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Behind The Barrel

An Experience Made For The Bourbon Lover

As enthusiasm for brown spirits has skyrocketed in recent years, Wild Turkey needed to find a way to connect with and inspire some of the nation’s top bartenders.

While most knowledgeable bartenders know that Wild Turkey is a fantastic and high quality bourbon, for far too long the brand had suffered from a misguided perception that Wild Turkey is a harsh whiskey made for the good ol’ boys. This created a challenge for bartenders to suggest Wild Turkey to their patrons – frankly, customers wouldn’t believe them. That’s why the brand wanted to host an exclusive event at the distillery, where bartenders would return to their bars armed with facts and an unforgettable experience they couldn’t wait to share.

We personally invited 30 of the country’s best and most influential bartenders to Kentucky to spend two nights immersing themselves into the Wild Turkey bourbon world and family.

The Experience:
This gets kind of long and wordy – so if you don’t feel like reading, watch the video recap:

As bartenders flew into Louisville, we put them up the historic Seelbach Hotel. We gathered in the lobby in the evening and boarded a bus headed to a well-known downtown cocktail bar. What they didn’t expect was to share the bus ride with Wild Turkey Master Distillers, and father/son, Jimmy and Eddie Russell. The pair would spend the entire two days and two nights with the crew.

The cocktail dinner was kicked-off by a speech by the owner of the local Kentucky farm from which Wild Turkey gets its GMO-free corn and grains. The night was capped with the viewing of a new documentary about Jimmy Russell’s legendary 60-year (and counting) run at Wild Turkey. As the crew boarded the bus to return to the hotel, they were chanting “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy…” as the man himself high-fived his fans moseying down the bus aisle.

The bartenders were warned that the next day would be an early one – so be sure to get to bed at a “decent” hour. Of course all of them immediately hit the bar for a few rounds of night-caps. What made it so enticing was that the Russells continued to stay out as well, sharing drinks and stories until the clock struck midnight.

The next morning, the bus was loaded and hit the road at 7am in route to Independent Stave for a hard-hat wearing VIP tour where they’d witness bourbon barrels being built and charred.

They then were brought to the Wild Turkey Distillery. Upon arrival, they checked-in to their personal luxury tent (“glamping“), completely furnished with a full-size bed, side table and random amenities.

After lunch and some R&R, the day was jam-packed with activities:

  • Two-hour VIP tour with Eddie.
  • Skeet shooting on the grounds, while learning about how Wild Turkey earned its name during a turkey hunting trip.
  • The Rare Breed Challenge: divided into groups, they blended their own small batch bourbon to match the flavor and profile of Wild Turkey’s own Rare Breed bourbon. Jimmy and Eddie judged each group’s submission.
  • Drinking bourbon straight from the barrel, as Eddie thief’d it out and served from the oldest warehouse on the grounds.
  • Outdoor dinner, overlooking the Kentucky River and an amazing skyline.
  • Bonfire and bourbon with Eddie.
  • Sleeping on the distillery grounds.

This event was such a success, the event was repeated in 2015, with plans to expand it even further in the coming months.

My specific contributions:

  • Led the creative process and ideation for the event, from original pitch through execution.
  • Wrote copy for all communication pieces and talking points.
  • Worked closely with experiential team to ensure a perfect event.
  • Leading the creative process for the next iteration of the event.