First off, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope you all had a safe and happy holidays and hopefully the whiskey in your glass was in no short supply. Secondly I want to thank everyone that has stopped by here at Bourbon & House, and if this is your first time, welcome! 2015 came to a swift close but as we find ourselves freshly into 2016 I wanted to start this year off by sharing about a very special bottle of bourbon that comes from Wild Turkey.
When one thinks or speaks of Wild Turkey bourbon, the name Jimmy Russell probably comes up. If it doesn’t, it should – he’s one of the Master Distillers at Wild Turkey, along with his son Eddie Russell, who also assumed the position of Master Distiller in January 2015. Jimmy has been working for the company for over 60 years making him, according to WT’s website, “(the) longest-tenured, active Master Distiller in the global spirits industry”. That with Eddie’s 30+ years at WT makes their 90+ year incumbency legendary. This father-son Master Distiller duo is the catalyst that lead to the Russell’s Reserve line of bourbon and rye whiskeys.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (RRSB), a single barrel bourbon featuring hand selected barrels by both Jimmy and Eddie, is one of these whiskeys. RRSB lacks an age statement but is estimated to be between 8-9 years old, is matured in no.4 “Alligator” char new American white oak barrels, is non-chill filtered and comes in at 110 proof.
So before getting into the bourbon what you should understand is that you basically have barrels of WT bourbon, a few years older than their standard 101(6-8 yrs) that are non chill filtered and bottled at 110 proof that have been hand selected by Jimmy and Eddie. If you’re a WT fan and haven’t tried this then this should be a top priority for you.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, BevMo! Single Barrel #2358
ABV: 55% // 110 proof
Mash Bill: 75/13/12
Location: Rickhouse H // Floor 2
Nose: Caramel covered green apples and blood oranges bursting and a squeeze of lemon lead the nose. Ripe orchard fruits, strawberry, oranges, nectarines, more lemons and rhubarb. Fruits turn to old fashioned hard candies with vanilla and milk chocolate. This one takes you right into what I imagine a 1950’s candy shop would smell like. Big candy bar and sweet crunchy textures. I actually found a lot of similarities with the nose of this barrel the 2013 Pappy Van Winkle 20. This clearly doesn’t have that age or even a similar mash bill, but the parallels are there. Most importantly the classic WT profile is here with roasted peanuts and big peanut brittle. Gentle rye grains and spices play well with the sweet notes. Firm oak, cup cake icing, Big Red cinnamon gum, milk heavy dough batter, toffee drizzled cinnamon rolls, and salted caramel covered popcorn round things out.
Letting this nose open up over that past two months really helped things open up. The rye that we all know Wild Turkey uses in healthy doses shows its colors now and really pops out. Their is also this slight, for lack of better terminology, “funk” that I get that comes in the form of a brand new pair of Nikes, still in the box – unusual, but I like it.
Palate: From the beginning sweet hickory and charred barrel. Vanilla and black peppers showcasing an almost quintessential bourbon palate. Then comes the signature WT saw dust and lumber qualities all polished up. Candy shell and chocolate from the nose, but this time the candy is a red cherry flavor, almost sour. Chewy sugars coat your mouth – a little honeydew and cantaloupe, burnt sugar and hardened toffee, peanuts, granulated cane and brown sugars. The oak is chewy along with the sugars, and not to mention savory. Some maple syrup and pleasant baking spices finish out the palate with a slight dryness.
Finish: Long. The sweet baking spices from the end of the palate usher you straight into the finish but never leave your side. Dark chocolate covered caramel candies dominate with peanut brittle, sawdust, light oak tannins and humming rye spices w a touch of vanilla. Treacle and black pepper act as a reminder of what came before with more candy sugars and theirs a sweet smokiness – just wisps, like that coming from a lightly charred honey glazed ham, fresh out the oven.
Bourbon & House Rating: 94.5
I felt this barrel of RRSB was on the slightly sweeter side for WT…which I liked. Remember this is one single barrel, so although it possesses many aspects of the classic WT profile, it carries nuances and some finesse that you might not normally find in a bottle of WT. I found their to be a greater sweetness with this barrel than your average bottle of WT 101, and with really WT in general. I’m happy the decision was made to bottle RRSB at 110 proof as well as you really get all that this whiskey has to offer coming out of the barrel, without being overbearingly hot. Very rich a beautifully balanced.
One last note about this bottle in particular that makes it so special, is that I was given the opportunity to acquire the barrel that it came from shortly before I even bought the bottle. It’s a pretty unique, usually expensive and in general rare opportunity to obtain an empty barrel that once held bourbon, but to own a barrel where your bottle came from is just an incredibly cool experience. Apart from restaurant/bar/shop owners or select individuals with the kind of dough to purchase entire barrels, few ever experience this. And I can think of only a handful of things as rewarding as smelling the scents of oak and vanilla that oozes out of an untreated ex-bourbon barrel. It’s just the coolest thing to know the whiskey your drinking came from the wooden vessel sitting in front of you where your bourbon once slumbered for many years and now you’re resting your glass on it – as a matter of fact that’s what i’m doing right now. My barrel currently sits right next to my bar which holds some of the rarest American whiskey produced from the past and present..but few are as special as this bottle of Russell’s Reserve from barrel #2358.
Lastly but most certainly not least, I want to give a special thanks to Don over at Jackson’s Wine & Spirits in Lafayette, Ca. If it weren’t for him, I may not have discovered this gem, or at least discovered it well past when I should of. Their is no better ambassador for Wild Turkey than Don, but in particular, for Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. A personal friend of Jimmy Russell, this legendary East Bay curmudgeon can tell you more about Wild Turkey, and bourbon in general than probably anyone else west of the Mississippi, as his history in the industry, speaks volumes. You’ll see his shrine of RRSB if you ever make a trip to Jackson’s and upon picking up a bottle, which was no doubt hand picked by Don and company, you will get one of his scarce, but legendary nods of approval.
Thank you Don!