whiskey, I'm going to impress you with this one and take it as a learning opportunity. So I've never felt that way a Campari, they've always been very supportive.

Things take time, and that gets frustrating sometimes. Getting all the legal stuff in a row for the first book was very difficult. Here I am, this new guy. It's not like I'm Fred Minnich or Clay Rise, or somebody that's got a backlog of whiskey books. So I'm sure they were probably behind the scenes wondering what this was going to be like, was going to look good, was it going to sound good? Can the student even write a book? But yeah, I guess for having the blog, they were able to say, well, maybe it'll turn out. And when it was all over with, they loved it and signed off on it. And it's not an official publication, but I got the permission that I needed to have it out there, and they've always been that way. The only complaint I have is sometimes things take a little long to do, but I mean, it's a large corporation, you can't get anything done quickly like that, man, a small family company. Sure. Some of these smaller distilleries that I've worked with, Starlight, you can have things done quickly where they're family owned. So yeah, answer your question, never have, I felt like I'm on eggshells.

Drew (00:38:38):
You're a bit of a trendsetter, I think, in a way, because I know there have been books about individual brands before, but they seem few and far between. And now when I go on Amazon, it seems like I see all sorts of books about individual brands are starting to pop up and interesting that it would have popped out of this story of Wild Turkey. And I'm wondering, when you dived into this, how, what did you feel you needed to do in terms of being able to tell the Wild Turkey story, and how much did you know about the rips and the rest when you first got it, got started?

David (00:39:20):
Hardly anything. I mean, honestly, I was taking what you read in brand published materials and secondhand publications like blog posts and trade magazines, and you're taking all that information as the truth. And as it turned out, as I started researching that, well, the truth isn't always a hundred percent true.

Drew (00:39:48):

David (00:39:48):
Always something that's different. And that's when I realized that the whole timeline for Wild Turkey that you would find out there on the web had a lot of holes in it and inaccuracies in it. And it caused me to do some really, really tough research where I had to find old sources. I had to get in touch with the Kentucky Secretary of State. I had to get in touch with the New York Secretary of State. I had to try to figure out when these companies were bought and sold, when they changed ownership and the names of the firms changed, and there was a lot of research that had to be done, and I was able to paint a much more accurate picture of the brand history. Some of it's a little geeky, some of it's not real fun because it's a lot of corporate stuff, but I wanted to make sure I had the story.

A lot of people don't even know that Wild Turkey was owned by a tobacco company because Liggett Meyer had purchased Austin Nichols. And so for a period of time, the brand was owned by a tobacco company all through the seventies. So there was always a lot, they had humidors and lighters and all kinds of stuff interesting that they sold because they were a tobacco company. But so I never thought I would dive as deep as I did, but I knew I had to get it right. Yeah, because the one thing that scares me as an author writing a book with history in it is that somebody's going to come back and say, you didn't research this well enough, you're wrong about this. And that just thought was terrifying. So I had to check and recheck and check, but at the same time, I wanted to keep it.

I didn't want it to sound like a boring book. And so I wrote, I wrote my blog post, that was all I knew at the time, how the tone should be. And I had some folks read it and they said, it doesn't really read a history book. I'm not really sure a publisher is going to want this. It sounds very informal, and I took it hard. I remember one night just thinking, just screw this. I'm not going to do this anymore. This I'm going to be made fun of in the writing community because I can't write the right way. I thought there was a right way to write. And the next day I woke up and I'm like, I'm going to do this. I don't care for me. This isn't for everybody else. This is my goal and I'm going to achieve it. And if people like it, great, if they don't, as long as I'm happy with it, what matters most. And my wife encouraged me to keep going. And then the interesting thing is, once the book was out, this is the first book, once that book was out, some of the best compliments I received on it, this was an easy book to read. I love the tone. It was very informal. I felt like you were talking to me. It wasn't boring. I didn't feel like I was reading a textbook. And I'm like, thank you.

