Wild Turkey Distillery Story

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Situated on Wild Turkey Hill in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Wild Turkey Distillery started off life as the Ripy Distillery.

Wild Turkey Distillery: Representing Kentucky

The distillery was first opened in 1869 by Irish brothers James and John Ripy, who named it the Ripy Distillery.

The distillery flourished and grew in the decades after it opened and was well loved by the local population.

They were good at what they did and represented Kentucky Bourbon at the World’s Fair, Chicago in 1893. Their Bourbon beat out around 400 competitors for the privilege.


Like with every other distillery in America, prohibition hit the Wild Turkey Distillery hard.

It struggled on by producing medicinal spirits, which was fortunate, since the majority of distilleries shut down completely at this time.

To aid its sales, it was taken over by Austin Nichols& Company, an organisation that had been started in 1855 by Austin Nichols.

This allowed the distillery to stay open and then to thrive when prohibition was repealed.

A New Name

Up until 1940 the distillery had been operating under the name Ripy. Then, an Austin Nichols’ executive, Thomas McCarthy, offered a drop of their Bourbon to some friends, while they were out hunting wild turkey.

It became popular amongst McCarthy’s friends, who referred to it as “the wild turkey Bourbon”. The name stuck and the brand we know and love today was born.

A New Distiller

In 1954 Jimmy Russell joined the brand as Master Distiller, the third in the brand’s history.

He had been trained by the distillery’s previous Master Distiller, Bill Hughes and has become a legend in the Bourbon industry.

Jimmy has transformed the Wild Turkey brand and made it one of the best selling Bourbons around the world.

He has been swiftly followed by his son Eddie, who began working in the distillery in 1981 as a relief operator.

Tags: KentuckyRipy DistilleryWild TurkeyWild Turkey DistilleryWild Turkey Distillery Story
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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