Of all the factors that give whiskey its signature traits, maturation is arguably the most underappreciated. I suppose it’s a moot point for some distilleries, especially those that employ climate-controlled warehouses to age their products with uber consistency. Sounds like a good thing, right? I suppose from a certain point of view it is. But when it comes to Wild Turkey, consistency is an art that flows hand in hand with Mother Nature.
Like the distillers of old – distillers who taught a young Jimmy Russell sixty-five years ago – focus is placed on the grains, water, and yeast. Those who are skilled, craft these elements into the finest new make, fill charred-oak barrels, and let Kentucky gracefully work its magic. It’s a slow process. Temperature, airflow, and humidity aren’t forced. But what you receive in return is a bounty of well-rested, time-nurtured whiskey. Its flavor profile may not be a carbon copy of the yield that came before it, but the consistency of quality is unmatched.
Wild Turkey fans know this well. I’d argue it’s the primary reason its private barrel program is so successful. Stated simply, traditional wood/clad rickhouses make better whiskey. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask Jimmy.
This year marks a first for bourbon. Aside from providing a damn fine tasting experience, Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse ventures to shed light on the essence of a specific aging location. One could argue that single barrels accomplish that task; however, single barrels are steeped in significant variance. One barrel from Tyrone’s rickhouse A may not (likely won’t) taste exactly like another. That’s the nature of a single barrel.
But what if you took multiple single barrels from different floors of the same rickhouse and batched them together? Chances are, you’d end up with a whiskey that captures the “spirit identity” of that location. And that’s precisely what this year’s Single Rickhouse project accomplishes.
Bottled at 112.4 proof (NCF), 2022’s Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse gives whiskey fans a virtual front-row seat at Camp Nelson’s rickhouse C. Having tasted Camp Nelson C aged bourbon before, I can affirm that the expression is everything it should be – uncut and unfiltered to boot. So with that, let’s dive into some tasting notes!
Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse (2022)
Spirit: Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey
Age: Not stated (assumed eight to twelve years)
Misc: Composed of 72 barrels from the third and fourth floors of Camp Nelson’s Rickhouse C, Jessamine County, KY; distilled & bottled non-chill filtered by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Tasted neat in a Glencairn glass …
Tasting notes: (nose) almond danish, caramel apple, ginger ale, woody vanilla, slightly floral honey butter, cake frosting; (taste) English toffee, baked brown sugar, charred oak, nutmeg, boozy chocolate chip cookie dough; (finish) long w/ chewy vanilla, prickly spice, singed molasses, fizzy cola, faint clove & leather
Impression: A truly commendable bourbon. Going into my initial tasting, I was expecting a mere “level up” from the typical Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel experience. I was wrong. Eddie Russell has crafted a whiskey that’s not only a portrait of Camp Nelson C, but lands well above Rare Breed and closer to Russell’s Reserve 13-Year in substance and form. 2022’s Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse has unquestionable uniqueness, with palate-tangible characteristics like ginger ale, cookie dough, woody spice, and cola. And unlike Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel private selections, profile elements are amplified at full barrel strength.
Not only am I excited for this release, I’m excited for the future of this annual series. While I’d prefer a semiannual bottling, I’ll happily welcome any addition to the Russell’s Reserve family. I just hope a reserve of this liquid is held for a future anthology set – even better, in bottles of smaller volumes (200ml, etc.). Based on the limited availability of this expression, it will be difficult acquiring each year’s offering. Should one wish to pursue a comparison tasting of the series, an anthology release would surely prove the most convenient way to make that possible.
In closing, I should stress that Wild Turkey couldn’t have selected a more meaningful location for Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse’s inaugural batch. Beyond the sheer excellence of the bourbon itself, it has come to my attention that Camp Nelson C has been decommissioned. If ever there was a time to bottle the soul of a rickhouse, it’s now. In many ways this special batch of Russell’s Reserve serves as a time capsule, its weathered bond with Mother Nature preserved for future generations of whiskey connoisseurs. If given the opportunity to taste this bourbon, cherish it. There will never be another like it.
Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief
If Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse sounds like a must-have bourbon to you (it should), there are six bottles of this rare limited edition – all signed by Jimmy Russell – available via auction at the 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Benefit (lot #38). Please give this lot and its worthy cause your sincere consideration.
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