Drew (00:43:07):
Like this

David (00:43:08):
What I

Drew (00:43:08):
Wanted. Yeah, this is the challenge. And I've talked to this, I talked about this with several history writers, and I have said, when I start working on this Tennessee Whiskey history book, I'm like, I've written four different drafts. I've started it four dif different times. And the first time I wrote it, it was a whiskey lore episode, and it just was not translating because in whiskey lore, I have music behind me that can create transitions. And so it makes sense when you're shifting because I'm changing the tone in the room versus, you know, have to figure out how to do that with an author style. Shifting from first person to third person back to first person gets really kind of confusing in the book. And then going back, rewriting it and saying, you know what? I'm going to do it. This is a scholarly work.

I'm going to write it. It's a history book. And I go, this is not my writing style. It is just hard. It's like, I can't do that. And so I don't think people realize it's hard enough to research these books, but then you don't want to end up with a book that you start out writing in one tone for this history book, and then all of a sudden the second half of your book is about reviews and doing tastings, and that you all of a sudden have to be in a different voice. That just would be confusing, I think, to a reader.

David (00:44:33):
Right. I'm glad I stuck with it and kept it the way that it is. And it is it perfect. No, I mean, I go back now and I read things like, ah, why mean? I used a lot of words truthfully, and in my honest opinion, it's like, well, of course the whole thing is my honest opinion, and why preface the sentence with that I, I'll go back now, I'm looking like, God, I wish I could just cut all those out because of course that is, I'm telling you. But these are just things that you learn along the way. You're kind of writing how you hear things in your head, and then you go back and you're like, okay, I probably could've cut some color out of these. But so it's tone is hard, and the best thing to do is to just not really think about it at all and just go with your gut and you can always go back and polish it up later.

Drew (00:45:27):
Well, I think the other thing in reading this is the challenge of not losing the reader because this is a very non-linear history. It kind of goes off in this direction and that direction. You got the rips. The thing that always confuses me is that you have Cliff Springs and Clover Bottom are, yep. They're two. They both start with C I can't remember which one.

David (00:45:52):
I get those two mixed up all the time too. So

Drew (00:45:54):
Yeah, it's like, how do you do this? It was interesting because you wrote something in there that I thought was fascinating and no historian is really dug deep into the whiskey trust. But the interesting thing that when the rips owned it, it suddenly ended up in the hands of the whiskey trust. And after all the R reading and research that I've done, because I researched another Kentucky brand that was bought by the Whiskey Trust. And so I think I can answer your question in the book in terms of why did TB rippy give up this very successful distillery to the whiskey trust? Because the whiskey trust was notorious for putting guns to people's heads. Well, actually, I found an article in 19, well, they were incorporated in February of 1899. By April, they had bought almost the entire Kentucky distilling industry. I think what ended up happening was people were selling because they saw this bohemoth coming back, and they knew that they would not be able to compete against this behemoth coming into Kentucky because they'd never been in Kentucky before.

They had been more based in Illinois and New York and and the rest. So that's what happened with my guy was that I was researching was basically you're kind of pushed into a corner and you don't know whether you're going to be able to succeed. And so there was a quote though by the guy who was in charge. He bought this other distillery, and on the same day he had a quote in the paper that said, if we didn't buy it, we didn't want it. Which is actually kind of a compliment to all the distilleries that the Kentucky Distillers and Warehouse company slash Whiskey Trust bought because they had a good enough feeling about those particular distilleries that they wanted to buy the best of the best Kentucky distilleries and did so and apparently had enough clout and money and trickery too, because there were sometimes people who were bidding that weren't whiskey trust people when some of these distilleries went up for auction and then come to find out, oh, they just bought it for Stole, or one of the other people who was involved in the whiskey trust. Yeah. So

David (00:48:20):
Yeah, it's a fascinating topic because, well, it couldn't exist nowadays. It would be an illegal operation. But yeah, there were notorious for bully tactics and backing people in corners. So I'm sure there were all those factors in there. But more importantly, TV's health was in really bad shape at the time, so why fight it when you have other things to worry about? So that, I don't know if I'll ever have the final answer. What exactly was the exchange between TB Rippy and the trust? I just probably lost a time, but you could add up a lot of factors there, like you had mentioned, plus his health, and it only made sense. And in the end, he made enough money in the sale to take care of his wife after he passed away. And according to Tom mean, she lived a very nice life. Mean she had someone that managed the ground, someone that managed the house.

