Last month I posted a comparison review of two Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections from Lincoln Road Package Store in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Shortly after posting I reached out to Jamie Farris, owner of Lincoln Road, to inquire about their most recent Russell’s Reserve private barrels and their selection process in general. As you will soon find out, it was a phone call I’m glad I made.
While I always enjoy talking shop with proprietors that appreciate bourbon, Jamie Farris is one of those “average Joe whiskey” guys that you can easily relate to as an enthusiast. What do I mean by “average Joe whiskey?” Well, despite some recent fame in Whiskey Advocate Magazine, tweets by author Fred Minnick, and a fair amount of buzz on bourbon-centered social media, Farris checks all that at the door. He’s genuinely passionate about what he does (Lincoln Road’s list of private selections alone prove that), yet he doesn’t present himself as a profile guru or whiskey wizard. He will tell you upfront – pulling notes isn’t his thing. He just likes to pick barrels that taste great.
Be it luck, chance, or just great timing, it just so happens that as I was talking with Jamie he mentioned a recently discovered case of his very first Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selection from March 2014. To my surprise and delight, they were indeed for sale. Now my hearing isn’t perfect, but it has no problem detecting the sound of Wild Turkey knocking. Thanks to a generous Mississippi whiskey associate, I was able to secure one of these beautiful Eddie Russell autographed bottles for myself.
I don’t know how to explain it, but there’s just something special about this bottle. Maybe it’s the older label with the handwritten tag, or Eddie Russell’s signature paired perfectly under the embossed “Jimmy Russell,” or maybe it’s the fact that it’s barrel number 1 from Rickhouse A. Very hard to say. I just know that I get a positive vibe from this bottle. Through brief exchanges with Eddie I’ve learned this is one of the early Russell’s Reserve private selections (which began in late 2013). He’s confirmed that the maturity of many of these initial selections were over 10 years. While Jamie didn’t have complete specs for this particular barrel, he did state that he was fairly certain it was aged at least 10 years.
All things considered, it’s very likely this particular Russell’s Reserve selection was barreled at the old 107 entry-proof. But specs are only numbers – what matters most is how it tastes. Time to find out if there’s much difference between this bottle and the selections you find in 2017.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (2014) personally selected for Lincoln Road Package Store by Jamie Farris – NAS KSBW at 110 proof (non-chill filtered) – distilled by Austin, Nichols Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: toffee, caramel popcorn, stove-top vanilla pudding, orange peel, sweet oak, brown sugar, saltwater taffy, baking spice, light herbal & floral notes, hints of leather
Taste: creamy vanilla, butter toffee, caramel, musty oak, sweet & zesty citrus, brown sugar, herbal tea w/ honey, candy apple, peppery spice, hints of cinnamon & nutmeg
Finish: medium-long – chewy caramel & toffee, vanilla, orange peel, pepper, musty oak, herbal & floral spice, faint leather
Overall: This is certainly one of the most unique Russell’s Reserve Single Barrels I’ve tasted. In fact, it has more in common with a late 2000’s or early 2010’s Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit than it does a typical Russell’s Reserve selection. And there’s something distinctly familiar here … believe it or not, this bourbon is very close in profile to Master’s Keep Decades. So much so that I had to confirm with a side-by-side comparison. Sparing the details, I’ll simply remark that between the two, the Lincoln Road Russell’s Reserve has an extra dollop of brown sugar, while Decades has a bit more orange/citrus. Other than that and some minor subtleties, the similarities are striking – even with their differences on paper.
In closing, if you’re looking for a Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel with an exceptional profile and unmistakable Rickhouse A character, this Lincoln Road Package Store selection is the bottle for you. The trick now is finding one. It’s possible that Lincoln Road has a few left from that rediscovered case, though I’m willing to bet they sold pretty darn quickly. But don’t let that deter you from calling or stopping by. Even if this particular selection is gone, it’s very likely they have other Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections in stock to choose from. So check out Lincoln Road Package Store and tell Jamie the Rare Bird sent you. As for a rating, well I’d be doing an injustice if I didn’t score this Russell’s Reserve as highly as Decades. After all, an excellent bourbon deserves an excellent assessment.
Rating: 4.5/5 🦃