I have a true respect for the Russell’s brand and legacy. Wild turkey is iconic and has a huge range. However, this is the first one of their product’s that I have had the pleasure to enjoy on this side of my whiskey appreciation. At the $35 price point it’s an excellent entry into the bourbon category. The creaminess on the finish sets it apart and is one of the distinctive qualities of this pour.
There’s something about Russell’s Reserve that feels quintessentially American. It’s sharp and abrasive where it needs to be, and it’s smooth, rich, and creamy as well. The oak works well with the mash bill to create a truly impressive combination of flavors that you want to sip on well into the night. Craftsmanship, comes to mind when I think about this whiskey. Wild Turkey is no small operation, so this is an impressive quality to see arrive in the glass.
It’s almost impossible to talk about Wild Turkey, without spending a few lines on Jimmy Russell. Jimmy Russell was the master distiller at the Wild Turkey distillery for 62 years. Jimmy is known to privilege character and quality that anchors in the mouth. They fall in the low-70s when it comes to the corn content, which means they are about 30% small grains in the mash bill. To let Jimmy Russell tell it, “We’re traditional, with more body, more flavor, and more character.” And just to give you more a sense of who he is, Jimmy has said, “I’ve never worked a day in my life. To me it’s not work, it’s something I enjoy. The day, it’s work, you get up and come to work, it’s time to retire.”
This “more flavor, and more character” means that they barrel the white dog (unaged spirit) at 110 proof, and the reason is that the higher the alcohol proof the less flavor is retained from the grain and process. Given the boom in bourbon and the quality of Wild Turkey brands, it’s no surprise that Campari came along and became the majority owners of the company. Eddie Russell, having 35 years of experience is now the master distiller and that helps ensure continuity and quality.
Also, many will know that Matthew McConaughey is the new Creative Director. I can honestly say there’s not a person who I think would be a better fit for the type of storytelling that Wild Turkey is known for and it’s well worth checking out the short film he put together as an homage and introduction to the brand.
Wild Turkey has a great story and a great set of whiskeys to go along with it. I’d walk the trail and sip these in whatever way you enjoy your bourbons. Cheers!
Appearance: A deep dark amber with medium droplets that form slowly and glide down the glass purposefully.
Nose: A pronounced oak that mellows with time, black pepper, brown sugar, fresh corn sweetness, some light but pleasant cherry, a creamy caramel quality, and even a hint of almonds for good measure.
Palate: Spicy pepper that mellows into a ginger brightness, a smooth hit of sweetness, vanilla, light caramel, some green herbal notes, a good corn quality taste, and a minty coolness.
Finish: Vanilla, oak, warmth, creamy, some wood tannins stick around reminding you that you’re drinking something real and aged properly.
Verdict: Well now it looks like I need to try Rare Breed and the Single Barrel un-chill filtered versions from Wild Turkey. This is a great bourbon for a quiet cold, night. It’s alive and bright on the palate and creamy on the finish. I like big, bold flavors from my Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey and this delivers on all fronts. Great value for the price, and while it’s not for everyone’s palate, Russell’s Reserve is an excellent gateway into the Wild Turkey family for true appreciators of Kentucky bourbon.
Russell's Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon Review