This past August, I had the pleasure of choosing a Russell’s Reserve barrel with friends and patrons of this blog. The selection took place over brunch with Master Distiller Eddie Russell at Motor Supply Company in Columbia, SC – great food, great company, great times! You can read more about that day in my August 20th post, and I encourage you to do so if you haven’t already (as there’s a “cheesy golden” nugget in there regarding planned 2020 releases).
When it comes to Wild Turkey single barrels, there’s three primary avenues of selecting for the private barrel program. The first and most preferred method is selecting at the distillery with Eddie or Bruce Russell (a few lucky folks have even had Jimmy leading their selection team). Depending on the season and weather, you’ll either select from barrels in rickhouse A (awesome) or select from samples at the Visitor Center (still awesome). The second method is selecting via samples off site alongside Eddie Russell. While the atmosphere is far from a 125-year-old Kentucky rickhouse, depending on where the tasting is hosted it can be a rewarding experience in its own way. And finally, the last method is selecting via samples at a store, or possibly another location as determined by a state Campari representative.
All three private selection options can yield excellent picks, each avenue with its own set of pros and cons. Clearly, sipping whiskey in rickhouse A is an incomparable experience. That said, it’s fast paced – you have one glass and very little time to take notes (so go with your gut and don’t get nerdy). Selecting off site with Eddie is a little more laid back. You have more time for notes and questions, which one could argue might possibly lead to a stronger pick. Even so, I’d recommend limiting the nerdiness and simply enjoy your company. It’s not every day that you’re seated across the table from a bourbon industry icon. Lastly, you can sip through samples all by your lonesome, with friends (possibly bourbon club members), or a representative from your sponsoring retailer or distributor. Every state has its own way of doing this and I’m honestly not familiar with each one. If you’re looking to get nerdy, selecting via samples is the time to do it. Pour multiple glasses side by side, take pages of notes, re-taste blind, add water, re-taste again, etc., etc. There’s a good chance you’ll end up with something special – if you have the right samples to begin with.
As for the barrel selected with Eddie and friends back in August, it’s called “Fast Eddie: No Ice, No Glass.” What’s the story behind the name? Those familiar with the classic movie, The Hustler (1961), should have an idea. In the film, Paul Newman plays the protagonist, “Fast Eddie” Felson, an aspiring and talented pool shark. Jackie Gleason plays the antagonist, “Minnesota Fats” Hegerman, a legendary pool hustler. In one brief but memorable scene, Minnesota Fats orders “White Tavern whiskey, a glass and some ice.” Not to be outdone, Fast Eddie then asks for a bourbon, “J.T.S. Brown, no ice, no glass.” Little did Paul Newman know, but with those words a private barrel nickname was born.
If you’ve studied your Wild Turkey history, you’ll remember that at the time of this film (1961), J.T.S. Brown was distilled at what’s now known as the Wild Turkey Distillery. A young Jimmy Russell would’ve been working there when Fast Eddie’s bottle was filled. And so the inspiration for No Ice, No Glass comes into focus.
Now it’s time to share my tasting notes. As with my past private selections, I won’t be assigning a rating. With that said, let’s rack and pour!
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon “Fast Eddie: No Ice, No Glass” (barrel #19-0538, rickhouse CNF, floor 6) – selected by friends and patrons of Rare Bird 101 – 110-proof (from a barrel proof of 117.7), non-chill filtered KSBW – aged nine years, eleven months – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: cherry vanilla, toasted caramel, sweet maple-oak, brown sugar, clove, Ruby Red grapefruit, herbal tea, candy apple, chocolate orange
Taste: (rich & flavorful) dense caramel, syrupy sweet oak char, cherry cordials, blood orange, herbal spice, Twizzlers candy, leather, faint tobacco
Finish: long w/ pleasant, lingering spice – vanilla bean, tobacco, charred oak, molasses, cherry cola, pepper, hints of orange peel, clove & cinnamon
Overall: This is the fourth Camp Nelson F Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel I’ve participated in selecting and I’ll have to confess, it’s an instant favorite. How so? Well, I can’t claim it’s as puzzling as the weirdly spicy “One & A Century,” or as dangerously sippable as the sodapop-sweet “Promise to Mr. PorkChop,” but that’s not where No Ice, No Glass shines. I’d say it’s more akin to the full-bodied “Russell the Muscle,” though a bit less intense with a pinch more balance and finesse.
Truthfully, every barrel selection I’ve been involved with is a personal favorite. They’re not perfect; they just mean something to me. As for No Ice, No Glass, suffice it to say it checks all the boxes it should and absolutely none that it shouldn’t. It’s not “off profile” or strikingly unique (at least among other 2019 Camp Nelson picks), but it’s complex, well-rounded, and a damn fine tasty sipper. Everything one could want in a Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is here – particularly for fans of recent Camp Nelson barrels.
If you’re interested in purchasing a bottle of Fast Eddie: No Ice, No Glass, a very limited number will be available tomorrow, January 22nd, at Lexington Beverage Outlet in Lexington, SC. I can’t make any promises, but you might just luck up and find one of my previous selections there as well. If you do happen to pick up No Ice, No glass (or any Rare Bird 101 Russell’s Reserve selection), I’d love to hear your thoughts. So shoot me a message or comment below. Until then, cheers!
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