By April Manning
Wild Turkey’s master distiller “emeritus,” Jimmy Russell, is known as the “Buddha of Bourbon” and has been an ambassador for bourbon for over 60 years. Along the way he has upheld a tradition dating to before Prohibition, never dithering on matters of quality and maintaining the Wild Turkey motto: “Wild Turkey. Not the latest thing. The genuine thing.”
This superior quality in taste, appearance and character comes from never compromising on anything in the distilling process, from the water to the maturation time. The yeast which gives that signature Wild Turkey flavor is still the original strain from over 60 years ago and they never pour a drop of Wild Turkey until it’s aged at least five years, one more than is often the norm in Kentucky, and often six or eight or more.
The Russel’s continue working to add to their legendary status in the bourbon distilling community. Two years ago, Eddie Russell, Jimmy’s son and longtime deputy, followed his father’s footsteps and was promoted to master distiller. This makes them the only father and son combo bourbon master distillers in the world. And Jimmy has shown Eddie some of the advantages of his six decades of knowledge by fashioning a spirit that portrays the essence of what bourbon should be. And that spirit is Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon.
Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon is made using the classic Wild Turkey mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malt. After fermentation, the mash is distilled to a lower proof than is usual for Kentucky, closer to the entry-proof used for barreling and thus ensuring less water is used to dilute the spirit off the still. After maturation, Jimmy and Eddie hand-select the best barrels to be bottled. The bourbon is then left un-chill filtered and each bottle is filled from the one cask.
Because it is a single barrel batch each bottle will have its own exclusive characteristics while still upholding that Wild Turkey tradition. The bottle I write about here was a private barrel bottling for Big Red Liquors, Barrel #65, Rickhouse C, floor 3.
The color is pleasing to the eye, radiating a copper hue with amber waves setting off the tone with class. Earthy oak and vanilla wafts from the bourbon as a citrus undertone plays in the background. Continuing with the Russell’s Reserve custom, the Single Barrel Bourbon frolics on the tongue with a creamy vanilla smoothness to balance out the slow warming sensation as it reaches the finish.
The pricing on Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon varies by a surprising margin around the country, ranging from $50 to $60.