It Took a Century of Experience to Make Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old Bourbon

A multigenerational collaboration between industry legends Jimmy and Eddie Russell makes its annual return

June 13, 2023 9:32 am
It Took a Century of Experience to Make Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old Bourbon

In partnership with Russell’s Reserve

Father-and-son duo Jimmy and Eddie Russell have over 100 years of bourbon-making experience between them. They’re also both Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame members and revered members of the American whiskey world. 

So asking them for a favorite whiskey might be impossible. But if they had to choose one — especially this close to Father’s Day — it may very well be Russell’s Reserve, a line of elevated whiskeys originally created by Eddie to honor his dad, a 60-plus-year vet of Wild Turkey and the world’s longest-tenured Master Distiller. 

Within that Russell’s Reserve line is their standout 13-Year-Old Bourbon annual release, now in its third year. As Eddie notes, “Releasing Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old Bourbon is a moment I’ve come to look forward to each year.”

A little background on Russell’s Reserve: Their whiskey is aged in new American oak barrels with the deepest No. 4 alligator char. The water for the whiskey is sourced from the limestone-rich Kentucky River, and the Russells only use non-GMO grains (they have one mashbill for their bourbon and one for their rye; those are trade secrets). The barrels are selected from the “center cut,” essentially the third and fourth floors of the seven-floor timber rickhouses.

The oldest expression of the core range, Russell’s Reserve 13 has already accumulated numerous industry accolades, including “Best American Whiskey of 2021” (as chosen by world-renowned spirits critic Fred Minnick) and, most recently, a Double Gold at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (aka the Oscars of the spirits world).

Russell’s Reserve

Originally introduced in 2021, the limited-edition 13-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon is barrel-proof and non-chill filtered; it’s whiskey in its purest form and showcasing its most natural character. Tasting it, you’ll find notes of dried dark fruit, honey, chocolate and nougat; there’s a confectionery sweetness here that works in harmony with the oak to deliver something warm and robust with a long-lasting finish. 

I spoke to Jimmy a few years ago at their Lawrenceburg, KY, distillery, where I asked him, naturally, the secret to great whiskey. “Be patient and make something people want to drink,” he said. “There are many things that go into making a good whiskey. Good grain, yeast, cooking, fermentation, distillation and aging are all important. If I had to pick one part of the process that’s the most important, I’d say maturation. The way a charred white oak barrel changes bourbon is extraordinary. If aged correctly, you can take a good bourbon distillate and make it a great aged whiskey.”

As for the best way to enjoy Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old? Well, if you’re Eddie, you have a sip with your dad (and your son, who also works for the company). “My dad’s a great storyteller,” Eddie told me a little while back. “That’s what I’m trying to keep alive, and my son Bruce is doing the same thing. We all grew up in this industry — we’re now on our fourth generation working here. Even the workers, there are second- and third-generation employees at the distillery.”

(Fun fact I learned on my trip a few years back: Even though Eddie’s been part of Wild Turkey since 1981 — working as a relief operator, supervisor of new production, warehouse supervisor and manager of barrel maturation and warehousing before assuming the role of Master Distiller in 2015 — Jimmy still calls him “the new guy.” To his credit, Eddie refers to his dad as “the Michael Jordan of the industry.”)

So this Father’s Day, honor your father by sharing a great whiskey.  “This bourbon is a personal favorite of mine and I am proud to bring it back this year in time for Father’s Day,” says Eddie. “I know I’ll be raising a glass with my father and son, Bruce, to celebrate, and hope fans and folks trying it for the first time can enjoy a glass with their families and friends this summer season as well.”

Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old will be available nationally from retailers, as well as at, at $150 SRP per 750ml bottle for a limited time, starting in mid-June. For early access, sign up for the Russell’s Reserve Newsletter at


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