Whether you’re new to Wild Turkey or a longtime fan, if you’re into private barrel selections you’ve likely heard of rickhouse G. Often cited as Eddie Russell’s favorite rickhouse, G has a reputation for aging choice whiskey. From Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon and Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, to J&J Spirits’ 2017 Whisky Jewbilee, there’s a virtual library of near-legendary pours. Some were selected by well-known industry names, like Jamie Farris and Dixon Dedman, others from Mr. Russell himself, but regardless of whose name is on the tag, if it’s a 2016 or 2017 barrel from G, chances are it’s delicious.
Taking past experience into consideration, you can imagine my excitement when, in 2019, I learned Tyrone G would return to the single barrel selection pool for 2020. Interestingly, when the time came to taste those selections, something was different. While undoubtedly damn good bourbon, it wasn’t the profile commonly found in G barrels from years past. There was a candy-like nuttiness and old-timey confectionery vibe encompassing each barrel. Again, damn good, but not the rich cola and heavily toasted sugar character I’d come to expect from G. I chalked this up to 2020 selections being produced at the new distillery, as opposed to the old Ripy Brothers distillery, and that was that.
At the start of 2021, rickhouse G barrels were still being selected and bottled – this go around with additional age (some barrels pushing ten years). With the anticipation of Master’s Keep One (a limited edition bourbon featuring a secondary maturation in rickhouse G) it only seemed appropriate to revisit recent barrels from this beloved location.
Today, I’ll be comparing two Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon private selections from rickhouse G. The first comes from Caputi Wine & Liquor, a reputable New York retailer. Special thanks to Wild Turkey curator and good friend David James for the bottle. The second is Mash & Journey’s “Look at the Birdie.” For those unaware, Mash & Journey is a whiskey club founded by Jason from Mash & Drum and Scott from My Bourbon Journey. I’m a Patreon supporter of both Jason and Scott, and as such, encourage you to check out their respective YouTube channels (you might just find me on one or two of Jason’s videos). 😉
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (barrel #20-0237, rickhouse G, floor 4) – selected by Caputi Wine & Liquor, New York – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – no age stated (bottled July 2020, assumed eight years) – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: Three Musketeers candy bar, sweet maple, honey-roasted nuts, caramel creme, hints of charred oak
Taste: classic vanilla syrup, peanut M&M’s, confectioners sugar, gingerbread, nutmeg, singed orange peel
Finish: medium-long w/ butter toffee, oak char, citrus zest, baking spice, faint tobacco & pepper
Overall: This is the modern-day rickhouse G profile I was referring to – milk chocolate candy bar and sweet confectionery goodness. What it lacks in complexity, it arguably makes up for in creamy caramel-nougat and vanilla richness. There’s also the signature 2020 nuttiness, though I wouldn’t equate it to Beam-level nuttiness. Outside of that, Caputi’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selection carries hints of citrus and sweet earthiness (a la tobacco). Again, not to a degree I’d consider complex, but thoroughly enjoyable and perfect for someone who appreciates classic bourbon flavor.
Rating: 3.75/5 🦃
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (barrel #20-0960, a/k/a “Look at the Birdie,” rickhouse G, floor 4) – selected by Mash & Journey – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – aged nine years, four months – distilled and bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …
Nose: salted caramel, honey-roasted nuts, chocolate orange, brown sugar, Bit-O-Honey, cookie dough, faint orange
Taste: (oily mouthfeel) creme brulee, nutty toffee, Reese’s Pieces candy, maple-oak, sugar cone, baked apples & cinnamon
Finish: long & pleasantly warm – chewy chocolate-caramel, burnt sugar, cream soda, hints of sassafras & holiday spice
Overall: Before tasting alongside Caputi’s rickhouse G selection, I would’ve sworn Mash & Journey’s “Look at the Birdie” showcased a comparable profile. But, that’s not exactly the case. While the two share a similar baseline, “Look at the Birdie” has a slightly heavier and darker texture. It’s almost as if the oak influence was more intense. Perhaps that’s the result of additional time in the barrel, being ten months apart. That being said, I doubt the majority (if any) of that additional time was spent on the fourth floor of G. It likely sat on the first floor of Tyrone A or another warehouse prior to bottling. Still, time is time and oak is oak. Both do wonders.
Rating: 4/5 🦃
It’s been a few months since my last side-by-side comparison. As for a rickhouse G comparison – well, you’d have to go back to 2018. Taking those factors into consideration, I’d say this tasting was long overdue.
What’s sure to be interesting is how these eight- and nine-year barrels stack up against Master’s Keep One. Granted, One ranges from eight to fourteen years and is finished in new toasted and charred oak barrels, but I’m curious how that might change the general profile. Will it taste reminiscent of past rickhouse G Russell’s Reserve or Kentucky Spirit selections? Will it even taste like Wild Turkey at all? I’d like to think so. All the same, I wouldn’t mind a completely different spin – at least this once. Besides, do you really want to pay $175 for a profile that can be found in bottles ⅓ the price? I think it’s safe to assume not.
Wrapping up, I’d like to commend both Caputi Wine & Liquor and Mash & Journey for selecting wonderful bourbons. Though I preferred Jason & Scott’s selection over Caputi’s, given the right day or situation I might find myself doting over Caputi’s. It’s one of those things that make single barrels great – even when aged in the same location from comparable distillate, each barrel has its own unique attributes. Sometimes the differences are subtle, as is the case with these two; other times they’re remarkably bold. Either way, when it comes to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections, they’re almost always worth the investment.
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