So she was pretty well off. I just thought it was kind of sad in a way, because he had four sons that probably were expecting to carry on in the business and did not, at least not directly from their father. They had to purchase the distillery from their uncle who, it's strange because a lot of people think that TB Rippy owned Wild Turkey or the distillery was wild, and TB Rippy did not. He owned the distillery where the quarry is now by the river. So if you're at Wild Turkey and you look down at the river, there's a quarry down there. And TB Rippy owned, I believe that was Clover Bottom, but I'd have to check. And anyway, there was a distillery there that TB Rippy owned, and his brother purchased the distillery on the Hill where Wild Turkey is now. It was formerly Old Moore, and it became JP Rippy Distillery. And Old Hickory Springs, I believe was gone, went by that name for a period of time there. But he sold that to TBI Rippy Sons, and they started Rippy Brothers there. So just to clear up that confusion, because a lot of people assume that TB Rippy owned the distillery there, that squadron, and he did not. But his indirectly, his family did.

Drew (00:50:46):
Well, the other thing I found interesting was they have an Irish background, and the Irish did not. I mean, in the US until bottled in Bond came along, there weren't a lot of people bottling whiskey. So you didn't necessarily need brands as much except that you'd be stamping a barrel. But a lot of what was going on back at that time period for Ireland as well as in Kentucky, was a lot of them were just selling to Blenders or in Ireland, they were bonders or rectifier, if you want to call 'em that here as well. And so there really wasn't necessarily an establishment of a brand up until that time period with a lot of these companies. And I think that's what people missed. They kind of look at the industry back then, and they try to equate it to today's interest way of doing things. Right. Totally different. And yeah, it's so different. Yet, what's interesting about Wild Turkey is that they ended up kind of going back to that under the Austin Nichols scenario, where it was, again, it was supplying, it was looking for supplies of whiskey rather than promoting a distillery and a brand together.

David (00:52:03):
Well, when I sat down, and you had mentioned how the history in the book is not linear, and when I sat down and tried to make it linear, it just didn't work because I'm hopping back and forth and back and forth. If you could look at the timeline, you, you'll have a ripe entry, then you'll have an Austin Nichols entry, then you'll have a JTS Brown entry or something. So it's, it kind of flip flops around. And I figured that it's best to tell each kind of story on its own. So the story of Wild Turkey is really three stories coming together and being the rippy is the rips are one element. Austin Nichols is another element, and then the Russells are the third element. And when you bring those together, you get a big picture of what the brand is all about and where it started from.

And it's not a simple, it's not like this single linear line where this family owned it and they sold it or something like that. Yeah, it's a lot of building from this and that and selling this and that and getting there. So yeah, it hops around a good bit, and it was difficult trying to figure out the best way to do that. And I chose to just do three different histories and then combine at a meeting point there and end it with the Russells. But yeah, it's never easy finding out the perfect way to explain a history that old.

Drew (00:53:29):
Yeah. And with that many branches to it, and so many other brands that they were, and people that they were associated with, when you start seeing, there's a McBrayer brand now, did that where you, I feel like I kind of have the inside on where all that came from. Yeah,

David (00:53:46):
I mean, to some degree. I mean, Anderson County, I'm, I'm surprised that no one has written a book about it. It would be super geeky. But Anderson County was the distilling hotbed for many years. You had some of the biggest, most well known bourbon brands in the world, Cedarbrook, which was Judge Mc Breyer's brand coming out of Anderson County, as well as SEL and Old Boone and, oh, I'm sorry, old Joe. And you know, had the rips and old rippy and all that. So tons of stuff coming out of Anderson County. And that all changed out, especially after Prohibition. But lots going on there. And yeah, I've actually exchanged some emails with McBrayer brand, and I've tried some of their whiskey. It's good stuff. I'm glad that somebody's taking the family name and doing something with it there. There's a campus that Wild Turkey ages Whiskey Act called McBrayer, and it's right across the street from Four Roses there at what used to be the old Joe Distillery a long time ago.

