These days it’s easy to find praise being sung for Wild Turkey, particularly following the inaugural release of Russell’s Reserve 13-Year. This brought increased demand for other limited offerings from Wild Turkey, such as previously slept-on Master’s Keep releases. Limited edition is all the rage these days. We might like to regard whiskey as something steeped in heritage first and foremost, but the reality is that, at the end of the day, whiskey is still business. Even if most people won’t find these allocated bottles (for MSRP), it still generates interest in the brand/distillery. And the best part about limited releases? There’s always another one right around the corner.
It feels abnormal to even touch on this while discussing Wild Turkey, since many pride the brand for its value and availability. As easy as it is to get hung up on bottlings such as the aforementioned Russell’s Reserve 13-Year, there’s something important to keep in mind: great whiskey still sits on shelves. And this absolutely applies to Wild Turkey.
One of the last times I looked at an expression from Wild Turkey was for 101 Rye, a highly versatile option that left me even more satisfied than its bourbon counterpart. I actually tried Rare Breed Rye prior to 101 Rye, which made my reception to its lower proof counterpart all the more surprising. Yet there’s a pair of ryes in Wild Turkey’s portfolio that seem to fly (pun not intended) under the radar for many: Russell’s Reserve. These closely mimic their bourbon brethren, with the more budget-minded options clocking in at 90 proof with accompanying age statements (6 years for the rye, 10 for the bourbon), while the pricier ones are single barrels, non-chill filtered, and bottled at higher proofs (104 for the rye, 110 for the bourbon) at the expense of an age statement (unless a pick). Today I’ll be looking at the Single Barrel Rye, which I purchased on sale nearly a year ago. For reference, my bottle’s laser code is: LL/EF301715
Nose: Juicy fruits; cherry and brown sugar; vanilla and orange cream. Soft, but full of sweet, mellow, and inviting aromas. An air of tobacco and burnt or toasted orange peel emerges. Bit of sweet oak must that’s both pleasant and complements a light, thin layer of salted caramel.
Palate: Silky, medium mouthfeel with slight creaminess. Juicy cherry, mildly tart orange, and lemon notes from the nose carry over seamlessly, joined by light brown sugars and caramel. Spice feels borderline nonexistent at first, but slowly builds up as the finish kicks in.
Finish: Warm oak char slowly builds with a balanced pepper spice while a decadent, caramel note takes center stage. Solid length with a nice development of flavors that gradually closes out.
Whoa. That’s nice. Like…really nice. I’m honestly amazed that this is from the same distillery that produces the aforementioned ryes. The experience here is so soft and dessert-like; very off-personality for modern Wild Turkey. I enjoyed the first couple pours from this bottle aplenty, but it only got better over time. What’s more is that, unlike many other bottles in my collection, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye didn’t lose its charm when running low. I’ve also pitted this against several ryes in blind flights, which it consistently fared well in, often winning or putting up a strong fight against some seriously heavy hitters.
Needless to say, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye is completely up my alley. On top of being available and affordable, it’s a damn delicious dram. Part of me wants to be more critical and keep my grade in check, since this isn’t exactly a unique whiskey and fits squarely into my current comfort zone. But I don’t care. Each time I return to it I’m utterly won over and feel I’ve tasted one of the best whiskeys for my palate, especially compared to what’s sitting on shelves at multiple stores. If this particular bottle/barrel is an indication of the quality and experience Russell’s Single Barrel Ryes regularly offer, then this is the bar I will measure other rye whiskeys against. And to be frank, they have their work cut out for them.