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Issue 9 - A rare breed (Wild Turkey)

Whisky Magazine Issue 9
April 2000


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A rare breed (Wild Turkey)

Wild Turkey is an old-fashioned American spirit, full of character, with an ability to seduce all-comers. Stuart Maclean-Ramsay pays his respects.

Brand ambassadors for premium Scotch and bourbon in America come in all shapes and styles.

There's the youthful ambassador, handsome and unencumbered by the experience of actually working in a distillery, designed by advertising agencies to appeal to the all important market of stockbrokers in Manhattan or whatever career the young and the upscale have chosen to pursue in New York. If it is Scotch they are selling, the well-schooled ambassador will be dressed in a kilt, no matter that they are devoid of an ounce of Highland blood, and accompanied by a skirling bagpiper, still the quintessential attention-grabber in any crowded bar around the world. And then there is the old-fashioned, traditional brand ambassador, the one who has matured, like his spirit, in its place of origin, and who has spent 20 or 40 years making the stuff. They are not always pretty, they prefer their job description to read ‘distiller' rather than ‘ambassador', and they don't particularly like their lifework being designated a ‘brand'.

The bourbon makers in Kentucky favour the old-fashioned ambassadorial method to bring attention to their whiskey. I had the pleasure last autumn of meeting Jimmy Russell, master distiller of Wild Turkey Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and perhaps the finest ambassador, in the true sense of the word, to represent the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He was in town, Portland, Oregon, to talk about his whiskey to a flock of faithful Wild Turkey drinkers. At my table, a pierce...

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