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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Russell's Reserve Private Barrel Selection

Recently, Facebook reminded me of one of my favorite nights. My youngest was a senior in college and was following a local bourbon group in her college town. I saw she liked an event, and as I clicked to learn more, the wheels started turning. Could I make this work? Yes. Yes, I can.

And so began one of the best nights ever for a dad-daughter outing - an intimate dinner with Master Distiller Jimmy Russell. On that memorable evening, everyone received a signed bottle of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. On this particular day, I was in the back room of a hole-in-the-wall liquor store in the Bluegrass - which had a secondary market license - and spied a bottle of Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel Selection and the memories came flooding back.

Like Father, Like Son

For nearly seven decades, Jimmy Russell has been serving the distilling industry. Four decades ago, Eddie Russell - the youngest of the three Russell children - followed his dad's footsteps and began his career on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder at Wild Turkey. The rest, they say, is history as, together, they remain the only father-son Master Distiller pair in the bourbon industry.

Russell’s Private Barrel Selection products are all bottled at 110 proof, which is likely fairly close to barrel-proof considering the fact that Wild Turkey’s barrel entry proof (the proof the distillate enters the barrel for aging) is relatively low at 107 to 115 (up from 105 at one time), resulting in a low barrel proof for Wild Turkey’s bourbons by comparison to other distilleries which typically enter the barrel at the maximum allowable 125 proof.

Wild Turkey ages its bourbon at three campuses - Tyrone, Camp Nelson, and McBrayer. Camp Nelson overlooks the Camp Nelson Historical Site and military cemetery; McBrayer is a small cluster of warehouses across from the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg. Tyrone is home to the main Wild Turkey Distillery, new bottling facility, and the Visitor's Center (currently located in a small home alongside Tyrone Road - hence the name). There is an "alphabet" of bourbon warehouses - lettered, literally, from A to Z - located along Tyrone Road.

The Tasting

All bourbon from Wild Turkey starts with the same mash bill - 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. The Private Barrel Selection offering is non-chill filtered and is bottled at 110 proof.

The label shares a ton of information, indicating it was distilled on December 19, 2011. The barrels were dumped on March 8, 2021 and were bottled three weeks later on March 26, 2021. The bourbon is from barrel number 20-0655 and was stored on the 4th floor of Warehouse E, which sits on the east side of Tyrone Road. The barrel was selected by Sam's Club, checked by Eddie Russell, and approved by Jimmy Russell (still double-checking his work as “the new guy”). You can follow along with future special releases of Wild Turkey products at Rarebird 101’s website.

Eye: Dark amber with a host of legs displayed in the Glencairn glass.

Nose: Vanilla and caramel are at the forefront. Lighter notes of graham cracker, campfire smoke and leaf tobacco are present after a deeper nosing. This is quite inviting.

Palate: Sweet caramel toffee hits initially followed by oak, tobacco, and spice. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy on the tongue - absolutely delicious.

Finish: Long and exceptionally well-balanced. Vanilla, oak, and spice come together in a long-playing symphony. This is very smooth for the high proof.

Overall: Once again, Jimmy and Eddie have done an exceptional job of orchestrating a bourbon for all the senses. As shared earlier, I purchased this from a licensed re-seller and definitely paid a little premium. I wish it wasn't so hard to find even the normal Russell's Reserve Single Barrel. This one, though, is definitely a keeper and one I'll be stretching out and savoring for a while.

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