Celebrities and drinks brands go hand in hand nowadays, and not always to good effect.
For that reason, many of us have turned our noses up at the Wild Turkey and Matthew McConaughey collaboration. After all, what could the Magic Mike actor bring to a brand as well established as this?
The Wild Turkey Longbranch is the most notable release of this celebrity/bourbon collaboration, and the first Wild Turkey product to feature the signature of someone other than the master distillers.
Intended to be a bourbon that combines the flavors of Kentucky and Texas, while extending a hand of friendship into your own home, Longbranch is a friendly and easy drink.
For a celebrity collaboration, the Wild Turkey Longbranch has kept things surprisingly low-key, which makes sense when you consider the celebrity involved.
So, in this review, we’ll try to disregard Matthew McConaughey. Is the Longbranch a bourbon that can stand on its own? Or has Wild Turkey missed the mark?
The press release for the Wild Turkey Longbranch contains a lot of information about friendship, and reaching out the long branch of friendship into our homes.
Which is a colorful gesture of familiarity, even if it doesn’t say much about the bourbon itself.
Wild Turkey Longbranch is made from a base of barley, corn, and rye, with a decent 43% ABV.
Filtered through American white oak charcoal and mesquite charcoal, the Longbranch combines the flavors of master distiller Eddie Russell’s home state, and that of creative director Matthew McConaughey native Texas.
There are a few questions around the age of Wild Turkey Longbranch. The initial release used 8-year-old Wild Turkey bourbon, but that fact isn’t noted on the bottle.
Presumably, future batches might have had a shorter aging process, and Wild Turkey wants to cover their backs.
Sweetness, caramel, and a fruit brightness form the initial impact of the Wild Turkey Longbranch. It isn’t a nose with a great deal of intensity, but there’s still enough power to make it worth a good noseful before you start drinking.
Bright and easy, caramel with an overlay of vanilla form the top notes.
There’s a slight fruitiness, something not quite citrus, more like apple, to add to the layered aroma. Beneath it all, the oak runs heavy, and a slight spicy nutmeg can be detected if you give it time.
Oak and nutmeg lift the nose, tempering the sweetness of toffee and caramel. There is, perhaps, a hint of smoke, but you really need to stick your nose in to get it.
Any mesquite hanging around from the filtering process is overwhelmed by the sweetness, and the oak depth.
A creamy richness forms the medium body of the Wild Turkey Longbranch, which feels right with the smooth vanilla and caramel flavorings.
The most notable thing about the Wild Turkey Longbranch is how well-balanced the flavors are. Sweet caramel and vanilla are prominent, although honey and orange can be detected. The citrus flavoring isn’t bold, as it can be in other Wild Turkey bourbons.
Instead, the honey sweetness tones down the harsh citrus, bringing a subtle sharpness with a touch of apple.
Wild Turkey Longbranch has been refined using charcoal from Kentucky white oak and Texas mesquite. This is done as a nod to the home states of Eddie Russell and Matthew McConaughey, the creative minds behind Longbranch.
The oak tastes more prominent, with a rounded base that adds depth to the caramel. The sweeter honey notes pair well with the oak to give an undertone of butter that deepens the flavoring.
As for the mesquite, that’s led to some debate during our testing phase.
The barbecue smoke is either a light finish to this unusual bourbon, or a figment of the drinkers’ imagination, powered by an effective marketing campaign.
Either way, the mesquite flavoring is as light as smoke itself, and mostly serves to enhance the sweet flavors that define Longbranch.
Oak provides the strong base for the layered flavorings of Longbranch. Rich vanilla comes through first, which then melts into a soft caramel.
Hints of spice, sharp citrus, and an apple fruitiness adds to the layered flavoring, made smooth by a drizzle of honey.
Wild Turkey Longbranch is a surprisingly dry mouthful, despite the fruit-sweet notes. It finishes long, with a slight punch of heat that fades into dryness. It tingles on the tongue, and lacks much of a burn.
Fading first to caramel, the dry oak lingers for longer on the tongue. Thanks to the rye, a hint of black pepper lifts the finish, giving it spice to brighten the depth of caramel.
Here’s where you’re more likely to find the mesquite, as a subtle smoke just about rounds off the finish. It doesn’t linger like the oak, but adds some extra complexity to this already layered bourbon.
A long finish with a slow fade that stays sweet and spicy, without turning bitter. The oak from the nose hangs around to the very last, making this an enjoyable bourbon with a sturdy construction.
Wild Turkey Longbranch is a drink to be enjoyed neat. In fact, we might go as far as saying that ice or water really destroys everything that makes this bourbon unique.
The defining notes are light and sweet, adding water or ice has a tendency to destroy the lingering complexity.
During testing, we found that neat really was the best way to drink Wild Turkey Longbranch. But it does go well in cocktails, thanks to the subtle sweetness that doesn’t argue with the rest of the ingredients.
Mix yourself up an Old Fashioned, and you’ll notice how the orange notes of Longbranch play perfectly with the bitters.
If you’re looking for a bourbon that looks good on your shelf, the classic styling of the Wild Turkey Longbranch is a winner. With a heavy and wide base, shallow walls, and subtle embossing, this is a bourbon bottle that understands the real selling point is the whiskey itself.
The label takes up minimal space, with the Longbranch name taking prominence over Wild Turkey.
Instead of being covered by labels, you can really see the color of the bourbon, which has a lovely light amber hue. It’s an eye-catching design, that’s for sure, and speaks of quality.
Also, despite being a celebrity collaboration, the only mention of Matthew McConaughey is his signature and small print name. It’s all very classy, and whiskey snobs won’t think you’ve fallen prey to celebrity marketing.
A 750ml bottle of Wild Turkey Longbranch is likely to set you back around $40.
This is more than you’d expect to pay for the Wild Turkey range, including the classic Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Bourbon, but it’s still a decent price.
Wild Turkey hasn’t upped the price to draw attention to their celebrity connection. In fact, you could easily drink your way through the bottle without realizing that award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey had a hand in the creative process.
The higher price is reflected in the lingering finish, and the rounded balance of the flavor profile.
And while you should never buy bourbon based on the bottle alone, this Longbranch certainly looks worth the cost.
One of the real benefits of the Wild Turkey Longbranch is that it’s an easy drinker. Even those who rarely touch bourbon will find the sweetness to be light on the palate.
It’s a drink you can serve to guests and visitors of all sorts, and most of them will leave happy. The chances are, none of them are going to really hate it, even if they don’t fall in love.
Overall, we think the Wild Turkey Longbranch is value for money. It may not be a real stand-out bourbon, but it’s a definite crowd pleaser. And you can sip it neat, or enjoy it in a cocktail.
Even those who aren’t a fan of Wild Turkey are likely to find something to enjoy in the Wild Turkey Longbranch.
And if you are a fan of Wild Turkey, this variation has enough of the original flavorings to make it a drink to enjoy.
It may not sound like much of a compliment, but our overwhelming reaction to Wild Turkey Longbranch is: “I’d drink that again”.
It’s unlikely to replace your old favorites, but it’s still pleasant to drink neat on a warm day, and forms a sturdy base for several cocktails.
But that doesn’t mean the Wild Turkey Longbranch has nothing to make it unique.
The creamy mouthful of vanilla, oak undertones, and toned-down citrus sets the Longbranch apart from other less notable bourbons.
The slight hint of mesquite may not be enough to really shake up the palate, but it’s still notable.
Overall, the Wild Turkey Longbranch is a decent addition to any home bar, and a classy twist on an old favorite.