And Jimmy just calls it McBrayer because it was a McBrayer distillery at one point in time, briefly, but they call it McBrayer. But all that stuff is all tied together. All the Anderson County history is all interwoven, and they all helped each other and shared stuff with each other. And it's really a tangled up web, honestly. It's really hard to, especially when you look at Four Roses, it's like there's a lot of stuff that I don't think anyone has really, I mean, Al did a great job in his book, but I don't think a clear picture of the history has been established yet to this day. Maybe it will one day.

Drew (00:55:45):
Yeah. Well, and then we have the water fill and Dowling, I just did a

David (00:55:50):
Yep, yep. Dialing, yeah,

Drew (00:55:51):
U YouTube video about why we can't have Mexican bourbons anymore. And it was because of, in

David (00:55:57):
Dallas, that's a fascinating story of her going to Juarez. And yeah, it's just amazing that, and really, even though she's not formally credited as the master distiller, because that wasn't something that, a role that females would play formally at the time because of the way our country was at the time. She really was though. She was, by all accounts, she was the master distiller, she was the boss. And people like to give credit to other folks for being the first female, this and that. But I really feel like Mary Dowling deserves more credit than she's received.

Drew (00:56:35):
This is the really tough part about history, and I brought this up actually the other day, was someone that historians will get blamed a lot for not telling the history of black people or of women, or when you are a history writer and you go back into that time period, you are searching, you want to find something, it's like, I want to know these stories. I hit this a lot with Tennessee. It's like, there are so many great stories here, but nobody documented anything. And so we hit these dead ends and then we have to piece together what we can. And so it was interesting when Elizabeth McCall was named as the master distiller at Woodford Reserve. It was like first female master distiller at a major distillery in Kentucky. And that question was asked of me, is she? And I went, no, I can already think of several people that I might put in there, but this comes down to the question of what is a master distiller? And it's funny talking with Jack Daniels and they say, Chris Fletcher says, my grandfather would never have said that he was a master distiller. That was not his. Yeah, they were

David (00:57:54):
Just distillers. I mean, I have an old business card, and it's of Mr. Houchin, I told you about the gentleman that worked started a year before Jimmy, and it just says Thomas Houchin distiller. I mean, wow, it's the jts brown card. Cause they were operating as jts Brown at the time. But these are things that these terms now are commonplace. But you didn't hear that back then, you know, hear that in the, you didn't hear master distiller. You do now as it's more of a PR term, honestly. Now are there folks who are master distillers? Yeah, in essence, yes. Jimmy Russell being one of those individuals. I mean, you can't deny someone that's had that many decades of experience starting. Everything now is automated. You have computer processes. But back when he started, it was all analog, all manual, you know, literally put your sweat into it.

Literally, these were very hot places to be, and everything was done by hand and by your senses. So you walk in the fermentation room and you knew if it didn't smell something was going on. This is stuff that you just can't learn out of a textbook or have a computer tell you. Yeah. It's like this is all on you, and you do it through experience and guidance from others like Jimmy had with Mr. Hughes to teach you how to know when something is right and something is not. So he's one of the last of the old breed that you know, could really genuinely call a master distiller. There was a quote one time I read by Daven, I believe it was on Twitter, but he was talking about how nowadays if someone really wants to see what a true master distiller is, you would really need to go to factories that distill chemicals. And these are individuals who have really high tech chemistry degrees and very experienced. And these processes, it's not just wet, it's not just making whiskey. So the term master distiller now in the industry is more of a PR thing. It shows responsibility, and I'm fine with that, especially if it's a brand that I would call legit. So the term can be used in different capacities, but for the most, it's a PR thing.

Drew (01:00:46):
70 years, Jimmy will have been in the business in what, a year or two? I think his anniversary is coming up.

David (01:00:52):
He started in 54. So yeah, next year. Next year will be the big one.

Drew (01:00:58):
Great. The year. Yeah. Let me get my years right. Yeah. So

David (01:01:01):
Yeah, this year will be right there at 69, and so he'll be seven next year.

