At present, there are four straight rye whiskeys produced by Wild Turkey: Wild Turkey Rye, Wild Turkey 101 Rye, Russell’s Reserve Six Year Old Rye, and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye. I’m a fan of both Wild Turkey 101 Rye and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye, having reviewed each in the past (some more than once). I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to the 81-proof Wild Turkey Rye, but today I’m focusing on the six-year Russell’s Reserve Rye.
Russell’s Reserve Six Year Old Rye is a 90-proof Kentucky straight rye whiskey priced in the super-premium tier and retails for about $40. With Wild Turkey 101 Rye priced at around $30 (liter) and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye at about $70, it fits about square in the middle. Logically, that’s where the profile should fit, but does it?
On paper there are differences. The most unique being age and proof. At six years it’s the only age-stated straight rye expression produced by Wild Turkey. It’s 90 proof, whereas Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye is 104 and Wild Turkey 101 Rye is, well, 101 of course. Like the single-barrel rye, the bottle states it’s hand-selected by Jimmy and Eddie Russell. Wild Turkey 101 Rye does not share this statement.
Brass tacks behind us, the only way to truly know how this one fares is a proper tasting. Time for a pour!
Russell’s Reserve Six Year Old Rye (2016) – 90-proof Kentucky straight rye whiskey – aged at least six years – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: light vanilla, honeysuckle, lemon & mint tea, almond, soft spice, faint oak
Taste: vanilla buttercream frosting, lemon peel, herbal tea, ginger, light musty oak, hints of pineapple cake
Finish: medium in length with gentle warmth – light vanilla, citrus, crisp minty spice
Overall: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised by this one. I’ve heard many folks state Russell’s Reserve Six Year Old Rye is simply a watered-down Wild Turkey 101 Rye. It’s not. It’s absolutely not. A diluted Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye, maybe. Even at 90 proof, the six-year is notably more complex than the current Wild Turkey 101 Rye. It also lacks the slight youthfulness that 101 Rye exhibits.
Don’t get me wrong – I love 101 Rye – but in terms of complexity, Russell’s Reserve Six Year Old Rye is the clear winner. That said, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye is significantly richer and more full-bodied than the other two, so all three expressions appear to line up with their pricing tiers accordingly.
Now, if you think this is the part where I justify the purchase of Russell’s Reserve Six-Year Rye, you’d be wrong (sort of). Sure, it’s not priced inappropriately but here’s the issue for me: it fills a niche I just don’t need. I’m either looking for an everyday whiskey that works neat and holds up to icy cocktails (Wild Turkey 101 Rye), or a nice full-flavored sipper for relaxing evenings (Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye). Russell’s Six-Year Rye, while a nice whiskey, falls a little short on those tasks. It’s a tasty pour, no doubt. I could easily see this fitting perfectly in someone’s weekly rotation, just not mine.
Rating: 3/5 🦃