I’ll let you in on a little secret: There’s some incredible ten-year Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon private selections out there. Most of these ten-year barrels aged in Camp Nelson’s rickhouse F, though a few spent their time in Camp Nelson A. I’m more of a CNF guy myself, but to each their own.

Yes, I know, we’ve seen a lot of Camp Nelson A and F barrels over the last two years. A fair share of folks are burned out and ready for different rickhouses – especially Tyrone rickhouses. I get it. But here’s the thing – are you judging by the tag/label or by the taste? I’ll shoot straight. If you’re judging by the taste and recent Camp Nelson F barrels aren’t cutting it for you – well, I’m not sure there’s much I can do.

Full disclosure: This post is unashamedly, 100% pure unadulterated Camp Nelson F. Hell, it’s essentially a Camp Nelson F love story. If that’s not your jam, that’s okay. I have some 2020 Tyrone barrels I’ll be reviewing in the very near future.

Wild Turkey Camp Nelson F

As unsubtly foreshadowed, I love Camp Nelson F. Love it. LOVE IT. In fact, I’ve yet to experience a disappointing CNF selection over the last year. Not one. Some are better than others; some are exemplary. Some are straight-up weird; some are just damn solid. None, however, are subpar. There’s just something about that rickhouse. Be it geographical or ethereal, there must be rhyme or reason. I just don’t have the insight. I’m sure Jimmy and Eddie Russell do. Or, maybe they don’t question it to begin with? I’d wager in all of their 101-plus years of experience they’ve learned to accept that Mother Nature does amazing things – astounding things – with corn-water and oak. It’s not something to tinker with or trifle over. You distill to the best of your ability, introduce the distillate to new charred oak, and let time, temperature, and airflow do the rest.

Today’s review features a comparison of three recent Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon private selections, each aged over ten years. Two of these barrels matured on the 5th floor of Camp Nelson F, while the other aged on the sixth floor. For the record, I’m fond of all three of these selections. They’re stellar picks – each and every one. That considered, I think it’s only appropriate to assess these bourbons blind, share my tasting notes and overall impressions, and save my final commentary for the reveal. So without further ado, let’s pour and get this show on the road!

The Tasting

Russell's Reserve CNF

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (2020) – Camp Nelson rickhouse F – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – aged at least ten years – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Sample A notes: cherry soda, toasted brown sugar, Dr. Pepper, caramel chews, herbal tea, fizzy cola; long sweet & spicy finish w/ charred oak, cinnamon candy, black pepper, ginger

Impression: While very similar to Sample C, the finish on this selection stands out. It’s longer, and slightly more balanced (sweet versus spice), though not quite as sweet as Sample B’s finish. As for the nose and palate, they’re both excellent – complex and robust with an unshakable soda/cola backbone. A fantastic bourbon – one that’s leading the charge in this blind tasting (albeit ever so slightly).

Sample B notes: vanilla, honey-maple, creme brulee, brown sugar, butter toffee, black cherry, blood orange, molasses; medium-long finish w/ caramel, sweet oak, ripe zesty citrus

Impression: The nose takes the spotlight with Sample B. Frankly, it’s the best of the bunch, thanks to a whispered throwback Wild Turkey vibe with its distinctive honey-maple character. However, Sample B’s taste and finish take a small step backwards – especially in comparison to the other samples. It’s in no means inferior – to the contrary, it’s excellent. It’s just lacking the level of spicy punch found in Samples A and C.

Sample C notes: cherry cola, maple, cinnamon, toasted caramel, vanilla extract, brown sugar, molasses, hints of tobacco; medium-long finish w/ dry spice, oak char, hot ginger

Impression: Overall, very similar to Sample A, though Sample C’s taste is more robust and developed with a richer tobacco-like presence. Of the three samples in this tasting, this bourbon effortlessly rises above in that department. The finish, while similar to Sample A’s, aspires for similar greatness, but falls a fraction behind. Stated simply, it’s a little drier. Some folks might find that appealing (including me, given the day), but not in this particular comparison.

The Reveal

Sample A: Maisano’s “Cherry Cola,” barrel #18-0539, distilled 11/10/2009, dumped 1/30/2020

Sample B: Woodland Wine Merchant, barrel #19-1951, distilled 12/7/2009, dumped 4/1/2020

Sample C: Clarity’s “Fight Finished,” barrel #18-0535, distilled 11/10/2009, dumped 1/29/2020

In Summary

In some ways I’m surprised; in many ways I’m not. After all, every single one of these bourbons kick ass. They honestly do. If I were assigning ratings, none of these would rate below 4/5. Maisano’s would arguably score a 4.25/5; Clarity’s barrel very possibly the same.

Speaking of which, it’s important that I mention that Clarity, an acclaimed restaurant in Vienna, Virginia, designated sales of “Fight Finished” (as well a second Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selection from CNF) to cover employee’s salaries throughout their COVID-19 shutdown. Bravo to the Clarity management team, as well as my good friend Reid for bringing this barrel and Clarity’s efforts to my attention.

As for Maisano’s and Woodland Wine Merchant, you’ll be seeing more reviews of recent Russell’s Reserve selections from each of them in the very near future. I don’t want to spoil anything just yet, but they’re extraordinarily special in their own way. You’ll see. 😉

And that’s a wrap! Remember – ten-year Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections are out there. Don’t let the seemingly all-too-familiar Camp Nelson label give you any reason to pass a bottle by. It’s not every day that you find ten-year Wild Turkey single barrels. And let’s not forget the prices people pay for older 101-proof Russell’s Reserve 10-year bottles on secondary markets. Sure, the barrel-entry proof was lower – a six-point difference from barrel-entry to bottling proof (107 to 101) – but – today’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon has only a five-point difference from barrel-entry to bottling proof (115 to 110).

I’ll break it down like this: A ten-year, 110-proof Wild Turkey bourbon at $60 is a deal. Hell, it’s a steal. Take ‘em or leave ‘em, but astute bourbon hunters won’t be found sleeping. Cheers!

Camp Nelson rickhouse F photos courtesy of Bo Garrett.

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