It’s been a few years since we last saw Tyrone’s rickhouse K available in Wild Turkey’s private barrel program. Needless to say, I was elated to learn we’d be seeing it again in 2021. 

What makes K so special? For starters, I’ve long referred to K as a wildcard rickhouse, as the bourbon profiles it creates (courtesy of Mother Nature) vary from robust molasses with waves of tobacco and leather, to bright red berries with a vibrant citrus zest (and plenty of characteristics in between). Thanks to a good friend, I was able to secure my first 2021 Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon from K. I’m excited to dive in and share my thoughts, so without further delay that’s precisely what I’ll do!

Russell's Reserve Rickhouse K Returns

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (barrel #21-0130, rickhouse K, floor 4) – selected by Sinker’s Beverages, Nashville, TN – 110-proof, non-chill filtered KSBW – aged eight years, five 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: maraschino cherry, vanilla frosting, cranberry sauce, candy apple, orange gumdrops, sweet herbal tea leaves

Taste: (silky mouthfeel) vanilla-orange, toffee, caramel drizzle, whipped nougat, zesty spice, hints of honey-roasted nuts

Finish: moderate length – frosted animal crackers, red grapefruit, Jordan almonds, sweet oak, nutmeg, faint pepper & mint

Overall: If I could sum up Sinkers Beverages’ #21-0130 in one phrase, it would be “Old Fashioned in a bottle.” There’s plenty of bright orange and cocktail cherry notes, not to mention a hint of citrus-infused bitters. Granted, the obligatory vanilla, caramel, and sweet oak so commonly found in modern-day Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections are present, but the cocktail attributes are notable. One might also call it “candy-like,” as I’m picking up delectable treats like candy apple, gumdrops, and Jordan almonds. A considerably tasty bourbon all around.

Rating: 4/5 🦃

As I sit here savoring this whiskey, I can’t help but contemplate what’s to come for Wild Turkey. After all, this bourbon is a product of the new distillery. While I greatly appreciate its qualities as an eight-year spirit, I can only imagine what it might’ve tasted like given additional maturity. I’m not saying this barrel selection, or any similar selection, isn’t well-aged – hell, many will say it’s fine as is – I’m simply curious, given the lack of significant oak attributes (antique leather, earthy tobacco, etc.), how this whiskey’s profile might’ve changed at ten or twelve years of age.

Take Single Cask Nation’s #16-313, for example. At ten years, it’s a powerhouse pour – arguably one of the best barrels I’ve ever tasted from Wild Turkey. This is an area I wish we could explore more often. Sure, we have Russell’s Reserve Ten-Year (a personal everyday favorite), and Russell’s Reserve Thirteen-Year (if/when found), but frankly, those aren’t the same.

The American single-barrel genre has expanded tremendously in the last five years. Standing out, while sometimes accomplished via gimmicks, is becoming harder to do for straight whiskeys. Even NDPs have entered the private selection marketplace. Though I’m content sipping eight- to ten-year Wild Turkey barrels, I’d love to see a greater number of substantially aged barrels filling both Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and Kentucky Spirit bottles. Yes, there are some out there, but generally speaking, they’re few and far between.

What would it take to increase that number and see more ten- to twelve-year Turkey barrels available for purchase? With an expanding private barrel program (Wild Turkey has gone from an estimated 600 barrels to roughly 1,000 barrels in the last several years) and a sharp increase in demand, it would be remarkably difficult. Unless, of course, production ramped up equivalently some years back (enough to not only satisfy single-barrel needs, but age-stated core expressions as well). Nevertheless, it’s an interesting avenue to explore, one that would surely require setting back a fair number of barrels for a handful of years.

But who am I kidding? The chances of that happening in the great twenty-first century bourbon boom are highly unlikely. That won’t stop me from dreaming, however. Perhaps one day supply and demand will equalize. I’m not saying I want another “Glut Era,” but a balance of greater age diversity and overall availability would be more than welcome – refreshing, even. Until then, adequate stocks of eight- to nine-year single barrels should be plentiful enough to sip, share, and enjoy whenever the mood strikes. At least, I’m counting on it.


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