The Russell’s Reserve name has become a force to be reckoned with in the past couple of years. Much of this is thanks to the 13-Year and Single Rickhouse LEs being introduced, both contributing an increased degree of interest in the brand. It’s been a long time coming, too, as the Russell’s Reserve name has been around for over 20 years.
That’s not to say the brand has existed in its current state since inception, a reality that many a long-time bourbon consumer can testify. In fact, the Single Barrel bourbon bottling of Russell’s Reserve only first hit the market in 2013. A more casual whiskey consumer will likely hear the words “Russell’s Reserve” and think little of it. But the giveaway has always been there right on the bottle: distilled and bottled by Wild Turkey. As such, Russell’s Reserve can be thought of as a generally more upscale version of Wild Turkey, with the Single Barrel considered by many to be the peak Turkey shelfer. Although others make an equally strong and understandable case for Rare Breed.
This is a line I’ve been woefully slow to cover. My first review for a Russell’s Reserve product was the Single Barrel Rye, which I gave top honors to. And yet, despite owning three barrel picks (which will be covered), I’ve never touched on the Single Barrel bourbon proper. That changes today. I actually came into a shelfer of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel bourbon for my birthday in December, thanks to my stepfather. Barrel picks tend to get all the love from this line, and I imagine part of the incentive is that they, not the shelfers, provide barrel info. What we’re then left with are laser codes on the bottom of the bottle. This one is LL/KA271459.
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel bourbon is bottled at 55% ABV, is non-chill filtered, and bares no age statement, but picks typically hover between 8-10 years. Retail pricing can be as low as $50, but is usually seen closer to $70 in my area.
Nose: Immediately warm and oaky personality with cinnamon, roasted pecans, toffee, tobacco, and some leather. Old rickhouse aroma with vanilla spice, musty undertones, and an undercurrent of toasted coconut give this a pleasant and uniquely earthy essence in how developed it feels.
Palate: Wood, sweet cinnamon, and nut butter. Pepper and barrel char before a brief appearance of dried cherries, chocolate, and burnt orange peel. Plenty of caramel and brown sugar to go around while the cinnamon and pepper linger together.
Finish: Lengthy and drying oak profile with ongoing cinnamon, spice, and hints of tobacco for good measure. A touch of brown sugar here and there offset an otherwise oak-driven finish.
That hits the spot.
The more I explore whiskey, the more often I find myself conflicted with certain pours, regardless of whether they collect dust on shelves. To that end, this particular Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel bourbon is a welcome change of pace, made even sweeter by it being non-pick shelfer.
When I said Russell’s Reserve could be thought of as a more upscale version of Wild Turkey, I wasn’t expecting this bottle to deliver a profile this strikingly similar to Wild Turkey 101 (in its previous form, more specifically). Damn near everything that defines 101 is present here with the dials turned up. It’s nutty, but more in a roasted pecans with cinnamon way than peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Throw in a musty rickhouse essence with some tobacco and a warm, somewhat spicy finish to boot, and we have a winner. In other words, it’s almost exactly what I expect from a great, nicely aged bourbon leaning on the nutty end of the spectrum.