Frustrated with coming home empty-handed from dusty hunting? Feeling regret for trading away grandpa’s old Wild Turkey bottle? Or, maybe you arrived late to the scene to find there’s no old-label Turkey to be found anywhere? Well, you’re not alone.
But, there is hope. While dusty Wild Turkey 101 is truly special and deserving of praise, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is in many ways the equivalent of 101’s classic past. As far as I’m concerned, it virtually “checks all boxes.” Please allow me to elaborate, as I present Rare Bird 101’s …
Ten Reasons You Should Be Sipping Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon
10. Versatility – Anything a straight whiskey can do, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel can do undeniably well. Cocktails? For sure. It has the richness and spice to outperform most bourbons in the super-premium tier. On the rocks? Absolutely. While not my preferred way to sip, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is full bodied and strong enough to maintain enjoyable flavor as the ice melts. Neat? Are you kidding me? Russell’s Reserve shines best when sipped neat! A single straight pour is a journey down classic Wild Turkey lane and always a memorable experience.
9. A True Single Barrel – There’s something to be said about a quality single-barrel Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. You can’t batch its imperfections away. It is what it is; what comes from the barrel is what you sip, save for a touch of water to maintain the brand’s 110 proof. For the consumer, that means each bottle, so long as they’re from different barrels, has the potential to provide its own unique and rewarding experience.
8. Proof – With a barrel-entry proof of 115, bottling a perfectly aged straight bourbon at 110 proof means you’ll likely get a minimally diluted whiskey (maturation location depending). This is one of the factors that made vintage Wild Turkey 101 so flavorful – a bottling proof (101) close to barrel entry-proof (107, prior to 2004). A higher proof also makes Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel more versatile (see reason #10).
7. Availability – Most local retailers stocking super-premium whiskeys carry Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon – that goes for states with controlled alcohol retailing too. But if your local bottle shop isn’t stocking Russell’s Reserve, most should be able to get it easily through their distributor. It can also be found online at nearly every major spirits vendor with a half-decent whiskey selection. My point being, it’s practically everywhere.
6. Affordability – With a suggested retail price of $50 (USD), Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is one helluva deal. I’ve seen it on sale as low as $35 and as high as $60 (store and state depending). If you see it for less than $40 in today’s crazy bourbon marketplace, it’s a no-brainer buy. And even at $60 a bottle I’d still argue it’s a solid deal. There are very few (and I mean very few) single-barrel, 110-proof bourbons that can compete at the same quality level for the same price.
5. Consistency – Each bottle of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel I’ve enjoyed to date has been of considerable quality and of a similar core profile. Some are better than others, of course, but I’ve yet to have a sub-par experience. According to a March 29, 2017 Reddit AMA, Jimmy and Eddie Russell still taste every barrel that’s bottled. That alone is likely the best reason to explain why Russell’s Reserve is so consistent in quality and flavor.
4. Non-Chill Filtered – Chill filtering is a common filtration process employed by many distilleries as a method for removing residue. Its purpose is to make the whiskey more visually appealing. Stated simply, it improves clarity by reducing cloudiness, thereby giving the whiskey more of a clean metallic sheen. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon doesn’t experience this process.
There is great debate among whiskey enthusiasts as to the effects of chill filtration on flavor. While some believe it improves taste by removing fine particles (imperfections), most will argue that it’s simply one more (unnecessary) step away from how the whiskey tasted straight from the barrel. I’m not sure about you, but I prefer my bourbon as close to barrel-relative as possible.
3. Private Selections – There’s a lot of bourbon brands out there offering private barrel selections. The truth is, it’s often hard to tell who selected what. Many of these selections come from NDPs (non-distiller producers) from which the whiskey is sourced from other (often undisclosed) distilleries. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel private selections come straight from Wild Turkey and are personally selected by distributors, retailers, or enthusiasts. Depending on the preferences and talents of the individuals sampling the barrels, profiles can vary from signature “on-profile” Wild Turkey to stunning “throwback” Wild Turkey (yes, even some coveted dusty notes are sometimes reported). And with these bottles typically carrying a small retail premium (if any at all), there’s very little investment risk over the standard non-select Russell’s Reserve.
2. Profile – One of my favorite things about Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is its unmistakably classic Wild Turkey profile. From rich core-bourbon notes like vanilla, brown sugar, caramel, and oak, to a plethora of supportive notes ranging anywhere from fruity to spicy, each bottle of Russell’s Reserve contains its own unique tasting experience. And don’t let the lack of an age statement deter you. It has complexity and balance that only comes from well-aged bourbon whiskey. According to interviews with the Russells, most barrels are typically pulled at eight to ten years of age (the proverbial “sweet spot” of bourbon maturity). Overall, it’s somewhat enigmatic, as all Russell’s Reserve tastes like Russell’s Reserve, yet each Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel tastes distinctively special.
1. It’s Wild Turkey – Okay, so clearly I’m biased on this one, but there’s something to be said for an honest legacy. The once small label Kentucky straight bourbon purchased by wholesaler Austin, Nichols & Co. in 1971, has turned into a worldwide mainstay thanks to the dedication and skill of Master Distiller Jimmy Russell. And with Eddie Russell formally named Master Distiller in 2015, there’s been no true “changing of the guard.” Jimmy’s way is Eddie’s way, and Eddie’s got it down. Wild Turkey makes damn fine bourbon whiskey – has for decades now – and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is a modern-day testament to that legacy.