One of the first flavored whiskeys on the market, Wild Turkey American Honey is an affordable yet well-made liqueur with a strong honey flavor. It shines in citrus-influenced cocktails or sipped as a digestif, but bourbon fans may find it too sweet and lacking complexity.
Classification flavored whiskey
Company Campari Group
Distillery Wild Turkey (Lawrenceburg, Kentucky)
Cask new American Oak
Still Type copper
Released 1976 (re-labeled in 2006)
Proof 71 (35.5% ABV)
Aged four years
Awards Double Gold, 2021 New York International Spirits Competition
One of the first quality flavored whiskeys on the market
Obvious honey overtones which create a unique liqueur
A well-made product at a good price
Somewhat sweeter than other American whiskey-based honey liqueurs
Those seeking bigger bourbon notes may be disappointed.
Color: Bright yellow gold
Nose: Big aromatic notes of honey (obviously), lemon zest, allspice, and soft polished oak
Palate: Opens round, full, and sweet with notes of honey and lemon, and a faint bite of oak on the gums and inner lips. On the tongue it is full-bodied and rich, bringing a warmth of spiced cookies. At the back of the throat hints of oak and toast join honey and candied lemon.
Finish: Surprisingly long, the finish fades into toast and light smoke with the tang of honey lingering.
When Wild Turkey veteran Jimmy Russell released his bourbon-based Honey Liqueur in 1976, there were few legitimate flavored whiskeys on the market. Fast-forward to 2006, when the product was renamed “American Honey,” complete with a new bottle design, and flavored whiskey still wasn’t the phenomenon it is today—even Fireball wouldn’t take off until a few years later. Nowadays the market is saturated with options like Jaime Foxx’s BSB (Brown Sugar Bourbon) and Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey, but the base spirit of American Honey is slightly older than many of these, as Russell opted for a four-year bourbon.
The founder once told me he was inspired by the whiskey-based honey liqueur that was popular when he was growing up in Kentucky, especially among the women in his family, who would blend it with lemonade or enjoy it neat as a late afternoon or early evening treat “out on the porch.” On the nose, his take on the liqueur is deeply aromatic, and on the palate, honey and lemon notes dominate. While some complexity is noticeable as you swallow and during the fairly long finish, when smoke and oak start to peek through, the liquid generally tastes like a honey liqueur. It is somewhat sweeter, richer, and closer in character to a standard liqueur than Jack Daniel’s 2011 release Tennessee Honey, which is more spirit-forward and less viscous, trending closer to a flavored bourbon.
Wild Turkey is designed to blend seamlessly into citrus-influenced cocktails and works pleasantly poured over ice and savored as a sort of digestif. It pairs nicely with richly flavored mixers like ginger beer or peach juice, and it works in more surprising ways, too: Jimmy Russell said one of his older relatives liked to pour it over her ice cream, and a resort bar in Las Vegas incorporated it into a “green juice” cocktail several years ago, where it both sweetened and lightly spiked a blend of spinach, ginger, kale, lemon, carrot, apple, and yuzu. Still others have used it as a glaze when barbecuing chicken or ribs.
Wild Turkey also offers American Honey Sting, for those who like a little hot pepper bite to balance the sweetness, but it can be challenging to find. Made with ghost peppers, it’s 400 times hotter than hot sauce, according to the company.