Tuesday 29 September 2015

Russell's Reserve Small Batch Launch with Jimmy and Eddie Russell (Tasted #218-219)

Wild Turkey Master Distillers Jimmy and Eddie Russell visited Australia in August to unveil the new Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Small Batch. The visit by the Russells also coincided with Eddie's recent promotion to the role of Wild Turkey's Master Distiller, where he will work closely with Jimmy on the production and to influence upcoming whiskies, especially in the Russell's Reserve line-up. It is amazing to see Eddie follow in Jimmy's footsteps, having worked his way to the top - from being a Relief Operator then spending many years as Wild Turkey's Associate Master Distiller.

This local launch was quite exciting as we saw the new Single Barrel Small Batch release join the existing Russell's Reserve 10 Year Old bourbon, and also the soon to be released Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Rye expression that was hinted by Eddie during the event. Though a US release only at the moment, we hope it is only a matter of time before we see the rye single barrel expression locally.

The event, held at Sydney's Four Seasons Hotel's Grain Bar, saw Jimmy and Eddie Russell mingle with bourbon lovers and whiskey advocates alike. Jimmy and Eddie were quite ecstatic being in Australia, noting that Australia is an important market to them, being the second biggest market for Wild Turkey outside US. It is always pleasing to hear the importance of the local market from Master Distillers as it can tend to influence future releases locally and also provide insight into the maturity of the local whisk(e)y market. Jimmy also spoke of the interesting change in the consumption of Wild Turkey (and other bourbon) since he started working at the Wild Turkey distillery in 1954 - back then bourbon being much more of a gentleman's drink.

The Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve Single Barrel expression has been curated from around 150 to 200 barrels that have been selected for each small batch. The inherent spice notes that come with all Wild Turkey and Russell's Reserve expressions are present with the Single Barrel and are complemented with creamy vanilla and subtle cherry sweetness notes.

Jimmy and Eddie Russell gathered all of us together halfway through the night to join in on the tasting of the Single Barrel Small Batch and also, a treat of the rather limited Wild Turkey 17 Year Old Master's Keep Bourbon expression, supposedly Jimmy's choice of dram before heading out.

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Small Batch (55% ABV, NAS, OB, Kentucky, USA, $69.99AUD)
The Single Barrel Small Batch expression is big, rich and bold and prominently showcases the spice notes along with the sweetness of creamy vanilla and butterscotch. The 55% ABV also provides a nice warming sensation to the overall finish.

Colour: Deep copper (with an amber hue).

Nose: A whiff of 
peppermint that is followed by rich sweet notes, layers of honey, creamy vanilla, butterscotch and then some cinnamon and clove spices come through.

Palate: The palate is big and spicy, clove spice notes are initially present then followed by the rich sweetness from the nose, the creamy vanilla, caramel and some cherry notes.

Finish: The finish is long and warm, most likely from the high ABV and the big spicy note fizzles out into a lingering sweetness. Big, rich and bold.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100.

.. and then the onto the Wild Turkey 17 Year Old Master's Keep Bourbon.

Wild Turkey 17 Year Old Master's Keep Bourbon (43.4% ABV, 17yo, OB, Kentucky, USA$199.99AUD)

Colour: Gold

Nose: The nose is less sweet than the Single Barrel Small Batch. There is
cinnamon roll in the glass with a hint of butterscotch and then some peppermint. Star anise spice notes follow.

Palate: The palate presents sweet nougat notes and it is almost chalky - with a slight grainy texture that transforms into black peppery spice.

Finish: Medium finish with a lingering sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100.

Overall, the Single Barrel Small Batch is a great expression, even compared to the 17 Year Old Master's Keep expression. Then again, personally, I do love a rich, big and bold expression. The one thing I am looking forward to is the single barrel rye release here locally. Perhaps then we can line up the single barrel rye against the six year old rye and also with the conventional 10 year old bourbon.


TimeforWhisky.com would like to thank Trish Nicol Agency for the invitation to the launch event with Jimmy and Eddie Russell.

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