When Russell’s Reserve 13-Year first hit shelves in April 2021, it wasn’t unusual to find it compared to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon – particularly private barrel selections. After all, folks were missing out and bloggers and YouTubers tried their best to find an alternative to the coveted barrel-proof release. By 2022, additional bottles of Russell’s 13 hit the market, this time with December 2021 and May 2022 bottling dates. Batch fever quickly set in and showdowns of the first three releases followed. Gone were the comparisons to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel or other Wild Turkey products; it was all about Russell’s 13.

Thanks to another apparent healthy supply of Russell’s 13-Year in 2023 (both March and May bottling dates), the fan-favorite expression is becoming easier – ehh, less difficult – to find. Of course, with the latest price increase pushing it well into the triple-digit range, some enthusiasts are less inclined to buy multiples, if buying at all. Flippers and profiteers still pillage liquor stores, though they’re getting much less in secondary sales than they did two years ago. While things could always change, it appears one’s chances of finding an appropriately priced bottle of Russell’s 13 fare better by the day.

Even so, $150 is a lot of money. Should you purchase a bottle, it would likely be a whiskey for special occasions. It was that realization, along with a suggestion via Twitter/X, that inspired me to bring back the once-popular Russell’s 13 v. Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel comparison. And 2023 may be the best year for it, as it’s rumored that many of the standard Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel retail bottlings are over 10 years old. Whether that’s due to a shortage of eight- or nine-year stocks needed for other products, or an overage of 10-year bourbon (more than what’s earmarked for the 90-proof Russell’s Reserve 10-Year), it’s entirely possible. Regardless, the single-barrel expression has reportedly averaged a respectable eight to 10 years since its introduction in 2013.


For this post I’ll be comparing two bottles recently acquired at retail: a May 10, 2023 Russell’s Reserve 13-Year (or what the cool kids call “batch 5”) and an April 24, 2023 Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon. Specs can be found below, though it’s unknown which rickhouse the single barrel spent its life. I’ll refrain from the mystery barrel discussion, as I covered it at length in my 2020 post, “Rickhouse Blues.” We do have the barrel number, however, as the third line of the bottle’s laser code states “B2534D0219.” That translates to a bottling of barrel #2534. While there’s little chance one can successfully tie a non-private-select laser code to a specific rickhouse, as Wild Turkey first assigns numbers to private selections sequentially and retail bottles afterwards, it’s still useful info.

Say, for example, you find a Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel that you’re head over heels about. Now you can go back to the store, or other stores in your area, and search for that same barrel number. Consider it your own secret private selection.

Russell's Reserve: 13-Year v. Single Barrel (2023)

Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Old Bourbon (May 2023)

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Proof: 114.8

Age: 13 years

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

Tasted neat in a Glencairn …

Distinctive Profile Notes: fragrant oak, medicinal cherry, leather, toasted caramel, singed orange peel, cinnamon, clove, tobacco, sweet earthy spice

Impression: As expected, another excellent Russell’s Reserve 13-Year. The intensity of the oak is striking, yet the maturity manages to embrace the sweeter notes without drying them out. Not that any of us should be surprised, considering Eddie Russell’s skillset. To marry what’s reportedly 13- to 21-year-old bourbon in such a balanced fashion requires experience and talent, and that’s precisely what May 2023’s Russell’s Reserve 13-Year demonstrates. Forget the batch hype. If you have a bottle of Russell’s 13 – any bottle of Russell’s 13 – consider yourself fortunate and cherish every sip.

Russell's Reserve: 13-Year v. Single Barrel (2023)

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon (April 2023)

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Proof: 110

Age: not stated (reportedly eight to 10 years)

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

Tasted neat in a Glencairn …

Distinctive Profile Notes: vanilla, caramel, butter toffee, sweet oak, orchard fruit, baked brown sugar, cinnamon, light fizzy cola, white pepper

Impression: There’s a reason I’ve been singing the praises of 2023’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel on social media, and it has nothing to do with the snazzy label change or bump in availability (at least in my two-state area). It has everything to do with flavor. This is the second non-select Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel I’ve purchased this year and the profile is just as noteworthy; moreover, it’s a significant notch above many 2020-2022 Russell’s Reserve private selections. The complexity and maturity isn’t the same as Russell’s 13, but it’s commendable in its own way. As for balance, I’d say it’s right on par – arguably more so if you aren’t a fan of oak as a forward note.


Look, I’m not going to bullshit you and say that Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is equivalent to Russell’s Reserve 13-Year. It’s not, and that’s the plain and simple truth. That being said, 2023’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel checks a helluva lot of boxes – at half the price and with much less time and effort to acquire.

So, the next time you’re out shopping and have trouble finding something special, consider a 2023 Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. I’m certain you’ll get home, pop the cork, and be instantly satisfied. I was so impressed, buying a second bottle before I finished my first seemed only natural. It also allowed me to compare the two, much like I do with various private barrel selections. At the end of the day, it’s your money and how you spend it on whiskey is entirely up to you. But if you’re a Turkey fan searching for something exciting and Russell’s 13 is nowhere in sight, this year’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon is possibly the next best thing.


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