Russell’s Reserve 1998 is a Wild Turkey limited edition bourbon released at the end of 2015. There were 23 barrels of this whiskey at the time of selection, producing only 2,070 bottles. Unsurprisingly, the initial demand for this release was insane. It came and went in the blink of an eye, which says a lot considering its suggested retail price of $250 (with many buyers paying substantial premiums in addition).

The story goes that in 1998, Eddie Russell decided to set some barrels aside for a future retirement bourbon as a tribute to his legendary father, Jimmy Russell (assuming Jimmy would retire in another 10-15 years). By the time this whiskey had reached optimal maturation, Jimmy was (and is thankfully) still working at the distillery. I guess Eddie decided there was no point in tanking it, so into the bottles it went!

Russell’s Reserve 1998 – 102.2 proof KSBW – aged 15 years – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: deep rose copper

Nose: fresh-baked cookies, caramel, vanilla, toffee, leather, tobacco, rich oak, slight citrus, hints of floral perfume

Taste: chewy vanilla & caramel, sweet musty oak, buttered roasted almonds, molasses, herbal/floral spice, orange peel

Finish: (satisfyingly wonderful) medium-long, full & warm – with big chewy vanilla & sweet oak gradually fading out

Overall:  Simply an incredible pour. In so many ways I’m reminded of the best of both Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon and Wild Turkey expressions from decades past. The big chewy vanilla and caramel/toffee notes you find in Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel are cranked to 11, while the tobacco, leather, and spice notes you find prominent in dusty Wild Turkey are singing in the background. The oak is near perfect – neither too little, nor too much – and keeps the spirit complex with near-perfect balance.

While I feel a limited-edition price is certainly worthy of this release, $250 is a little high when you consider export Wild Turkey 101 12-year bottles can sometimes be found overseas for $200 or less. Hell, if you can find a spectacular Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel private selection with hints of dusty Wild Turkey notes, you’ll have a chance of a somewhat similar profile to Russell’s Reserve 1998 (and for much less money).  But who am I kidding?  I’d be a hypocrite if I said I’d pass on this at its retail price.  It’s without doubt an amazingly beautiful whiskey and one I’m happy I had the pleasure of tasting.

Rating:  5/5 🦃