It’s confession time. I’ve yet to be as impressed with a 2020 Tyrone barrel as I have with 2018-2020 Camp Nelson F barrels. Hell, I might even throw Camp Nelson A in that statement too. But then, maybe it’s unfair to compare these selections so bluntly. After all, they’re from completely different locations – Tyrone being on site and Camp Nelson off. But there are other differences. Take distillation, for example. 2018-2020’s Camp Nelson barrels were distilled at the old Wild Turkey facility (formerly Boulevard, Austin-Nichols, J.T.S. Brown & Sons, Anderson County Distilling Co., and Ripy Brothers). Conversely, each of the 2020 Tyrone barrels I’ve tasted were distilled at the significantly larger, state-of-the-art facility which launched in June 2011.

Now, before folks start getting wacky ideas and stirring up unfounded conspiracy theories, let’s remember that today’s treasured products like Wild Turkey 101 and Rare Breed contain considerable volumes of bourbon distilled on/after 2011. These everyday expressions are incredibly consistent at the highest quality and continue to maintain a cherished status among bourbon enthusiasts (old and new alike). Also, let’s not forget that virtually all of the current rye expressions (save for Master’s Keep Cornerstone) were almost surely distilled at the new facility – particularly the popular Rare Breed Rye.

And then came Lincoln Road Package Store’s barrel #20-1209 from Tyrone’s historic rickhouse A. Spoiler: This one’s a game changer. When I first nosed this selection, I knew Jamie picked a winner (the taste and finish only confirming it). Simply put, it’s everything the modern Wild Turkey profile should be at eight years of age and stands as a testament to Jimmy and Eddie Russell’s dedication to craft. To go from a post-Prohibition-era distillery, to a twenty-first century, fully automated facility and end up with bourbon that tastes so remarkably “on brand,” that’s an achievement. It’s precisely what 101+ years of combined experience will get you.

While I could easily write an entire post on Jamie’s Tyrone A honey barrel, I thought it might be more interesting as a comparison review. Perhaps against a well-aged Camp Nelson barrel? Well, it just so happens that I’ve been sipping on the Bourbon Crusader’s 2020 Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selection from Camp Nelson F. Aged ten years and loaded with signature Camp Nelson goodness, Jamie’s barrel likely won’t stand a chance against it. Or, will it? There’s only one way to find out. Let’s give these whiskeys a proper pour and see what happens.

Russell's Reserve - Lincoln Road

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (barrel #20-1209, rickhouse A, floor 4) – selected by Jamie Farris for Lincoln Road Package Store, Hattiesburg, MS – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – aged eight years, two 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: (neo-classic modern WT) caramel apple, fragrant oak, maple syrup, toasted marshmallow, brown sugar, nutmeg, dark citrus, cinnamon candy, herbal spice

Taste: (creamy mouthfeel) vanilla frosting, zesty fruit, toffee, sweet charred oak, honey, apple-cinnamon, hints of lemon-pepper & leather

Finish: medium-long & well balanced – toasted vanilla, caramel drizzle, oak char, orange peel, nutmeg, black pepper, faint clove

Overall: Harmony. If describing this bourbon with one word, it’s surely harmony. Lincoln Road #20-1209 is quintessential Wild Turkey (no doubt) but its subtleties sing with rare voices. While not layered with complexity imparted by notable maturity, there’s tremendous beauty in its overall balance. Honestly, I’m having a hard time finding the words to describe it. The ratios of sweet and spice, fruit and earth, are near perfect. Everything comes together as it should for an eight-year barrel – nothing less or more. And truthfully, there are few barrels – very few barrels – I’ve craved as frequently as this one. There’s just something about it.

I’ve had better Wild Turkey single barrels, but merely a handful that speak to me like Lincoln Road’s #20-1209. Well done, Jamie and Eddie.

Rating: 4.25/5 🦃

Russell's Reserve - Bourbon Crusaders

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (barrel #18-0704, rickhouse CNF, floor 5) – selected by the Bourbon Crusaders – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – aged ten years, three 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: (signature CNF) boozy caramel, cola, vanilla bean, toasted oak, molasses, clove, blood orange, cherry pie, black licorice, leather

Taste: (textured mouthfeel) English toffee, caramel chews, oak char, cherry cola, baked cinnamon & brown sugar, sassafras, clove, faint pepper

Finish: medium-long & flavorful – waves of burnt caramel, vanilla spice, toffee, charred oak, brown sugar, leather, black pepper, clove candy

Overall: Spot-on, tasty Camp Nelson F. In various ways I’m reminded of other CNF selections I’ve had the pleasure of tasting and reviewing. With that said, there’s nothing here I’d consider extraordinary – nothing helping this barrel stand out among a cast of others with similar specs. Please don’t get me wrong. It’s fantastic and the Bourbon Crusaders are a damn fine group. In fact, were this to be one’s only Russell’s Reserve Camp Nelson F barrel, I could easily see that individual wanting a hundred more. Alas, I’ve had my share. (Arguably more than my share.)

Ultimately, the Crusader’s #18-0704 is a barrel to be proud of. It’s just no Maisano’s “Cherry Cola” or Clarity’s “Fight Finished.” Excellent, but not quite exemplary.

Rating: 4/5 🦃

In closing: What a fun and revealing tasting! It turns out 2020’s Tyrone barrels can go toe to toe with Camp Nelson’s and come out on top (at least this time around). I’m looking forward to more private selections in the weeks and months ahead. Perhaps history will repeat itself. Perhaps not. I can say that when it comes to private barrel selections, you can’t go wrong with vendors like Lincoln Road Package Store and groups like the Bourbon Crusaders. These folks care about whiskey; moreover, they care about the community and fellowship it fosters – the big picture. These guys and gals see it and live it. They’re stewards, mavericks, and in many ways the absolute best of this hobby. I’m proud to call them all friends.

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