Back in 2017, Campari introduced the Whiskey Barons Collection to select states in limited distribution. While the bottle designs were excellent, the whiskeys comprising Old Ripy and Bond & Lillard didn’t quite measure up to most enthusiasts’ expectations. Factor in their ultra-premium price tag of $50/375ml, and they were undoubtedly hard sells.
But Old Ripy and Bond & Lillard weren’t bad whiskeys. They just weren’t much to write home about.
Fast forward to 2019 …
At the beginning of this year, Campari introduced two additional Whiskey Barons expressions: W. B. Saffell, and a new, second batch of Bond & Lillard (both with nationwide distribution). If you recall my review of W. B. Saffell back in February, I found it pretty damn spectacular. Worth every penny of its $50/375ml price tag. But what about Bond & Lillard batch 2? Was Wild Turkey Master Distiller Eddie Russell involved with its development? Why a second batch? Were barrels pulled from similar locations? Was it charcoal-filtered like batch 1? All good questions, so I’ll address them immediately.
First, unlike the 2017 Bond & Lillard release, Eddie Russell was directly involved with the development and production of 2019’s Bond & Lillard. That should come as a relief to anyone confused or disappointed by the initial Whiskey Barons expressions.
As for why Bond & Lillard was repeated, I recall Eddie saying a while back that he had acquired a pre-Prohibition bottle of Bond & Lillard. My guess is that he felt confident he could craft a similar whiskey using modern Wild Turkey bourbon. After all, Eddie’s expressed his fondness for experimentation on more than one occasion. I’d say that goes hand-in-hand with appreciating a challenge.
Finally, in addressing the barrel origins of Bond & Lillard batch 2, I can say that yes, they’re likely from a completely different set of circumstances (rickhouse, floor, maturity, etc.). I’ll cover more of the origins aspect later in this review, though it should be noted that as with Bond & Lillard batch 1, batch 2’s whiskey was charcoal filtered at some point in production.
With those questions answered, the only thing left to do is to give 2019’s Bond & Lillard a proper tasting. Will it be as impressive as its co-release, W. B. Saffell? While I certainly hope so, I remain skeptical. In my opinion, W. B. Saffell is essentially “Russell’s Reserve 2002 Junior.” It’ll be incredibly difficult to fill those shoes. But I’ve been surprised by Wild Turkey before – many times, in fact. Maybe today will bring another? Let’s have a pour and find out!
Bond & Lillard (2019) – Campari Whiskey Barons Collection Batch #2 – non-age-stated KSBW (reportedly aged “a minimum of seven years”) – charcoal filtered and bottled at 100 proof – distilled and bottled by The American Medicinal Spirits Co. (reportedly produced at the Wild Turkey Distillery), Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Color: rich amber
Nose: (hints of WT 101 Rye) butter toffee, vanilla spice, caramel drizzle, fragrant oak, honey, lemon zest, clove, herbal & floral spice
Taste: (refined modern WT) caramel, vanilla icing, white pepper, charred oak, herbal tea, clove, nutmeg, hints of leather
Finish: (notable spice) medium-long – toasted vanilla, spicy oak, clove, cinnamon, sassafras, pepper, orange peel, faint tobacco & leather
Overall: Well, this is a pleasant surprise – but – not exactly the surprise I was hoping for. It’s no W. B. Saffell. However, Bond & Lillard batch 2 is significantly better than batch 1. In my comparisons of the two side by side, the differences are night and day. Batch 1 is lighter with a touch more of a youthful vibe, while batch 2 is bolder with an undeniable Wild Turkey backbone. It seems even hints of Eddie Russell’s signature profile presentations are hard to miss.
Which brings me back to my introduction. I remarked that barrels from completely different circumstances were likely used to shape Bond & Lillard batch 2. So much for consistency, right? Well, in this case it’s a good thing. And of course, different rickhouses, floors, and maturations were used this time around. I wouldn’t expect Eddie to copy what was done before. Quite the opposite. I’d expect Eddie to do what he does best – craft a bourbon he would appreciate sipping. Whether or not Campari’s Bond & Lillard tastes like pre-Prohibition Bond & Lillard really doesn’t matter. It’s not exactly a comparison experience most of us can afford anyhow.
Speaking of which, it begs the question – is Bond & Lillard batch 2 worth its considerable price tag ($50/375ml)? Unfortunately, I can’t sign off on that expense as I could with W. B. Saffell. Call it personal preference, but to me the difference is clear. W. B. Saffell sips like a limited edition should. It’s genuinely special. Bond & Lillard 2, on the other hand, sips more like a quality Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. Now that I think about it, if you factor in the charcoal filtration this is essentially 100-proof Wild Turkey Longbranch (or at least very close in specs). Based on the profile-to-price ratio, however, I can only give 2019’s Bond & Lillard two out of three “alrights.”
Rating: 3.75/5 🦃