Drew (01:01:07):
That is crazy. That's amazing. I have not met him yet. I love the fact that he does still sit in the visitor's center and meet people there. That is a solid brand ambassador that he's done it from beginning to end

David (01:01:22):
And he still remembers everything. You can sit there and talk with him. I mean, I've had so much fun. Every time I go to the distillery, I take time to sit and talk with Jimmy and just sometimes it's brief because I have other things I've got to do or we've got to pick a barrel, whatever and sometimes I've sat there and been able to spend an hour with him, but I could sit there all day. Did you Never get bored. And there's, Jimmy is just a wealth of knowledge. The people that he's known through throughout the years and the places he's been and the change in the industry that he's seen this, you really, I mean, I should probably do more interviews with Jimmy. There's a lot more information to gather there.

Drew (01:02:09):
These are the things that you realize. After I did an interview with Al Young at Four Roses a month before he passed away. Wow. And I had so many more questions. I was actually thinking in my head, boy, I'd love to go back there and ask him more questions. And it's like, you need to get those stories down while you can, because once they're gone, no way to. And you understand that from going through and doing all that research and that history. I'm sure there's many times you were like, man, I wish I could just ask somebody. Yeah. Oh

David (01:02:44):
Yeah. Tons of times It gets quite frustrating because you, there's some questions that will just probably never be answered. And it was a big loss losing Al because Al was very much dedicated to brand history, particularly with Seagrams, but in Four Roses, but not just Seagrams and Four Roses. He did a lot of oral history recordings about Anderson County, particularly Wild Turkey and the Rippy family. And I'm so glad that he did because of those interviews. I had a lot of material for my book, and you can find those on YouTube. But the Nun Center has published all of those interviews for free on YouTube.

Drew (01:03:29):
Oh, very nice. That's great. Yeah. So there's a couple of things that I want to pull out to broaden people's knowledge about Wild Turkey and some of the things they may find on a bottle. So the 1855 date, where does that come from?

David (01:03:49):
That comes from the founding of Austin Nichols And Company as a wholesale grocer in Brooklyn has nothing to do with Ball Turkey, but they've just used that because when Pero acquired, you didn't see that until Pero acquired. Well take that back. Austin Nichols would use that date for anniversaries and stuff. So in 1955, they had a hundred year anniversary and they did a special wild Turkey decanter that a lot of people don't know about with hand painted turkeys on. It's really rare. It's expensive. So it had the 18 55, 19 55 on that, but it was mainly used by Pero. So when Pero purchased the distillery in 1980, they purchased Austin Nicholson Company, not just Wild Turkey, not just the distillery. And so they kind of used that to their advantage with the whole 1855 establishment of Austin Nichols. And just tied it into the Wild Turkey brand itself. Because a lot of people don't realize that Wild Turkey started as a wholesale Grocer's house brand.

Costco has Kirkland. Well, for a long time, Austin Nichols had Austin Nichols, Kentucky Whiskey, Austin Nichols, Marilyn Rye, Austin Nichols, Canadian Whiskey or whatever. And then when you know that you had the famous hunting trip that the executive Thomas McCarthy went on where he took bourbon samples and his friends loved it and they're like, man, I want more of that Wild Turkey bourbon. Cause they were talking about it in the sense of the bourbon that you had on our wild Turkey hunt. It was just a light bulb went off. And he's like, you know what? Let's just call this Wild Turkey bourbon. I think it would sell well in the south. And at the time there was a lot of marketing in the forties and fifties. The brands were marketing towards the South for bourbon. So you know, had other brands doing things where they were Civil war kind of themes or kind of hunting themes or this was not uncommon.

And that's where it came from. It came from just an executive having this idea from that. So a lot of people don't realize, but the 1855 is the establishment of Austin Nichols. It was called another name. And then they added different partners and swapped partners out. But it eventually landed on Austin Nichols and Company. It was a wholesale grocer in Brooklyn. And this is back before the five and dime years. If you went to your town and wherever it might be in Louisville or whatever, you went to the store, the grocery store, that grocer was getting groceries wholesale from a company like Austin Nichols. And the wears were behind the counter. So this wasn't the age where all it is at Walmart now, where the merchandise is all out for the customers to touch. You know, might have barrels of peaches or something like that. But most of the merchandise was behind the counter.

