Turkey Hunting Executive
Thomas R. McCarthy was the former Executive Vice President of Austin Nichols & Company, Inc., the maker of Wild Turkey Bourbon and the third generation of his family to become an officer of the company. Thomas was born in New York City in 1921 and graduated from Choate Prep School in 1939. McCarthy served in the U. S. Marines fighting in the Battle of Guadalcanal and the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. He was an administrative Officer directly for Douglas MacArthur during the Occupation of Japan after the Japanese surrendered.
When he came back from oversees, Thomas like his father and grandfather before him went to work for Austin Nichols & Company, Inc. In 1940, McCarthy took a barrel of the Ripy Bourbon and two of his brothers to a hunting trip in North Carolina. On that trip, McCarthy hosted a Turkey Hunt and invited some of their distributors. McCarthy was entertaining the hunters throughout the hunt and stopped on four occasions to share some of his fine whiskey right from the barrel that day. As it came out of the barrel it was smooth, spicy and at 101 proof. Everyone on the trip raved about the taste and less than two years later the Wild Turkey 101 brand was introduced in 1942. It became so 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.
Thomas met his wife Peggy during a ticker tape parade in New York after V-J day when the war ended. They married in 1946 and had three children; daughter Lee McCarthy Huber, of Houston, Texas; Thomas C. McCarthy of Roslyn Harbor, New York; and son, Robert R. McCarthy of Enfield, Connecticut.
In 1971, McCarthy leads the Austin Nichols & Company’s purchase of the J. T. S. Brown & Sons Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and renamed it the Wild Turkey Distillery. The following year they produce the first series of Wild Turkey decanters. McCarthy and his family eventually took control at Austin Nichols and in essence owned the Wild Turkey brand. Austin Nichols & Company then sells off grocery chain to concentrate on the spirits business.
In 1980 spirit giant Pernod-Ricard, which ranks second only behind Diageo among the world’s liquor distributors, acquired Wild Turkey when it bought Austin Nichols & Company for $100 million. At the time of the acquisition, a condition of the sale was that McCarthy stayed on as an executive
McCarthy was a member of the New York Athletic Club and was a voting member of the Heisman Trophy Committee, he was also an active member Heand Nassau Country Club. Thomas McCarthy died in his home in Manhasset, New York in May 1997.
Thomas McCarthy was inducted posthumously into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2004 in only its fourth class of inductees ever. McCarthy became only the 4th of 5 Wild Turkey family members to be inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame behind only Jimmy Russell and Earnest W. Ripy, Jr.