In a year with so many Camp Nelson private selections, it’s nice to find a Tyrone bottle here and there. I’ve covered a few Tyrone releases from 2019 already, but in the grand scheme of things – at least at this very moment – 75% (or more) of what’s coming from the distillery has been aged at Camp Nelson.

This won’t be a Camp Nelson rickhouses vs. Tyrone rickhouses post. While that might be interesting, it’s not what I’m covering today. Today will be much simpler. Truth be told, it’s been an exhausting week. I spent the majority of my time editing, what’s hopefully, the final draft of my Wild Turkey book. Which reminds me, did you catch my latest Kickstarter update? If not, the most important thing of note is the new title. It’s now … American Spirit: Wild Turkey Bourbon from Ripy to Russell. I hope you like it!

Considering my writing chops have been pushed to the limits with hours and hours of technical revisions, I’d love nothing more than to sip some whiskey and give my thoughts on it. Hell, I’m going to make that two whiskeys. I’ve earned it, right?

Today’s first pour is a Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon private selection from New York’s Beast Masters Club. I’ve reviewed a Beast Masters selection before. Some of you might recall “That Old Kentucky Chew” (orange label) which I covered last summer. In terms of Russell’s Reserve private selections, I believe Beast Masters is more popularly known for their “Hot Pickle” series. I’ve yet to try those, but I’ve heard great things. Fingers crossed this barrel from rickhouse K is on par with those sentiments.

Before jumping into the tasting I should mention that according to the Beast Masters website, this particular release is called “Spicy Girls #1: Heifer-Spice.” The sticker artwork for this bottle can be found there; though my bottle (and box) didn’t include one. No worries. That’s not why I buy these bottles anyway. And full disclosure, Beast Masters is mailing me a sticker. The funny thing is, this bottle might just be empty by the time I get it. 😉 Let’s pour!

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (barrel #18-0067, rickhouse K, floor 3), “Spicy Girls #1: Heifer-Spice” – selected by Beast Masters Club, New York, NY – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: rich amber

Nose: caramel nougat, holiday citrus, fruity vanilla, herbal spice, bubblegum, “candied” oak, Hawaiian Punch, hints of maple & brown sugar

Taste: (silky mouthfeel) red fruit, vanilla, sweet oak, caramel, brown sugar, citrus, apple peel, butter toffee, herbal tea

Finish: medium long & well-balanced – vanilla frosting, charred oak, nutmeg, brown sugar, maple, red fruit, faint pepper

Overall: My initial first-pour impression of “Heifer-Spice” was striking. While it hasn’t changed all that much, I’m not quite as smitten with it as I was post cork pop. But don’t take that as a slight. There’s loads to love about this bourbon. As with many rickhouse K barrels, there’s notable red fruit with a touch of “zing” – “punch-like,” you might say. Outside of the red fruit and sweet citrus, there’s plenty of vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar to keep things grounded in classic bourbon territory. A very nice whiskey that stands out among an overwhelming number of 2019 Camp Nelson alternatives presently available. But hold on. I’m not saying it’s better than the Camp Nelson picks out there (well, maybe a majority of the CNA picks I’ve tasted), it’s just different. Different for 2019, at least. And so damn good.

Rating: 4/5 🦃

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit – 101 proof KSBW – no age stated (rumored at least eight years) – bottled 8/18/17 from barrel #1027, warehouse K, rick #4 – distilled by the Austin, Nichols Distilling Company, Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: rich amber

Nose: (modern WT) toffee, vanilla frosting, caramel, sweet oak, brown sugar glaze, nutmeg, hints of citrus & herbal spice

Taste: vanilla, toffee, peppery oak, toasted caramel, brown sugar, savory baking spice, faint leather

Finish: long & warm – oak char, pepper, caramel, toffee, vanilla extract, hints of dry tobacco & leather

Overall: No surprises here. This is essentially modern-profile Wild Turkey 101 in a classic-style Kentucky Spirit bottle. While the good news is that I paid fair retail price for this one (thanks for the find, James); the bad news is, I could’ve purchased a handle of Wild Turkey 101 instead and had some decent change left in my pocket. Toffee, vanilla, caramel, oak, baking spice … again, typical Turkey. Oddly, the oft-familiar rickhouse K notes aren’t present – well, not significantly. No red fruit and only faint hints of citrus. Again, very Wild Turkey 101 in nature, yet virtually nothing else to help it stand out as a unique single barrel.

Rating: 3.5/5 🦃

In closing: While both of these barrels were pulled from Tyrone rickhouse K, they couldn’t be further apart in profile. Perhaps it’s differences in age or location, or maybe the fact that Kentucky Spirit is chill filtered and nine points lower in proof. It’s hard to say precisely, but more likely it’s a combination of all those factors.

Of the two bourbons, Beast Masters’ “Heifer-Spice” Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selection offers a more fulfilling sipping experience. It comes at a considerable price, however. $75 (plus an additional $20 in shipping) isn’t exactly something you’d want to pay often. Frankly, that’s pushing a pair of Saffells. And this Kentucky Spirit … I’m just not finding $50 worth here – not in comparison to the quality and affordability of Wild Turkey 101.

You know, I could probably write another page or two regarding value as it relates to whiskey (hell, I sort of already did three weeks ago). But I’ll refrain for now. Master’s Keep Cornerstone is hitting shelves and it’s only a matter of time before I get my hands on one. Is it worth $175? I’ll wait until I have a bottle to sip down before I cast my final judgement. In the meantime, feel free to check out my first-pour thoughts on Patreon.

As for the whiskeys in this post, just remember that single-barrel bourbons are by nature a roll of the dice. It all depends on how much you’re willing to pay for a chance. But as much as that sounds risky, you’ll never score a winner if you never play the game. Do your research, weigh your options, but don’t think too hard. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut. After all, fortune favors the bold. Cheers!