Russell’s Reserve 1998 is a rare 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 demand for this release was insane. It came and went in the blink of an eye, which says a lot when the suggested retail price was $250 (with many buyers paying a markup or premium in addition).

The story goes that in 1998 Eddie Russell decided to set some barrels aside for a future retirement bourbon as 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, and so into the bottles it went.

Russell’s Reserve 1998 – 102.2 proof KSBW, aged 15 years – rumored Wild Turkey mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley – 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) full, warm, and medium-long in length, with big chewy vanilla & sweet oak fading out

Overall: I really enjoyed this pour. In so many ways it reminded me of the best of both Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and Wild Turkey from decades past. The big chewy vanilla and caramel/toffee notes you find in RRSiB were cranked to 11, while the tobacco, leather, and spice notes you find prominent in older WT were in the background (yet easily found without a struggle of the senses). The oak was near perfect – neither too little, nor too much – and kept the spirit in balance.

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

Rating:  5/5 🦃