And if they didn't have it, they had a catalog and you could pick whatever, I need this hammer or whatever, and they would order it from Austin Nichols and it would get there. But that so Wild Turkey was just their house brand. When prohibition was repealed, Austin Nichols got back into the wine and spirits industry, and then with the Five and Dimes booming, they kind of saw that weren't going to be able to maintain that wholesale grocery model. And they just transitioned into a wine of spirits company and Pero acquired them in 80 and they used that 1855 as kind of their establishing of the Wild Turkey brand date. But it's really just Austin Nichols date.

Drew (01:07:28):
I was going to say they're not alone, because many times I have discussions with people about the 1608 date for Bush Mills and the fact that Bush Mills didn't exist until 1784. That was a license that was granted to a large portion of the northern part of Ireland. And it wasn't just this little plot of land, and it was years before that came about. I find that with a lot of brands that it was when their founder first got into business, they didn't even have to be in the whiskey business. That was just the year that they opened their first enterprise. And so they put their date all the way back to that origin there.

David (01:08:09):
It's very common in business to see that you go back and you find the old estate that's remotely related to your brand and you can use that.

Drew (01:08:18):
Yeah. So talk about the glut years, because you mentioned glut years in the book quite a bit. Do you consider the glut years?

David (01:08:29):
Well, yeah. Bourbon kind of hit a steep decline as the counterculture movement became a real force to be reckoned with in the late sixties. So bourbon after World War II did really, really well. Bourbon was the drink of choice after World War ii, but the next generation didn't want to do what their parents had done. They wanted to have their own path. And bourbon was seen as the old man's drink. That was the drink of your father and grandfather. And the new culture was going more towards lighter spirits, clear spirits like vodka and the industry, the bourbon industry tried things to try to get more sales like decanters. They felt like if they could put bourbon in these collectible pieces that people would buy them. And they did for a little while there, but it just kind of flopped because they did too many of 'em.

It was like a couple, everybody started doing them and they were doing 'em by the ton. It just wasn't a good time for bourbon. By the time the seventies hit and then even into the eighties, it reached the lowest of lows. I think it was either 86 or 87 was the lowest number of barrels ever produced by the industry. It created essentially a glut, which is where you have all these aging barrels of choice spirits that you can't sell for a premium because you can't even sell your base stuff. So some of your best whiskey was going into the bottom shelf or just your core brand because you had to dump it or it was going to go bad. And so if you pick up a lot of these bourbons from the seventies and the eighties and even into the nineties a little bit, the profile was so much different from what's now.

And there are a lot of reasons behind it. We could talk for two hours on why Jesse Bourbon tastes the way it does. But I asked Eddie one time, I said, what makes cheesy gold full taste so crazy good from the eighties? And he said, I think the number one reason is it just has older whiskey in it. You know, had all these choice. It wasn't just older whiskey, it was older whiskey choice, older whiskey going into these things and selling for $20 a bottle for a limited, the cheesy Gold Bowl, I think sold for 15 or 20 bucks or something. It's like, yeah. And then the regular stuff was selling for five and 10 if

Drew (01:11:05):
Only we knew back then. And if only it is one of those things where you learn through whiskey history of these ebbs and flows and seeing I, I'm right now researching on why whiskey was being aged initially, why? And the narrative has been, oh, well they rolled it down the river and it tasted better. And so they went with it. I think it was much more about they had all of these distilleries popping up. They were selling these barrels to these grocers, and the grocers had large stocks. They were the warehouses, they were holding onto all of these and they couldn't sell the stuff that fast. Or they would see that if they had an older one and they could market it that way, then they would actually be better to hold onto a barrel for a while. And it just became, again, sort of the same situation. You had not enough demand for all the whiskey that was out there. And so those barrels had the opportunity to sit and get that extra aging to them.

David (01:12:17):
And I think that oak barrels containing spirits goes back to the old world. I mean, if you had a barrel, you weren't going to waste it. It might have held fish. And now that fish are out of it and you've got an empty barrel that smells like fish. So what are you going to do to get that smell out? Well, you charred up, you know, light a fire in it and get that smell out of there and then you can use it again. And that's probably where this whole movement of storing spirits in a barrel that's been charred or toasted comes from, is just people reusing them hundreds of years ago. And someone realized that, oh, it tastes better when I put it in the barrel. So

Drew (01:13:04):
I always have to say though, I push back on the fish one because I can't imagine how much you would have to torch a barrel True. To get that smell. And there's actually a distillery that made a charred fish barrel whiskey and it didn't turn out well and it was called the worst whiskey ever made. Okay.

