A few weeks ago, on a sunny-day casual Turkey hunt, I discovered this 2006 Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon way back on a shelf full of 2010-2014 label bottles. Prior to 2005, Russell’s Reserve 10-year was 101 proof and of a different design altogether. Those bottles are now long gone, but if you’re lucky like me, you can still find the “brown label” 90-proof versions from 2005-2009 in the wild.

What’s so special about finding these particular bottles? Isn’t it just plain old Russell’s 10? The answer is … it depends. If you want something truly special, you’ll need to find bottles from the first two years of production (2005-2006), where the glass lacks embossing and the laser code is printed in black on the back paper label. These were bottled at Lawrenceburg, Indiana (Pernod Ricard bottling facility).  Laser codes on the glass itself will indicate bottles filled in Fort Smith, Arkansas (see Wild Turkey Timeline).

While there may be Russell’s Reserve 10-year bottles after 2006 that have similar whiskey to the first two years, I’ve yet to hear of one. That said, this may also give credence to some “bottled by” conspiracy theories, though I’m personally not in that camp.

So those are the technical details. The real proof is in the pudding. So, let’s dig in …

Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon (2006 “brown label”) – 90 proof KSBW – aged at least 10 years – 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley (rumored mash bill) – distilled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: dark rosy copper (much darker than current RR10)

Nose: rich vanilla, maple syrup, honey, blood orange, ripe cherries, musty/funky oak, herbal tea, floral perfume

Taste: maple syrup, vanilla, honey, caramel chews, citrus, baking spice, musty oak, tobacco, leather, vegetal notes

Finish: (finishes slightly above proof) medium/med-long in duration – full/round, warm & sticky – fading vanilla, musty oak, herbal/floral spice

Overall:  This bourbon is in many ways the essence of old Wild Turkey. Rich vanilla? Check. Thick maple/toffee? Check. Musty/funky oak? Check. Fragrant herbal/floral spice? Check. Dusty bottle vibe? Hell check yes.

I’ll be very honest, this is one of my favorite Wild Turkey expressions out there – even at 90-proof. Is it “Cheesy Gold Foil” level? No, but it is definitely mature and has some of the best parts of the CGF profile in moderate doses. In fact, this 2006 Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon tastes almost exactly like my 2003 Wild Turkey 101/12 export – even with an 11 point proof difference! Trust me. I had to side-by-side compare to confirm, but I speak the truth. Hard to believe how good $34 retail can taste – a bonafide blast-from-the-past diamond in the rough!

Rating:  4.5/5 🦃