Wild Turkey is a brand with a notable amount of name recognition. Nonetheless, it has gone through a “reintroduction” in the last couple of years, with Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey joining the company as Creative Director in 2016.
He has since appeared as the new face of the brand in its advertisements as well as becoming more integrated into the company behind the scenes. This spring marked the launch of Wild Turkey Longbranch, a “rare” and small-batch Kentucky bourbon refined with Texas Mesquite and oak charcoals – a Kentucky/Texas melding.
While McConaughey is from Texas and Wild Turkey has its roots in Kentucky, each also has cross-over into the other state: McConaughey’s parents met while attending the University of Kentucky, and one of Eddie Russell’s sons now lives in Austin, Texas, which happens to be McConaughey’s hometown. This helped serve as inspiration in the development of Longbranch.
Across any industry – from whiskey to fashion, food, music and otherwise – when a celebrity (especially if they’re otherwise an “outsider” to said other industry) lends their name to a brand, results have historically varied greatly. This is especially true in the world of whiskey, and the broader spirits industry for that matter. What can also vary is the celebrity’s level of involvement – a “partnership” may simply be a fame-leveraging or financial tactic, or it can actually include more authentic creative and/or development involvement. In the case of Wild Turkey, it does seem like McConaughey is more intimately involved in its process, collaborating with Russell on Longbranch from ideation through testing and execution.
In as much as I can gather a sense or impression of Matthew McConaughey as a person – based on interviews, speeches, philanthropic activities and other off-screen impressions – the sentiment of Longbranch seems well-aligned with his persona, further evidenced in a company-issued press release.
Longbranch is also the first Wild Turkey product bearing the signature of someone other than Master Distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell. Ultimately, it does seem they and McConaughey are in mutually good company.
Tasting Notes: Wild Turkey Longbranch Bourbon
Vital Stats: Longbranch is made from eight-year-old Wild Turkey Bourbon, which has a mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye and 10% malted barley. It is further refined through a proprietary process involving two separate charcoal filtration methods – the first using charcoal from American White Oak, the second using charcoal from Texas Mesquite wood. Bottled at 43% ABV (86 proof), a 750 mL of Longbranch retails for an average of $35.
Appearance: Rich and viscous gold.
Nose: The sweetness is of corn and vanilla syrup, complemented by a light toasted graininess (I couldn’t help but think of pancakes) and a toasty undercurrent.
Palate: The taste of caramel apples is quickly dominated with spicy, slightly peppery heat and a subtle smokiness, a hint of char and oak, a touch of under-ripe stone fruit in the aftertaste and a nice acidity to balance things out overall. Start to finish, there’s a pleasant enveloping warmth that is smooth and soothes going down.
Wild Turkey’s Longbranch is a bourbon that might be considered more elevated than some of its standard offerings. I can see whiskey newcomers enjoying it, as it’s approachable yet interesting – and also offers enough to please the palate of a more seasoned aficionado. It more than holds its own neat, and also worked well in a Toronto cocktail (mixed with aromatic bitters and Fernet). This is a solid whiskey I’ll be happy to turn back to repeatedly.