David (01:13:24):
So Well that's the story of all As the examples, all that's

Drew (01:13:27):
Always. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

David (01:13:28):
And I don't know where that comes from. I think maybe I read it in something just lore wrote, who knows. But yeah, but whether no matter what it is, potatoes, who knows. Yeah,

Drew (01:13:37):

David (01:13:38):
It was a way to refresh the barrel is to chart it. But someone at some point in time realized it was a good thing. And here we are today, where now it's, there's all kinds of crazy cooperage stuff going on and toasted heads and different staves and sky's the limit on what you can do to change maturation, either from the start or secondary maturation.

Drew (01:14:07):
So let's talk a little bit about which Wild Turkey, if you were on a desert island and you had to take one expression with you, let's say you could have a lifetime supply. You're going to choose one wild Turkey to have a whole big case of to have with you and one that's not wild Turkey. Okay. Which would you choose?

David (01:14:31):
Well, I mean, are we going back to the whole catalog or are you talking about something I can find on the shelf today?

Drew (01:14:36):
Let's go through the catalog.

David (01:14:39):
Okay. If I can go, I mean, I would take cheesy gold fold. I'd love that. I mean, just hit it just hits right profile wise. It's got a good proof point at 1 0 1. Hard not to take that with me on a desert island. I mean, there are expressions I think that are better, but there's just something about that 1 0 1 12 year profile, especially from the late eighties that is just perfect. Just right on the money. A non wild Turkey to take with me. That's difficult. I mean, I've had so many good whiskeys over the years, especially dusty stuff like from national distillers, I've had dusty makers and there's old and there's so many cool things to pick from. That's tough. Do I even want to go,

Drew (01:15:35):
Let's stay modern now. Let's go with the modern one then.

David (01:15:38):
Okay. Well, if I think about what I buy most at the store, I really enjoy Eagle rare. I really like eagle rare a lot. It's probably my favorite. Non Wild Turkey single expression, 10 years, 90 proof created to compete with Wild Turkey a long time ago by Seagrams. It was used to be 1 0 1 proof and the whole thing was to go after Wild Turkey with another bird. But I do enjoy Eagle rare. It's a great whiskey. Russell's 10 and Eagle rare are just both two 90 proof, 10 year expressions that are solid buys. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm just, I'm on the spot. So I've got to say something about,

Drew (01:16:29):
Yeah, I hear you. I hear you. There's

David (01:16:30):
Plenty from Beam and Four Roses and Heaven Hill that, and there's lots of craft brands that I enjoy like Starlight and Woodenville and Westland. I mean, there's plenty of cool brands out there making really good whiskey all across the United States. But you had me on the spot. Rare.

Drew (01:16:49):
Well, what's interesting about Eagle Rare is that during my conversation with Al, he said that when they made that at the Apprentice Distillery now for Rose's Distillery, that he was obsessed by that whiskey. That was just an amazing spirit. And I would love to taste that because I think it was under proof at that. I don't think it was bottled in bond, but it was

David (01:17:11):
1 0 1 proof. It

Drew (01:17:12):
Was 1 0 1 proof. Okay.

David (01:17:13):
Yeah, they went after Wild Turkey with that one. But yeah, and I think haven't had it went through, well you had Frankfurt. I think there was even, wasn't it made in New Orleans or something for a little while there or something? Or had New Orleans label? Well, it wouldn't have been made in New Orleans talking about the Eagle, right. Kentucky Bourbon. But it had a New Orleans label when Saara purchased it already.

Drew (01:17:35):
What's ing interesting about? Interesting. It was contracted. It was actually for a Save the Eagle Foundation. And so it was made specifically just for that. And all the proceeds were supposed to go to the Save the Eagle. And that went through about 1972 or 73. And then they stopped. So I think, and then they sold the east off to, no, they kept, I don't think it was, they just sold the brand off to Santa. Right. I

David (01:18:06):
Know that there's not terribly familiar with the brand history. I'm pretty sure there's three different labels. I know you have Lawrenceburg and you have Frankfurt, but I think there was a New Orleans one, but I could be wrong, but obviously it's right bourbon. But yeah,

Drew (01:18:24):
You're true to your name though. Rare Bird 1 0 1 if you're going to go for another bird is your other whiskey. It's like

David (01:18:31):
The profile. I love that. 10 years, 10 years at 90 proof it. It's good. And it, it's not expensive. It's still, I mean it's 50 bucks now. It used to be 30, but when I can find it, I mean, I'm not complaining about $50 for a 10 year bourbon from an actual producer and not a mystery.

