I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there will soon come a day when Camp Nelson rickhouse F barrels are missed. Sure, they’re all over the place right now – virtually everywhere – but never forget there was once a time when expressions like 101-proof Russell’s Reserve 10-year (and numerous other sought-after Wild Turkey expressions) were easy to find. Suffice it to say, the number of quality CNF barrels at the moment is astounding. Case in point, Bourbon & Banter’s “1.1” Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel private selection.

1.1 might be Bourbon & Banter’s first Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel release, but it’s not their first Wild Turkey barrel selection. That occurred in 2017, when the lady and gents picked not one, but two barrels in Tyrone’s rickhouse K. Unfortunately, due to some unknown mixup or miscommunication, they received each of their 2017 selections bottled as Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit instead of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. The folks at Bourbon & Banter weren’t thrilled, of course, and ultimately decided to return their barrels (hence the name of their follow-up selection being “1.1”).

Let’s pause right there for a moment. While there was clearly a mistake made, apparently on Wild Turkey’s part, I don’t know if I’d return barrels solely because they were bottled as Kentucky Spirit. Bourbon & Banter was undoubtedly in the right to do so, but I can’t say I’d do the same. Were they not good at 101 proof? Many distillers will tell you that diluting your whiskey reveals flaws. If the whiskey wasn’t good at 101 proof (from a barrel entry proof of 115), then you may not have picked choice barrels to begin with. Besides, groups and retailers pick Elijah Craig and Buffalo Trace barrels all the time. If you recall my post from last week, those popular expressions are 31 to 35 points between barrel-entry and bottling proof. In comparison, Kentucky Spirit’s 14-point difference seems more than acceptable.

Anyhow, it is what it is and the past is the past. I don’t blame Pops & company for returning their selections. I’m sure they were frustrated with the mishap, and as customers, didn’t get what they ordered. Again, I don’t think I’d take the same course of action, but then, I’m an extreme Turkey fan. My love is unconditional and arguably forgiving to a fault.

The good news is, Bourbon & Banter got another shot in 2019. It may not have been the same experience as their 2017 visit – but hey – is sipping whiskey straight from a barrel with one of the world’s two best master distillers ever a bad time? Hell no. If you’re looking for a dog & pony show barrel selection, there’s plenty of distilleries that can check that box. Wild Turkey’s barrel selection process is focused on one thing – the whiskey. If you’re wanting to chit chat, Q&A, or get nerdy, don’t set those expectations higher than the quality of the bourbon you’re tasting. 

Alright, back to 1.1. So how will Bourbon & Banter’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon compare to the seemingly countless Camp Nelson barrels I’ve had the pleasure of tasting over the last year or two? Let’s pour and find out!

Bourbon and Banter 1.1

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon “Bourbon & Banter 1.1” (barrel #19-1504, rickhouse CNF, floor 6) – selected by the Bourbon & Banter team – 110-proof, 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 …

Color: rich copper

Nose: caramel chews, plums, gingerbread, cherry-vanilla, nutty charred oak, brown sugar, nutmeg, heavily steeped herbal tea, blood orange, spice drops, hints of leather

Taste: (complex, balanced) vanilla spice, toasted caramel, cherry cola, brown sugar, dense oak, molasses, licorice, clove, sweet pepper, faint honey-maple

Finish: long, w/ pleasant, warming spice – “boozy” baked apples & cinnamon, cranberry ginger ale, caramel, oak char, licorice, leather, clove, lingering orange zest & pepper

Overall: Okay, Pops. You’ve got nothing to complain about this time around. This is a damn fine barrel, sir. Seriously. I’ve had my share of Camp Nelson F Russell’s Reserve picks – 5th and 6th floor – and this one’s exceptional. Not that it’s off profile or comes out of left field, it’s just excellent all around. Complex, mature (mere days from ten years of age), and exquisitely balanced … all right here in this glass. If tasted blind against the CNF barrels I’ve participated in selecting, “1.1” would surely be a strong contender – very possibly the champ. Nicely done, Bourbon & Banter selection team!

Rating: 4.25/5 🦃

So how does one acquire one of these bottles? According to the Bourbon & Banter website, email subscribers receive first notification. (It worked for me.) I can’t guarantee you’ll secure a bottle of 1.1 after this review posts (update: they’ve sold out), but subscribing to Bourbon & Banter’s mailing list might just give you an advantage in the event of another release. It certainly can’t hurt. And if you’ve missed out, don’t fret. As stated in my introduction, there are numerous top-quality CNF private selections out there. All it takes is a little time and effort. Best of luck and happy hunting. Cheers!

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