In partnership with Russell’s Reserve
When you talk to a distiller about whiskey, you’ll hear all about barrel types, climate, terroir and mashbills and how each of those elements affects what ends up in your glass.
Less discussed, but equally important: Where those barrels aging your whiskey are stored.
At Russell’s Reserve — the brainchild of Master Distiller Eddie Russell (who created the eponymous Kentucky brand in homage to his father, Master Distiller Jimmy Russell) — the location of the barrels aging in each rickhouse at the Wild Turkey Distillery is incredibly impactful. These resting places contribute quite a bit to the whiskey’s final character, and you’ll find plenty of nuances between barrels in different rickhouses.
And the Russells definitely know where to look when they want something special.
“All Russell’s Reserve barrels are selected from the ‘center cut,’ essentially the third and fourth floors of the seven-floor timber rickhouses,” says Bruce Russell, National Ambassador of Wild Turkey Distilling Co. “The middle floors are the sweet spots since the temperatures are the most stable for the rickhouse throughout the year. This provides the most consistent aging cycle, resulting in a balanced yet complex bourbon.”
Those center-cut picks form the basis of an all-new, annual limited-edition collection, Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse. The inaugural release, out in early October, is Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Camp Nelson C, whiskey taken from barrels of a recently decommissioned rickhouse that was originally built in 1946.
“We thought it would be nice to lead this series with a rickhouse that is no longer in existence,” says Bruce Russell. “Camp Nelson C was dismantled in 2021 due to age and natural causes, meaning the liquid in this Single Rickhouse bottling is the last of its kind.” Camp Nelson C was located on top of a hill and next to the Kentucky River; the warehouse was made from timber and clad with tin to naturally control internal temperatures.
Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Camp Nelson C features liquid from only 72 barrels. The end result is a non-chill filtered bourbon aged for over 10 years and bottled at 112.4 barrel proof, with thick, rich notes of toffee, coconut and vanilla, rounded out by a long, silky finish.
The process of discovering these barrels and deciding when they’re ready for release isn’t an exact science. “It’s different for every single barrel in every single Rickhouse,” says Bruce Russell. “Finding something special, it could be four years, it could be 16 years, you just never know. We taste from every barrel on our distillery grounds regularly to see how the liquid is aging, and we know by the flavor profile if it’s something we might want to use and age for something special.”
And that flavor profile is certainly unique. For Eddie Russell, the new Russell’s Reserve represents something, as he’s noted, “a little different from what folks have come to expect from our whiskies.”
“Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse was a passion project for dad, and we wanted to make sure we brought some of our most unique whiskey forward with the first release,” adds Bruce Russell. “The final flavor profile is unexpectedly rich, which honestly mimics my dad’s preferred flavor profile, but takes it to the next level. Dad, myself and my granddad, Jimmy, all agreed it was something special.”
You’ll hopefully get to try the first Single Rickhouse release in October (MSRP: $249.99) — if it follows the path of other Russell’s Reserve releases, like the much sought-after Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old, you’ll want to snatch up a bottle quickly. In light of the recent floods in Eastern Kentucky, the Russell family also donated the first bottles of Rickhouse to The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit – Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund back in August to support those impacted.
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