Wild Turkey was started by Austin, Nichols & Co., a wholesale grocer in New York City. They had started to focus primarily on wine and liquor sales by the 1930s, and debuted their Wild Turkey brand in 1940. They were an NDP (Non-Distilling Producer) for the first three decades; the whiskey was made by several distilleries until the Ripy distillery was purchased in 1972 and became the Wild Turkey Distillery. Historically, the brand was famous for producing very high quality bourbon, with 8 years being the minimum age for many years, and most expressions bottled at 101 proof, although that hasn’t been the case as of late. Label changes on the 101 proof include changing from Brooklyn to New York in the late 50s, then to Lawrenceburg in 1972. In the 90s the 8 year age statement went away and was replaced by “Old No. 8 Brand.” See also the Wild Turkey timeline for more info.

 

Photo libraries, in ascending order by bottling year

Wild Turkey Straight Maryland Rye 8yr 101pf, 1952

Photos courtesy of BottledinBond Instagram

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Wild Turkey 8yr, 4/5qt, Brooklyn, 1957

Wild Turkey 8 year, 101 proof was the staple of the line for decades. Unlike many brands, Wild Turkey kept the age statement and higher proof for a long time, which led to its perception of high quality. The ages started to drop in the 1990s, and the proofs have only recently started to go down.

Shortly after this bottling, the label changed from stating “Brooklyn – New York” to “New York, NY.”

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Wild Turkey 8yr, 4/5qt, New York, 1965

Wild Turkey 8 year, 101 proof was the staple of the line for decades. Unlike many brands, Wild Turkey kept the age statement and higher proof for a long time, which led to its perception of high quality. The ages started to drop in the 1990s, and the proofs have only recently started to go down.

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, New York, 1968

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Wild Turkey 8yr, 4/5qt, New York, 1970

Wild Turkey 8 year, 101 proof was the staple of the line for decades. Unlike many brands, Wild Turkey kept the age statement and higher proof for a long time, which led to its perception of high quality. The ages started to drop in the 1990s, and the proofs have only recently started to go down.

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 4/5qt, Lawrenceburg, 1972

Although the bottle was manufactured in 1971, the label started stating “Lawrenceburg” after the purchase of the Ripy distillery in 1972.

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Wild Turkey 7yr, 86.8pf, Lawrenceburg, 1974

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 1/2 Gallon, 1974

 

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Wild Turkey 8yr, liter, 1979

Wild Turkey 8 year, 101 proof was the staple of the line for decades. Unlike many brands, Wild Turkey kept the age statement and higher proof for a long time, which led to its perception of high quality. The ages started to drop in the 1990s, and the proofs have only recently started to go down.

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Wild Turkey 8yr, liter, 1980s

Wild Turkey 8 year, 101 proof was the staple of the line for decades. Unlike many brands, Wild Turkey kept the age statement and higher proof for a long time, which led to its perception of high quality. The ages started to drop in the 1990s, and the proofs have only recently started to go down.

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Wild Turkey Wedgewood Decanter, 8yr 101pf, 1980s

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Wild Turkey 12yr “Beyond Duplication” 750ml, 1982

The 12 year is many people’s favorite in the Wild Turkey lineup. It started with the “Beyond Duplication” bottles in the early 1980s, which was replaced by the “cheesy gold foil” label bottle in the mid-80s, then the split-label in the mid-90s. The export market got the Beyond Duplication and gold foil labels longer than the US market. Finally, the export-only version persisted in a few markets. All are top quality pours.

The original US-version Beyond Duplication bottles had a tax strip like on this bottle. The later versions with a gold capsule top are exports, generally to Japan.

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Wild Turkey 86.8pf, 750ml, 1983

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Wild Turkey 86.8pf, 1.75L, 1983

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Wild Turkey Commodore’s Chest 8yr 101 Decanter, 1983

Photos courtesy of Chris Dion.

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Wild Turkey 86.8pf, liter, mid 1980s

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 200ml, 1985

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Wild Turkey Green Label Rye, 101 proof, 1986


Note this version just says “101 Proof” across the bottom, unlike later versions that also listed 50.5%

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 750ml, 1986

Photos courtesy of Chris Dion.

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Wild Turkey 12yr Beyond Duplication – Export, 750ml, 1988

The 12 year is many people’s favorite in the Wild Turkey lineup. It started with the “Beyond Duplication” bottles in the early 1980s, which was replaced by the “cheesy gold foil” label bottle in the mid-80s, then the split-label in the mid-90s. The export market got the Beyond Duplication and gold foil labels longer than the US market. Finally, the export-only version persisted in a few markets. All are top quality pours.

Besides the Japanese character sticker on back, you can also tell it’s the export version because it has the capsule top rather than the tax strip style on the earlier US bottles.