Drew (01:18:50):
So is Wild Turkey 1 0 1 the Perfect Starter Bourbon?

David (01:18:56):
I don't know. I don't if I would consider 1 0 1 the Perfect Starter Bourbon. I think it's the perfect all around bourbon It, it's very much a Swiss Army knife. I mean, it can make a killer cocktail with it. It works well neat. It works well on the rocks really hard. The price is there. You can find it anywhere in pretty much any size from 50 milliliters all the way up to a handle with without any difficulty. I think it might be a little bit high proof for somebody just starting out in whiskey. If someone's truly new to whiskey, they may get a little bit more mileage out of something like Russell's 10 or Long Branch simply for the lower proof, but a decent amount of age on it because Long Branch is reportedly eight years and then Russell's 10 is obviously stated as 10. They would probably get more complexity, but a lower proof. So I would argue that those might be better. But then again, when you can buy a 50 milliliter or a hundred milliliter or 200 milliliter of Wild Turkey one 11 for hardly anything, why not give it a whirl? Maybe it is your jam.

That's what happened to me. I mean, I literally just bought the 3 75 0 1 0 1 and I was sold. So perfect starter. I wouldn't say perfect. It could be the right starter for the individual, but maybe go lower proof, do Long Branch or Russell's maybe.

Drew (01:20:27):
Yeah. So where's your book available and give us some ideas on where we can follow you.

David (01:20:35):
Oh, great. So you can find my book or links to purchase my book@wildturkeybook.com. You can also find it on Amazon, you can find it my publisher, which is mascot books. You can also go to my blog, which is rare bird one oh one.com, and there's links there for the book as well as you can visit my blog and read all sorts of wild Turkey reviews and articles and press releases from over the years. I have a timeline there, how to decipher bottle codes, all kinds of stuff there. And you can find me on Instagram at Rare Bird 1 0 1 and Twitter at our Bird 1 0 1. I'm pretty active on both of both. Instagram and Twitter. I'm not on Facebook, but I spend more time on Twitter than I probably should. I spend more time on Twitter than Instagram just because I like to write. So Twitter is word based and Instagram is more photos and videos, so I don't have as much as many exchanges on Instagram as I would on Twitter, but you can find me at all those places.

Drew (01:21:43):
All right, fantastic. Well, thank you so much for spending time today and filling us in on the background of you getting into this position of talking about a brand and promoting something that you're so in love with and also giving us a little history as well. And great to know. There's another South Carolina person that has to keep hitching rides back and forth to Kentucky all the time, whenever you want to do some whiskey writing. So yeah.

David (01:22:08):
Yeah, the Delta account was really happening up.

Drew (01:22:12):
Very good. Well, thanks so much, David, and good luck with the book down the road. Yeah,

David (01:22:18):
Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Drew (01:22:19):
And if you want to learn more about the rips and Wild Turkey, make sure to check out episode number 36 of Whiskey Lore that you interviews with Thomas Rippy iii. I have tons of stories about Wild Turkey, the Rippy family, and Lawrenceburg Kentucky. And as for me, well, I am working on my Tennessee whiskey history book, so may I put the show on hiatus for a couple of weeks, but make sure you're subscribed so you don't miss any of the upcoming episodes. And if you can't get enough whiskey history, we'll help support the show by becoming a Patreon member and getting a whole bunch of bonus content. I'm going to be sharing some outtakes from my Tennessee whiskey history book as I complete it, and plenty of other bonus content out there for you to check out. That's patreon.com/whiskey. I'm your host, drew Hanish. Thanks for listening, and until next time, cheers and SL JVA Whiskey Lores, a production of Travel Fuel's Life, L L C.


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