Over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some very kind and generous individuals.  From fellow enthusiasts to independent bottlers, retail proprietors to master distillers, I’ve been very fortunate indeed.  And as brand-loyal as I might be, you’d probably never guess that this die-hard Turkey fanatic would also end up a fan of an Owl.  I’m referring to the magnanimous Dixon Dedman, of course.

I not sure of Dixon’s official title – I guess it depends on which hat he’s wearing.  After all, Dixon has his hands full with the Beaumont Inn, the Old Owl Tavern, and of course, Kentucky Owl Bourbon and Rye  (not to mention devoted husband and father).  But for sure the best thing about Dixon is his sincerity and humility.  He certainly doesn’t wear his titles on his sleeve.  In fact, he’s as down to Earth as one can be.  Much like Jamie Farris of Lincoln Road Package Store.  Hell, one could argue they’re cut from similar cloth.  Neither presents himself as any sort of whiskey expert, tasting guru, or anything more than a true enthusiast of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.

Be it by fate or design, it just so happens that Dixon and Jamie have selected at least one Wild Turkey barrel together.  Thanks to an aptly-timed email from Dixon himself, we now have a narrative of that visit to Wild Turkey.  It’s a fun and insightful read and I highly recommend checking it out.  Needless to say, (spoiler) the barrel they selected on that adventure is fantastic and I’m extremely grateful to have a bottle in my rotation.  Special thanks to an awesome Mississippian for making that happen. 😉

As luck, or more appropriately, as kindness would have it I have more than one bottle to be thankful for.  Just a few weeks ago I arrived home from a long day at work to find a box sitting on my front porch – a surprise package quietly delivered, most likely by a southeastern carrier owl.  If you’ve ever seen A Christmas Story then you have a pretty good idea of what I looked liked opening my special delivery.  As for what was inside, well it was far better than the glow of electric sex in the window.  It was whiskey – Wild Turkey distilled and aged Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.  But not just any Wild Turkey KSBW – a Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selected by none other than Dedman, Farler, and Wertz of the Old Owl Tavern.

Now as one might expect, it didn’t take me long to strip the seal, pop the cork, and pour a healthy dram.  And (spoiler) the Old Owl pick (barrel 84) is equally as fantastic as Dixon and Jamie’s Russell’s Reserve selection (possibly even better).  So that got me thinking – which of these two single barrels is the superior bourbon?  I’ve heard more than one person rave about Dixon and Jamie’s joint pick (barrel 68) on more than one occasion, including Dixon himself.  At least for Dixon it’s the more memorable barrel of the two.  I wonder if I’d feel the same?

While I’ve enjoyed each of these Russell’s Reserve selections separately, in order to achieve a fair evaluation I’ve decided it best to compare them blind.  So without further delay, let’s set these up and see what shakes out.

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (private selection blind comparison) – 110-proof, non-chill filtered Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – no age stated – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Sample A

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color:  copper

Nose:  brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, sweet charred oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, orange peel, herbal tea, leather, faint mint

Taste:  creamy vanilla, maple, caramel, sweet musty oak, brown sugar, black tea, baking spice

Finish:  long & peppery – rich caramel, vanilla, spicy oak, cinnamon, molasses, leather, black pepper

Overall:  This is everything I’d expect from a high-quality Warehouse G pick – nothing more, nothing less.  There’s plenty of brown sugar, caramel, and warm baking spice to satisfy anyone from a casual enthusiast to a well-versed Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel connoisseur.  The finish is arguably the distinctive feature of this whiskey, or at least what sets it apart from Sample B.  It’s long and spicy with a distinct pepper note that diminishes slowly over waves of rich vanilla and oak.  All in all it’s an excellent single barrel selection, one I’d surely be proud of if I were Dedman and company.

Rating:  4/5 🦃

Sample B

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color:  copper

Nose:  caramel, brown sugar, toasted vanilla, rich oak, nutmeg, cinnamon, orange peel, sweet herbs, leather, hints of maple & zesty citrus

Taste:  creamy vanilla, caramel, honey-maple, sweet musty oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, citrus, brown sugar, herbal spice

Finish:  medium-long, warm & spicy – vanilla, sweet oak, caramel, nutmeg, leather, herbal spice, faint pepper

Overall:  Generally speaking, this Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel has a great deal in common with Sample A.  The core notes and mouthfeel are strikingly similar, as is the overall profile.  In fact, outside of a side-by-side comparison, correctly identifying these two whiskeys apart might prove considerably difficult.  Granted, this is a side-by-side tasting so there are a few subtle differences of note.

The first thing that stands out with Sample B is a rounder spice element with minimal pepper.  There’s also an increased citrus presence, particularly on the nose and palate.  And finally, while the finish is a bit shorter in comparison, the balance between core notes and supporting spice notes seems to benefit as a result.  It’s a fantastic bourbon whiskey – just as excellent as Sample A.  That said, Sample B is my personal favorite by a very small margin.

Rating:  4/5 🦃

And now, the reveal …

Sample A:  Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel 68-G-4 – Jamie Farris & Dixon Dedman (2016)

Sample B:  Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel 84-G-5 – Dedman, Farler, & Wertz of the Old Owl Tavern (2016)

In summary, each of these Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections are high-quality pours.  While my personal preference leans towards barrel 84, barrel 68 is just as fantastic and nearly everything one could want in a single-barrel Wild Turkey KSBW.  While I’ve had a few Russell’s Reserve SiB selections I’d rate a half point higher, those are outliers and not completely representative of the typical Russell’s Reserve profile.  These two selections are quite the opposite.

From my experience, both Dixon and Jamie have a knack for picking what I’d call “consistently Eddie” barrels.  What does that mean, exactly?  Well, if you’re familiar with the general profile of non-private select Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel bottles, that’s what I’d describe as Eddie Russell’s standard profile.  Each of Dixon’s picks, as well as many of Jamie’s picks, are exemplary in this regard.  It’s without doubt a compliment, and one I’d hope both Dixon and Jamie would accept with pride.

In closing, I want to stress that both Dixon Dedman and Jamie Farris aren’t just good at picking quality whiskey – they’re great fellas.  I want to thank Dixon for his time – for answering all of my questions, sharing his story, and ultimately, making this comparison possible.  Hats off to Jamie as well. As much as I try to inject variety into this blog, at the rate he picks outstanding barrels, folks might as well count on a half dozen Lincoln Road reviews per year.  Not a bad gig for me, I reckon.  Not a bad gig at all.