Earlier this year I had the privilege of selecting not one, but three Wild Turkey barrels alongside nine wonderful friends and patrons (not to mention Eddie Russell, Bruce Russell, and JoAnn Street). Of all the barrels sampled that beautiful day in historic rickhouse A, one was an immediate standout – the unanimous favorite after two rounds of tasting (once blind). It was truly a special barrel – not just for its flavor profile – but because of its purpose.

Wayne “Roy” Patterson Alves, known affectionately as “Mr. PorkChop” by his friends and family, passed away suddenly on May 8, 2018. I never knew Roy, but over the last two years I’ve come to know his son Ryan quite well. Ryan’s one of those folks that make this hobby great. He’s honest, passionate, and exceptionally giving of his time and talent. When Ryan informed me of his father’s passing we had a long chat. I thought about my brother Russell and how, like Roy, he left this world far too early. In our conversation I learned that Roy always wanted his own private bourbon. It only felt right to make that a reality – for Roy and his loved ones. I assured Ryan that we’d pick a barrel together – a barrel for Roy – our promise to Mr. PorkChop.

Almost one year from Roy’s passing we did just that. Our favorite barrel from that Spring day, a sixth-floor, Camp Nelson F bruiser, became a promise fulfilled. And whiskey aside, it was a remarkable experience in every way – full of fellowship and joy – and I’d like to think Roy had a hand in that.

Promise to Mr. PorkChop

Five months later, we have “Promise to Mr. PorkChop.” As you’ve surely noticed from the picture above, this is a new label style designed specifically for Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon private selections. And it’s more than a simple artwork change – there’s an additional label on the bottle’s reverse stating the name or vendor of the selection, as well as date and rickhouse information. Gone are the hang tags that were easily susceptible to loss or removal (or even nefarious replacement). While there’s less glass real estate for custom stickers, I’ll gladly take the official barrel information straight from the distillery in exchange. (If only they’d added original barrel proof.)

I’m thrilled to share my tasting notes with you, though I won’t be assigning a rating to Promise to Mr. PorkChop. In fact, you won’t find ratings on this blog for any private barrel selections I participate in. There’s several reasons for this, but for Promise to Mr. PorkChop I prefer to focus on its deeper meaning. As such, my rating would be irrelevant. It’s a damn good bourbon. I’ll say that. Others are willing to judge it as they wish – and they should – as no whiskey should be immune from critique. But for me, Promise to Mr. PorkChop is personal, and that’s where I choose to keep it. Let’s pour!

Promise to Mr. PorkChop

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon “Promise to Mr. PorkChop” (barrel #18-0573, rickhouse CNF, floor 6) – selected by friends and patrons of Rare Bird 101 – 110-proof (from a barrel proof of approx. 122), non-chill filtered KSBW – aged nine years, eight months – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: copper

Nose: (“soda pop” Turkey) Dr. Pepper, fruity butterscotch, brown sugar glaze, sweet “herbal” oak, maple syrup, blood orange, honey butter, vanilla candy, hints of lemon peel & “soft” pepper

Taste: (syrupy sweet w/ holiday spice) English toffee, cherry cola, lightly toasted caramel, brown sugar, charred oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses, fruitcake, chocolate orange 

Finish: medium-long & well balanced – fruity vanilla, “boozy” cherries, maple-oak, cinnamon-raisin bread, warm ginger, citrus zest, faint leather & pepper

Overall: I can’t begin to express how thoroughly pleased I am with this Russell’s Reserve selection. While I knew we’d picked a good barrel, I had no idea it would hold up so well after bottling dilution. It’s complex – layered with syrupy sweetness and warm baking spice – and incredibly balanced from nose to finish. Maybe those three months sitting around at ground level waiting to be dumped helped to round edges and naturally soften its ABV? One can only wonder.

Regardless of the course of events, I’m 110% thrilled with this bourbon and grateful to have been a part of a selection group so passionate about Wild Turkey. More importantly, I’m thankful this particular barrel was selected in honor of Roy. Based on his passion for cooking and quality cuisine, I’d imagine he’d be excited about its profile. So cheers to Mr. PorkChop! May his service to his country and love for his family never be forgotten.

Closing thoughts: There’s so much this hobby has to offer. Interestingly, the most rewarding facet isn’t whiskey at all. It’s the fellowship and friendships developed through a genuine shared interest. It’s the experiences we seek out and ultimately cherish together. And every so often, a special opportunity arrives – a chance to craft a positive from a negative. Be it through humble charity, unexpected acts of kindness, or something much deeper, a difference can always be made.

In my time as a whiskey enthusiast I’ve witnessed the good and bad sides of our hobby. Despite what some proclaim, the good far outweighs the bad. If you’re having a hard time seeing that light, you’re likely associating with the wrong crowd (or chasing the wrong whiskeys). If, however, you’re fortunate enough to have true friends in this hobby, you’ll never go without. They’ll be there for you, as will you for them. It’s a bond like no other. A bond forged through the appreciation of a spirit – as pure, as strong, as timeless. dj

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