Last week, I discussed various profiles of 2020 Tyrone-aged Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel private selections. In all there were five – rickhouses A, B, E, G, and S. But one area of discussion I avoided, albeit unintentionally, was the distinctiveness between 2020 selections and years prior. I’ve been contacted on multiple occasions about this very matter. It seems many enthusiasts find 2020’s barrels somewhat nutty, or in some cases, bordering youthful. Of course, single barrels vary by nature, and as such, account for a significant measure of contrast. But generally speaking, yes, I’ve noticed a slight profile shift.

Old vs. New

When looking at potential causes of Wild Turkey’s profile shift outside of the single-barrel factor, one stands above the rest. In fact, there’s really only one major change I can think of, and that’s the new distillery that launched mid 2011. While all single-barrel selections bottled prior to 2020 were distilled at the old distillery (formerly Ripy Bros., Anderson County Distilling, J. T. S. Brown, Austin-Nichols), most barrels pulled for the private barrel program in 2020 have distillation dates in late 2011. There are a few exceptions, namely certain selections aged at Camp Nelson.

Today, I’ll be tasting two barrels pulled from the sixth floor of Camp Nelson F. Both were bottled in 2020, though one was distilled at the old distillery and the other the new. If you’re doing the math, that means one barrel aged over ten years and the other over eight. Of course, the roughly two-year age difference will account for a notable degree of variance, but if there truly are profile traits attributable to each distillery, they should be discernible. At least, one would wager.

As for my decision to compare Camp Nelson F barrels over Tyrone-aged barrels, there’s two primary reasons. First, I find Camp Nelson F to be one of the more consistent rickhouses in terms of the character its atmosphere imparts in the whiskey it houses. Second, I’ve tasted a helluva lot of Camp Nelson F barrels. Some are better than others, but all showcase similar notes and textures. If there are oddities to be found, a comparison of Camp Nelson F bourbon is an ideal place to find them.

As for the barrels I’ll be comparing, I’m going with two champions of private barrel selections, Moonshine Grill in Austin, Texas, and some guy named Eddie Russell. 🙂 I mean, if you’re going to punch it out, might as well do it with a pair of heavyweights.

Notorious Eddie RRSiB

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon – “Notorious Eddie” (barrel #19-1842, rickhouse CNF, floor 6) – selected by Moonshine Patio & Grill, Austin, TX – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – aged ten years, four 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: (robust, layered) vanilla spice, molasses, cherry cordials, syrupy oak char, Mr. Pibb, brown sugar, sweet clove

Taste: black cherry soda, caramel chews, heavily toasted vanilla, charred oak, blood orange, maple, hints of pipe tobacco

Finish: long, warm & flavorful – English toffee, dark citrus, earthy herbal spice, sassafras, peppery oak, black licorice, leather

Overall: Everything I love about Camp Nelson F and then some! Moonshine Grill has repeatedly showcased extraordinary Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections and this barrel is no exception – loads of chocolate-cherry, molasses, fizzy cola, ripe citrus, and sweet earthy spice. “Notorious Eddie” isn’t entirely unlike other ten-year Camp Nelson F selections, however. That’s not a knock on Moonshine Grill’s prowess, but rather a testament to the high quality whiskey CNF fosters. It’s also one more example of the Russells’ skill and dedication to crafting fine bourbon.

Rating: 4.25/5  🦃

2020 Master Distiller Selection

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon – Master Distiller Selection, Winter 2020 (barrel #1828, rickhouse CNF, floor 6) – selected by Master Distiller Eddie Russell – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – aged eight years, eight 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: (bright & sweet) orange-vanilla, butter toffee, vibrant oak, caramel popcorn, candied nuts, lemon peel, nutmeg

Taste: tart citrus, watermelon hard candy, spicy oak, nutty toffee, herbal tea & honey, lemon-lime soda

Finish: medium-long w/ a “prickly zing” – zesty citrus, baking spice, tangelo, sweet peppery oak, faint leather

Overall: Well … this is a bit different. Immediately, I’m reminded of “One & A Century,” with its crazy tart and prickly spice. Interestingly, that was an eight-year Camp Nelson F barrel as well; however, though alike in some ways, the two profiles are not identical. This Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel has the signature nuttiness I mentioned earlier in this post. It’s not as prominent as what can be found in 2020 Tyrone selections, particularly from rickhouses B and G, yet the nutty trait is undoubtedly here.

But let’s not allow a single tasting note to overshadow the overall profile of this bourbon. Eddie’s Master Distiller Selection has a lot to offer in terms of uniqueness. In fact, this is the only 2020 eight-year CNF barrel I’m aware of. But I’m not just talking about origin or specs. I’m thrilled with how this whiskey tastes. Any barrel with something special to offer – something thought provoking and distinctively enjoyable – is a barrel worthy of recognition.

Rating: 4/5  🦃

In Closing

Age difference and single-barrel factor aside, do I think the two distilleries produced completely different distillates? At least, is it evident in these two bourbons? Not exactly. It’s still Wild Turkey any way you look at it. The general profile is unmistakable. But … there are differences. Not that differences are always negatives. Don’t forget, many Wild Turkey releases receiving notable praise over the last few years are expressions in which this newer distillate plays a major role – Wild Turkey 101, 101 Rye, Rare Breed, Rare Breed Rye, as well as the 81-proof offerings and Russell’s Reserve Six-Year Rye. Hell, I’d argue the whiskey Wild Turkey is bottling now is the most consistent they’ve ever produced.

We’ve only begun to taste what Wild Turkey’s new facility can do. For now, we need only vest our faith in Jimmy and Eddie. I choose to believe the best barrels the Russells have to offer are resting quietly in a Kentucky rickhouse as I type. Sure, it’s convenient to look back and reminisce, but the future … that’s where the payoff lies for the bold, genuine, and true.


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