Russell's Reserve is a brand within a brand (Wild Turkey). It's a line of age-stated bourbon and rye honoring the Russell family who have been Wild Turkey's master distillers for decades. There's a 10 year old small batch bourbon (45%abv), a 10 year old single barrel bourbon (55%abv and usually sold as exclusives through specific retailers), and a 6 year old rye (45%abv).
I have mixed feelings about Wild Turkey's products. While I enjoyed their 101 rye before it was pulled from the shelf (then put back on the shelf) and find Rare Breed to be a reasonable bird, I do not like the current version of their regular 101 bourbon. I've tried and re-tried it more than I should have and plan on doing an official review of it next year. With that in mind, I've never gone out and bought a bottle of Russell's. But Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail helpfully supplied me with a good sample.
I tried this Russell's alongside yesterday's unfortunate Maker's Mark and there was really no competition. Aside from having very different mashbills (rye versus wheat), there was so much more heft and body to one of them...
Owner: Gruppo Campari
Brand: Wild Turkey
Sub-brand: Russell's Reserve
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery
Location: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Mash Bill: around 13% rye (probably)
Age: minimum 10 years old
(Thank you to Jordan for the sample!)
Its color is dark maple syrup. The nose shows halvah, rye seeds, and hints of orange peel. Alternating notes of toasted and charred oak. More butter and caramel than vanilla. With 20+ minutes in the glass, there's more barrel char. An almond torte, too. And a lot more rye than one expects from the rumored mashbill. The palate has lots of peppery rye. Mint, musty oak, tart apples, and black cherry syrup appear in the mid-ground. Smaller notes of orange candies in the back. It feels big without being hot, and never gets too sweet. It finishes with some aromatic woody notes, as well as the familiar caramel and vanilla. There's are also some orange candies and black peppercorns.
AS A HIGHBALL (1:1 ratio of whisky and club soda)
Big vanilla. Woody. Maybe a little creamed corn in there.
This was such a relief to drink after each sip of Maker's Mark. On its own, it won't WOW anyone, but it's very solid. The rye element here is my favorite part. I'm fascinated by how strongly it registers considering how little of it is in the mash. The balance between the nose, palate, and finish is admirable. Unlike the Knob Creek Single Barrel (KCSB) I tried, the oak is relatively reigned in. I recommend it neat, though as a highball it isn't terrible.
In the current (2015) market, its price is reasonable for its age. It appears to be $5-$10 cheaper than KCSB, but I'd pick this one first any day. It's a few bucks cheaper than Rare Breed and I think I'd pick the Russell's over that one too, though it's a close call. But it's nice to know that one can still find decent American whiskey at $30ish, while the prices on the whiskies across the pond continue to expand seemingly beyond control and logic.
Availability - Most specialty retailers
Pricing - $28-$45
Rating - 84