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 750ml, 1988 – Japan Reimport

 

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 1.75L w/gift box, 1989

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Wild Turkey 8r, 86.8pf, 1989

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Wild Turkey 12yr Gold Foil Label, 750ml, 1990

The 12 year is many people’s favorite in the Wild Turkey lineup. It started with the “Beyond Duplication” bottles in the early 1980s, which was replaced by the “cheesy gold foil” label bottle in the mid-80s, then the split-label in the mid-90s. The export market got the Beyond Duplication and gold foil labels longer than the US market. Finally, the export-only version persisted in a few markets. All are top quality pours.

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 750ml, 1990 – Japan Reimport

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 750ml, 1990

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Wild Turkey 8yr 101pf, 750ml, 1991

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Wild Turkey 80 Proof, 750ml, 1992

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Wild Turkey Rye Green Label Rye, 750ml, 1992

Wild Turkey Rye debuted in the mid-1970s. It had the green label until the 90s, when it switched to a label more consistent with its bourbon color scheme. It was discontinued in 2012, and brought back on a limited basis in 2014.

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Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Pewter Top, 750ml, 1994

The Kentucky Spirit is Wild Turkey’s single barrel bottling, and debuted in 1994. The first bottles had a pewter cap, which changed to smooth dark wood in 2002, dark embossed wood in 2005, and light embossed wood in 2008. Generally the older the bottle, the more sought-after by Turkey connoisseurs.

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Wild Turkey 8yr, 1.75L, 1994

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Wild Turkey Old no 8 Brand, 1.75L, 1998

Wild Turkey 8 year, 101 proof was the staple of the line for decades. Unlike many brands, Wild Turkey kept the age statement and higher proof for a long time, which led to its perception of high quality. The ages started to drop in the 1990s, and the proofs have only recently started to go down. The Old no. 8 Brand replaced the 8 year, in a classic marketing move.

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Wild Turkey 12yr Split Label, 750ml, 1998

The 12 year is many people’s favorite in the Wild Turkey lineup. It started with the “Beyond Duplication” bottles in the early 1980s, which was replaced by the “cheesy gold foil” label bottle in the mid-80s, then the split-label in the mid-90s. The export market got the Beyond Duplication and gold foil labels longer than the US market. Finally, the export-only version persisted in a few markets. All are top quality pours.

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Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend Single Barrel, 750ml, 1998

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Wild Turkey 12yr Split Label, 750ml

The 12 year is many people’s favorite in the Wild Turkey lineup. It started with the “Beyond Duplication” bottles in the early 1980s, which was replaced by the “cheesy gold foil” label bottle in the mid-80s, then the split-label in the mid-90s. The export market got the Beyond Duplication and gold foil labels longer than the US market. Finally, the export-only version persisted in a few markets. All are top quality pours.

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Wild Turkey 1855 Reserve, 109.6pf, 750ml – 2002

Photos courtesy of Chris Dion.

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Wild Turkey Tribute 15yr – US Version, 750ml, 2004

According to Jimmy Russell, the only difference between the US and Japanese versions other than packaging was the proof. The US version was 101 proof, and the Japanese 110. However, several people say they are still slightly different when brought to the same proof. The tribute is many people’s favorite Wild Turkey of all time.

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Wild Turkey Tribute 15yr – Japanese edition, 750ml, 2004

According to Jimmy Russell, the only difference between the US and Japanese versions other than packaging was the proof. The US version was 101 proof, and the Japanese 110. However, several people say they are still slightly different when brought to the same proof. The tribute is many people’s favorite Wild Turkey of all time.

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Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve 10/101, 750ml

Russell’s Reserve 10 year 101 proof was a much-loved product by Wild Turkey, It debuted in 2001, and by 2005 it had been reduced to the less-popular 90 proof version available today. Fans still love the 101 proof version.

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Russell’s Reserve 10yr 90pf, ~2005

Photos courtesy of Chris Dion.

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Wild Turkey American Spirit 15yr, 750ml, 2007

American Spirit was a special edition 15-year bourbon sold in 2007. It’s generally considered to be excellent, but not as desirable as Tribute.

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Wild Turkey 12yr, Export Version, 700ml

The 12 year is many people’s favorite in the Wild Turkey lineup. It started with the “Beyond Duplication” bottles in the early 1980s, which was replaced by the “cheesy gold foil” label bottle in the mid-80s, then the split-label in the mid-90s. The export market got the Beyond Duplication and gold foil labels longer than the US market. Finally, the export-only version persisted in a few markets. All are top quality pours.

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Wild Turkey 8yr, Japanese Export, liter, 2012

Wild Turkey 8 year, 101 proof was the staple of the line for decades. Unlike many brands, Wild Turkey kept the age statement and higher proof for a long time, which led to its perception of high quality. The ages started to drop in the 1990s, and the proofs have only recently started to go down. The export market has kept age statements longer than the US market however.

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Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve 1998, 102.2pf, 2015

Said to be approx. 15 years old according to Campari marketing materials.

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