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Review: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon

What’s in a name? Apparently Wild Turkey thinks you need to know that not only is the new Russell’s Reserve Bourbon release a single barrel, but it’s also small batch. That’s kind of a given as a single barrel, but whatever (those damn marketing guys).

Unnecessary words aside, I’m a Wild Turkey fan and also a fan of Russell’s Reserve. I enjoy the interplay and balance between fruit, spice, and sweetness that is a hallmark of WT products. The subject of this review does not have an age statement so we really don’t know what we’re looking at there. However, I’d guess something in the 5-7 year range (note: a faithful reader caught my lazy research to note this is 8-9 years according to Wild Turkey). What we do know is that RRSBSB is non-chill filtered, retaining all of the fatty acids and flavor carriers for the drinker to enjoy. To me – that’s a great thing! In addition we know that Wild Turkey puts their distillate in the barrel at a lower proof point than most all over bourbon distillers (55% abv or 110 proof). That’s neither good nor bad, but rather a philosophy that a distillery can deploy to their desired profile factoring in time and where the barrels will age in the warehouse.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with it why don’t we?

Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon, 55% abv (110 Proof), $50/bottle
Color: Deep Amber (richly hued and dark)
Nose: Rich caramel, toffee, creamy vanilla, dried apricots, and honey are backed with a healthy dose of wood spices (cinnamon and clove), crushed rock, and barrel. The nose is closed at first but opens beautifully with some air time and a splash of water.
Palate: Bold and bracing character with a bit of a sweet streak to round things out. Creamy on the palate with caramel and vanilla. The spices erupt (cinnamon and clove) with charred barrel notes leading to the finish.
Finish: Lots of warmth, spice, and a moderate lingering sweetness.
Overall: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel is an outstanding whiskey – especially if bold, spicy bourbons with a heavy punch of barrel/wood notes are your thing. Not as balanced as some of the other offerings from Wild Turkey, and not quite as fruity, but that didn’t deter from my enjoyment. At 110 proof it takes a couple splashes very well, which helps to calm the storm a bit. Bottom line, this is bourbon worth buying if the flavor profile suits your tastes.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.0 (Superb/Outstanding)

19 Comments

  1. John says:

    I think water changes the character of this whiskey quite profoundly. It’s MUCH better with a few spoonfulls added, IMHO.

  2. Jim says:

    Jason-

    Good Choice for Long Awaited New Review !

    At WT Jimmy & Eddie Russell join forces to select barrels for their namesake bourbon.

    Personally met Jimmy in 2012 during distillery tour.

    Very friendly and willing to take time with visitors.

    Add Wild Turkey Distillery Tour to your agenda to view modern “State Of The Art Distillery”.

    Campari Group spending millions…….

    New Distillery, New Bottling Plant, and New Visitor Center (Due To Open Fall 2013).

  3. Jim says:

    Jason-

    Wild Turkey Website states age……..

    Eight to nine years for Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel.

    Jim

  4. Chalk that up to lazy research Jim. Will note in my write up. Thanks for the keen eye!

  5. James says:

    I have been eyeing this on my local stores shelf for a while, my hesitancy is simply that WT101 is so good, it’s probably kept me from exploring the rest of the family as much as they deserve. A kind of, “how could it get any better” stubbornness. I look forward to trying it.

  6. iskch1 says:

    Thanks Jason for the review. I will look for it after things calm down around here in OKIE land (Moore).

  7. GQuiz says:

    Was in Moore last night. The Russell’s would certainly help a little with the edge. Hope you’re alright and in one piece. Been a heckuva week. Take care.

  8. Joe Serapilio says:

    Jason, Great review. Very creamy & smooth for 110 proof. I also found a dash of spring water rev’s things up as well. Just a great whiskey. I’m hoping to see more non-chill filtered expressions.

  9. Ridge says:

    I wish I liked RRSBSB as much as everyone else. I am a huge advocate of WT101. My favorite Mid Shelf Bourbon. I have never had the RR 90 or the WTKS. I have however had Rare Breed and didn’t really care for it. I was really excited for this. Soon I will go back and revisit it. I also recently got a bottle of Bookers. I had an airplane bottle of Bookers recently and it was my favorite bourbon I have had to date. The large bottle I purchased must have been an off batch. I have had back luck with the 50+ dollar bottles I have purchased recently.

    Thanks for the reviews Jason. Your site has really helped me out on my own personal bourbon journey!

  10. PharmerPhil says:

    I’ve been a Bourbon drinker for over 50 yrs. but am still learning a lot from this site. My “best bang for the buck” has been Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon (I’m paying around $20 a fifth in W. KY.) Jason has given a 9.0 rating to both WT101 & this RRSBBSB. However, the Russell Reserve is $50, making it cost two & a half times as much as the WT101. Am I missing something in my comparison of the two? If they both rate a 9.0 what makes the RR worth the extra $30 a bottle, or is it worth the extra money? Thanks.

  11. Dave says:

    Jimmy Russell’s grandson gave us our tour at the distillery and he told us the naming on the label as a “small batch single barrel” was an error and that this product was only going to be available AT the distillery fore the time being, and may be released on a limited basis. He seemed REAL confused when I told him it was already available in our stores in Michigan. :) I’m not sure what all that means, but I agree with your excellent review. It’s a superb bourbon. Thanks again Jason!

  12. Ridge says:

    I wanted to amend my comment – I don’t think I was fair in my assessment of the WTRRSBSB – I definitely approached this bourbon with expectations and it didn’t meet those expectations – as a result I likely didn’t try to meet the bourbon for what it is – only what I wanted it to be.

    I will revisit this one – however- i do think it will be hard for me to purchase this over WT101 considering the price difference – plus i like WT101 better – this bourbon does benefit from the higher proof and the non chill filtration – it has much more body and i do greatly appreciate that

  13. Crushed rock? Interesting. I think that’s a first in one of your tasting notes.

  14. Nick says:

    I couldn’t help but laugh at the crushed rock. Wow. I really love this bourbon. This hits all the sweet spots for me. A real mouthful, as would be expected fom WT. Had a very early tasting of this from Allen at WT. This is a master stroke IMO, but I love bourbons with big flavor. On my second bottle.

  15. Nick, etc. for clarity, crushed rock, wet rock, flint, minerality – all terms to describe an earthy mineral quality. This is usually smelled late in the nose. I find many bourbons have this note. Next time you are in a stream or creek, grab some pebbles/rocks and start sniffing. File that away in your mental Rolodex, and you will know when you smell it in a whiskey.

    Cheers!

  16. Nick says:

    In wine, minerality speaks to terroir. I’ve always been prone to the overused “pencil shavings” description. I used to work in the beverage industry and had to sit through many wine salesmens descriptive words for what I was tasting. It works, I knew what you were saying. I get a chuckle out of these because who goes out and grabs a handful of wet rocks and takes a whiff? Crushed rock? I guess the guy who just put gravel in his driveway? That said, I would have a better chance of smelling those two things than dried apricots…

  17. sam k says:

    Tasted this at the distillery two weeks ago and was impressed with the whiskey, but not the tour. The new WT distillery is perhaps the most soulless factory I’ve ever been in. No one in the building save two people looking at computers; totally silent otherwise, with everything but the fermenters behind glass. Our tour guide was misinformed to the point of having virtually no credibility.

    Go see Four Roses instead!

  18. Spriggs says:

    This bottle just moved up into my top ten list. Very good pour indeed !

  19. Shelley Posen says:

    Jason –

    Where is Russell’s available? I live in Canada but travel from time to time to upstate New York and various parts of New England. I’ve found Russel’s nowhere. Is it a regional specialty?

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