When conversation turns to Wild Turkey rickhouses, Tyrone E isn’t one you hear a lot of talk about. At least, not as much as others. Tyrone A is steeped in pre-Prohibition history, Camp Nelson A and F have proven wildly popular over the last two years, and Tyrone B, D, G, H, and K are frequently reminisced by well-versed Wild Turkey fans. But E? The few times you hear about rickhouse E is in discussions of 2015-2017 Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye selections or dusty single-barrel expressions.
Things are changing, however. This year saw the reintroduction of Tyrone E, as well as additional onsite rickhouses, into the private barrel program. It’s been a while since I last reviewed a whiskey pulled from rickhouse E. There was a late-1990’s Kentucky Legend, a mid-2000’s Kentucky Spirit, and of course, several Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye selections over the years. But those have less in common with a 2020 bourbon.
Or do they?
There was a time when I strived to assign a specific flavor profile to each of Wild Turkey’s rickhouses. Some of you may recall my attempt when I reviewed “Fight Me,” a Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selection. Looking back, there are things I’d probably change about my assertions. But I won’t. It’s a snapshot in time – an attempt to figure out an infinitely changing puzzle. While there’s no doubt in my mind – certain rickhouses/floors impart unique flavor traits – stating a specific rickhouse will impart particular profile traits time and time again is a slippery slope. There’s just too many variables.
I’m not waving the white flag just yet, nor am I discouraging anyone else from trying to crack the rickhouse-profile code, but before doing so, consider the numerous contributors of variance starting with the basics: grain quality, new-make batch integrity, cooperage, and weather. If you assume any one of these factors are identical to its relative predecessor or successor, you’re mistaken. Sure, you can get close, but no ear of corn is a clone, nor is any batch of distillate, handcrafted barrel, or any given season. And let’s not forget that each year of maturation compounds those basic factors.
And then there’s contributors of variance occurring mid-maturation. Barrels are sometimes moved from one location to another. Take for example Big Red Liquor’s “Nutty Toasty.” This Kentucky Spirit from rickhouse Q was moved from Camp Nelson to Tyrone. Or, Moonshine Grill’s “Cheesy Gold” from rickhouse A, which spent most of its years in a rickhouse long forgotten. Finally, there’s an estimated 80,000 barrels aged at the former Old Taylor Distillery (now Castle & Key) from 1996 to 2010. Many started in Tyrone, were moved to Stone Castle, then moved back to Lawrenceburg. Such was the case with 2015’s Master’s Keep 17-year. Just how many of those barrels ended up as single-barrel releases (if any) is unknown.
And that brings us to today’s review of “E is for Eddie,” a Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon aged (presumably) its entire life on the fourth floor of Tyrone rickhouse E. This barrel was selected by The Stockroom, a private group affiliated with GNS Foods in Chicago, IL. What will be interesting to see, is how it compares to rickhouse E selections I’ve previously enjoyed (as well as single barrels selected from other Wild Turkey rickhouses). Will it bear similarities to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye selections? Will it taste like bourbons pulled from rickhouse E years ago? There’s only one way to find out. Let’s pour!
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon “E is for Eddie” (barrel #20-0003, rickhouse E, floor 4) – selected by GNS/The Stockroom, Chicago, IL – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – aged eight years, six months – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: vanilla, caramel drizzle, honey-glazed pears, fruit cocktail, white grape, candied oak, confectioners sugar, light apple-cinnamon
Taste: chewy vanilla candy, nutty toffee, caramel popcorn, apple peel, sweet peppery oak, nutmeg, faint tangerine & leather
Finish: medium-long w/ a dry sweetness – vanilla, butter toffee, charred oak, brown sugar, hints of white pepper & citrus zest
Overall: While unlike Wild Turkey rickhouse E barrels of old, “E is for Eddie” shares some similarities to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye selections from 2015-2017 – namely the candy-esque and white fruit notes (confectioners sugar, caramel drizzle, honey-glazed pears, etc.). But don’t take my comparison the wrong way. It’s definitely “all bourbon” in profile.
This is a tasty and enjoyable selection, primarily because of its contrast to the numerous Camp Nelson A and F barrels that dominated Wild Turkey’s single barrel program from 2018-2020. Whether it’s truly unique or not depends on how it fares next to other present-day rickhouse E bourbons. I’ll know in the upcoming months as I acquire additional selections (including a Kentucky Spirit chosen virtually alongside my incredible patrons). But for now, “E is for Eddie” will do just fine. It scratches an itch I’ve realized was missing from my present rotation. I think we can all appreciate a whiskey that fills a new niche in our collection.
Rating: 3.75/5 🦃
If there’s a takeaway from today’s review it’s this: every single barrel of whiskey is unique – regardless of the distillery or mash bill. Just because a tag or label states rickhouse “X” or “Y,” there’s no guarantee of an exact flavor profile or quality. If distilled and barreled around the same date – aged as long and at the same location – you’ve got a fair shot at getting close. Nailing down a surefire, longstanding rickhouse-specific profile … it’s not a task for the faint of heart (or liver). Cheers and good luck!
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