Reviewed by: Ted
Amongst bourbon makers there seems to be an unwritten rule that as a mark of skill and dedication to the craft, a master distiller will fashion a unique spirit that reflects his own tastes and then slap his name on the front. Not that I’m complaining mind, as by and large this involves the distiller selecting the most exciting and tasty barrels to represent his eponym.
Case in point is the Russell’s Reserve. This premium small batch bourbon is a child of the well known Wild Turkey distillery, which in one form or another has been producing bourbon in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, since 1869. The man that we have to give thanks to is Jimmy Russell, who has worked at Wild Turkey since 1954, apparently making him the longest tenured active master distiller in the world. Well and away enough time to earn the right to his own expression.
As its name suggests, the Russell’s Reserve 10yo small batch Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey is selected from older aged barrels of Wild Turkey spirit (standard bourbons generally using younger stock), and then reduced to 45%. Interestingly this big bird likes to fly south for winter, for in addition to smooth gooey caramel and hot spicy oak, there are notes of bananas, cashews, cantaloupe and feijoas swirling around on the nose.
Once introduced to the mouth the Russell’s is hot, spicy and complex, rather like a latin dance (probably not the rumba though. Wrong drink). The feel is thin and supple, rather than oily and thick, and the finish is sharp and astringent, lingering across the tongue.
Jimmy should be proud to lend his name to this expression of the Kentucky craft, as in his wisdom he has created a bourbon that tastes of more than just bourbon, an emergent system of flavours that as a whole are greater than the sum of their parts. Rather than a scrawny corn-fed pot boiler, the Russell’s Reserve 10yo is a magnificent tom turkey wearing a Tom Selleck mo, a sharp Hawaiian shirt, Miami shades, and playing dirty 80’s sax as the sun rises across the skyline.
I was beginning to think you boys didn’t like bourbon – glad you found something that pleased you.
Have you tried any of the rye stuff?
I was pleasantly surprised when I did.
Haha, yeah it was a relief to come across something that made me want to come back for more. I’ve seen the rye in one of my books, but never in the flesh. I think the 10yo only made it down this way relatively recently though, so maybe it’ll pop up in the near future. How do you rate the rye compared to the 10yo?
Keep on waffling,
Great review guys… Very funny! I will definitely go looking for this whiskey. Like you, I don’t know bourbon as well as I know scotch and some other whiskies but I’ve found Four Roses Single Barrel to be a solid dram.