David Jennings, the author of this book, is also known to the whiskey world for his blog, Rare Bird 101. He is found in most social media outlets under this title. He writes about Wild Turkey and their products, but also discusses Bourbon as a product. He is a very knowledgeable writer on the subject and has produced a very good brand history of Wild Turkey.
American Spirit: Wild Turkey Bourbon From Ripy to Russell, David Jennings, Herndon, VA.: Mascot Books, 2020. Contents, Forward, Introduction, Bibliography, Index, Illustrations, 221 pp.
Jennings has written a book that will appeal to every fan of Wild Turkey Bourbon. It is written in three parts – 1) history of the brand, 2) the brands they make, and 3) an appendix with cocktail recipes for enjoying Wild Turkey and a historical timeline.
The history section actually starts about a century before the brand Wild Turkey even existed with a history of the Ripy family and their distilling heritage. It was Ripy-distilled Bourbon that first went into the bottle when Wild Turkey was created by Austin-Nichols in the 1940s. They continued to provide most of the whiskey for Austin-Nichols before Austin-Nichols finally purchased the Ripy distillery in the 1970s. That is when the Russell family entered the picture as Jimmy Russell was the distiller who made the whiskey at Wild Turkey until he retired and passed the baton on to his son Eddie.
The second part of the book discusses the brands made by Wild Turkey. This includes the Bourbons, Ryes, Liqueurs and some vintage expressions. These discussions include information such as age statements if any, proof, tasting notes and the author’s impressions of the product. The last section is the appendices with some cocktail recipes and a historical timeline. The cocktail recipes include the traditional favorites such as the Old Fashioned and Manhattan cocktails. The timeline provides a quick reference to historical dates related to the brand.
The book is well designed and attractive to look at. It is well organized and most information is easy to find from the table of contents, but an index is provided as a second guide to information in the book. There are many photographs in the book. Some are historical and in black and white, but the majority of the images are new, color images provided by photographer Victor Sizemore. The images are plentiful, but not overwhelming the content of the book. Jennings has found a very good balance of imagery that enhances what he writes.
Jennings has written a book that should be part of any whiskey library. It is informative and easy to read. The book does more than just tell the history of Wild Turkey, it helps place the brand into its role in the Bourbon industry.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller