It’s been almost a year since I last reviewed a whiskey from Wild Turkey’s rye portfolio. Seeing how I recently purchased two 2022 Russell’s Reserve rye expressions, Russell’s Reserve Six Year Old Rye and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye, why not review them together? Compare and contrast, and whatnot. 

If you take a look at my past reviews of these whiskeys, you’ll find notable differences. Essentially, one is a lower-proof easy sipper, the other a robust and complex rye (barrel depending). That being said, I can’t think of the last time I sipped these two whiskeys side by side. Is it possible they’re more similar than I recall? Stranger things have happened in the world of Wild Turkey. 

I’ll kick things off with a December 2022 bottling of Russell’s Reserve 6-Year Rye. The first thing you’ve likely noticed is the new label design, with the most noteworthy changes being: the dark green base color of the lower label, the new Russell’s Reserve logo (see the neck band and lower label), and some minor changes in the main label’s script (“over 100 years,” as opposed to the former “over 90 years,” for example). 

It’s a snazzy improvement. The same could be said for recent design changes found with other Russell’s Reserve offerings, like the 10-Year bourbon and single-barrel expressions (both retail and private selections). But in my opinion, the 6-year rye needed it most. It always seemed lost on liquor store shelves – just sitting there, boring and bland. Perhaps these revisions will attract new buyers, or at the least grab the attention of Turkey fans. Hey, it worked for me!

But appearance is only one factor in the grand scheme of things. I wouldn’t call it minor, but it’s not nearly as important as the whiskey itself. So with that, let’s dive in and see what 2022’s Russell’s Reserve 6-Year Rye has to offer.

Russell's Reserve Rye Comparison

Russell’s Reserve Six Year Old Rye

Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Proof: 90

Age: 6 years

Misc.: distilled & bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: amber

Nose: lemon squares, honey-glazed apples, sweet herbs, light oak, faint spearmint

Taste: vanilla, apple jelly, orange glaze, Bit-O-Honey candy, frosted sugar cookie, confectionery spice

Finish: medium w/ caramel drizzle, toasted oak, ginger ale, citrus, hints of nutmeg & sassafras

Impression: This is a damn good rye. While there’s nothing particularly unique or intriguing about Russell’s Reserve 6-Year Rye, there’s nothing disappointing about it either (especially considering its $40 price tag). I could sip this whiskey all afternoon with a mile-wide smile on my face. From nose to finish it’s a consistent and enjoyable pour with all of your signature Kentucky rye notes: vanilla, honey, lemon, and sweet & zesty spice. Who wouldn’t love it? If I’m being completely honest, I suppose at one time I didn’t – at least, not as much as other Wild Turkey rye offerings. After this tasting, I’m rethinking that position.

If there’s one whiskey that’s criminally overlooked (and arguably has been for years), it’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye. (I can hear the whiskey geeks now, “Dude, shut up.”) But in all seriousness, why doesn’t this rye get more recognition and praise? Here we are in 2023, and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye remains largely unspoken of compared to the sea of rye whiskeys out there (many of which I’d argue aren’t worthy of consumers’ hard-earned money).

I’ve reviewed Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye on multiple occasions, for this blog and Patreon. It’s always performed well. I was, however, a bit unsure about this particular 2022 bottling when writing my first-pour post for Patreon. It just hit differently than barrels I’ve appreciated in the past. But judging a whiskey off the first taste is rarely a prudent plan. Moods change, opinions change – hell, some experts argue the liquid itself changes (but that’s another topic for another day). The fact of the matter is, unless you’ve stumbled onto something genuinely terrible, every whiskey deserves a second chance.

Before diving in, I’d like to thank Amy McClam of Campari SC for making this tasting possible. While Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye isn’t difficult to find in my state, finding a bottle from a specific year sometimes involves a bit of searching. Thankfully, I didn’t have to search at all this time around.

Russell's Reserve Rye Comparison

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye

Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Proof: 104

Age: not stated (likely 6-8 years)

Misc.: non-chill filtered; distilled & bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Tasted neat in a Glencairn after a few minutes rest …

Color: rich amber

Nose: lemon pepper, savory pear, singed lemon peel, charred oak, hints of licorice & mint

Taste: (creamy mouthfeel) brown sugar, butter toffee, orange peel, clove, baked apples & cinnamon

Finish: medium-long w/ cinnamon, pepper, toasted caramel, zesty citrus, holiday spice, faint leather

Impression: Whatever concerns I had when I first sipped this rye have vanished. Maybe I was just having an off night. It’s honestly hard to say. The bottom line is Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye is damn fine, and that goes for this 2022 bottling. Packed with dense sweet & savory orchard fruit, zesty citrus, layers of spice, and hints of char and leather, this is a rye whiskey you take your time with. And though I’d prefer this single-barrel expression bottled at barrel strength, the 104 proof mark is more than enough to strike an upgrade in complexity over Russell’s Reserve 6-Year Rye

In terms of a formal comparison, it ultimately boils down to the individual and what one is looking for in a rye whiskey. Both Russell’s Reserve Six Year Old Rye and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye are excellent spirits, exuding Kentucky charm, with a forward sweetness supported by waves of zesty citrus and confectionery spice.

Russell’s 6-year expression is an easy sipper that I’d argue is an ideal gateway rye for bourbon fans dabbling in the category. It’s priced well for its age and is readily available, both online and in brick & mortar stores. In contrast, the single-barrel expression provides a more in-depth sipping experience at a proof that’s noteworthy, yet comfortable for the majority of enthusiasts. Its availability is rather sparse in comparison to its 90-proof cousin, though it can be found with some effort. Neither are expensive for the times we live in, though $70 for Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye isn’t exactly cheap (worth every penny, though).

Be it easy sipping or contemplative reflection, Russell’s Reserve has a rye whiskey for you. The only thing missing are private selections and a rye expression equivalent to Russell’s Reserve 13. Can you imagine that? A considerably aged, barrel-proof Wild Turkey rye? Take my money! As for now, we’ll just sip the quality Turkey we have and dream.



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