In 2018, whiskey enthusiasts were introduced to a largely unfamiliar name: Camp Nelson. While Camp Nelson wasn’t new to Wild Turkey, having been in use as a maturation campus since at least the 1990s, it was nevertheless a new addition to the distillery’s private barrel program.
At first, Turkey fans like myself weren’t sure what to think. The profiles were so unique – unlike any single-barrel Wild Turkey bottled at the time. But in that wealth of remarkable bourbon, one rickhouse stood out – Camp Nelson F.
I’ve spent the last five years acquiring and sampling various Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and Kentucky Spirit bottlings from Camp Nelson’s rickhouse F. I’ve never had a bad one. Granted, some are better than others, but each has something special to offer. From barrels aged eight to 13 years (from both fifth and sixth floors), there’s a world of amazing profiles to discover. And in terms of consistency of quality and complexity, I’d argue CNF is seldom beat.
Which brings me to the subject of today’s post, Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse: Camp Nelson F. To say this release has big shoes to fill is an understatement. Not only will it be compared to a backlog of notable Camp Nelson F private selections, it’s expected to measure up to 2022’s Single Rickhouse: Camp Nelson C (and that’s no easy task). Fortunately, Wild Turkey has the Russells. If anyone has the expertise and talent to pull it off, it’s Jimmy, Eddie, and Bruce.
All things considered, I’ve got a good feeling about 2023’s Single Rickhouse. Let’s see if I’m right.
Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse: Camp Nelson F (2023)
Spirit: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: Not stated (reportedly 10-15 years)
Misc.: Composed of choice barrels from the fourth and fifth floors of Camp Nelson’s Rickhouse F, Jessamine County, KY; distilled & bottled non-chill filtered by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY
Availability: Select states including California, Colorado, Florida, New York, and Texas
Tasted neat in a Glencairn …
Color: rich copper
Nose: “rickhouse funk,” Dr. Pepper soda, sweet oak char, chocolate-covered cherry, toasted brown sugar, blood orange, confectionery spice
Taste: (notably robust) singed caramel, molasses, fizzy cola, boozy caramel apple, dark citrus, fruit leather, clove
Finish: long & layered w/ vanilla spice, prickly cherry, charred oak, leather, savory orange, hints of licorice & tobacco
Impression: This year’s Single Rickhouse is everything I look for in a bourbon, delivered in a bold and uncompromising fashion that’s undeniably Russell. When nosing, it’s as if I’m standing in the rickhouse, holding a glass that’s just been filled from a copper thief. I can smell the angel’s share and century-old timbers cradling thousands of slumbering barrels. And then the profile notes file in … mature sweet oak, chocolate-covered cherry, blood orange, and fragrant complex spice. Can it get any better than this?
Believe it or not, it does.
The first sip is a doozy, and you might just find yourself in need of a chair to relax and take it all in. But it’s little to do with strength. While the ABV is considerable, it’s less than a point away from today’s Rare Breed. It’s the flavor, and damn does this whiskey have it! Imagine the best Camp Nelson F Russell’s Reserve private selection you’ve ever tasted and kick it up a notch or ten. That’s 2023’s Single Rickhouse. The dense caramel and molasses, the cola and savory citrus … It’s nothing short of an adventure.
But this ride ain’t over.
In my years of Wild Turkey appreciation, I’ve enjoyed my share of exemplary finishes. This CNF Single Rickhouse ranks among the very finest. With layers of complex spice woven through classic Turkey notes of vanilla, cherry, and leather, the only trait more noteworthy is their duration. It’s the perfect ending to what can only be described as a perfect bourbon (and perfection isn’t a word I use lightly or frequently).
It’s been said that the only thing a good bourbon needs is a good story to match it. In the case of 2023’s Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse, the bourbon is the story. From the moment you fill your glass to the unbridled satisfaction of your last sip, it’s just you and Kentucky. It’s your own private rickhouse in a bottle, straight from the Russells to you. If, by chance, you stumble upon this year’s Single Rickhouse do not pass it up. It might just rival the legendary Russell’s Reserve 1998.
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