Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
What does a Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Master Distiller give to his father, another Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Master Distiller, on Father’s Day? Well, this isn’t a trick question, so of course the answer is a specially selected Kentucky bourbon. And since these are the legendary father-son duo at Wild Turkey, the bourbon in question is the Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon. We’re reviewing the third and latest release today.
One could argue Jimmy Russell is Wild Turkey: he has worked there for almost 70 years and counting, much of it as the Master Distiller. His son, Eddie, began with the company in 1981, working his own way up to Master Distiller, too. He began creating tribute bottlings to his father, the first of which was released in 1998. He crafted the first Russell’s Reserve, also a 13-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, in honor of his father, Jimmy, for Father’s Day in 2021.
Over the years, he has created more singular bottlings and regular releases under this label, though the 13-year-old is the “personal favorite” of Eddie’s. Regular releases include a 10-year-old bourbon and a six-year-old rye. A limited release last year included a single rickhouse expression, which was from the decommissioned Camp Nelson C rickhouse.
Today, the Russell’s Reserve is a line within the Wild Turkey family. Father and son share duties assembling the releases. Working together seems a natural development since Eddie’s entire career has been spent alongside his father.
For the third release of the Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, robust seems to be the goal. The releases are bottled at barrel proof and non-chill filtered to keep the character of the barrel, “resulting in a more robust mouthfeel,” per Eddie Russell. To add to the full-bodied mouthfeel, the distillery notes that the “Russell’s Reserve is distilled to a lower ABV, meaning less water is added before barreling, resulting in a robust whiskey.”
The mash bill is the same as for all Wild Turkey releases and uses all non-GMO American-grown grains. Although Wild Turkey won’t verify the recipe, the general consensus is that the mash bill for the straight bourbon is 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley.
Per the distillery, the whiskey is described as “a distinctive sip, exhibiting sweet and woody notes that give way to rich flavors of honey, chocolate and nougat throughout” and a smoky, charred note on the palate and finish.
It sounds thoughtfully decadent and powerful dram; let’s taste.
Tasting Notes: Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old Bourbon
Vital Stats: Aged for 13 years in new American oak; 57.4% ABV; mash bill: standard Wild Turkey straight bourbon mash bill using non-GMO American-grown grains; SRP $150/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is moderate amber with a yellow undertone.
Nose: The initial aromas are moderate in intensity but complex. There are aromas of orchard fruit like ripe green pears, rose oil and cherry blossom, and some oxidative and savory notes like fried pork belly, coffee, and shoe polish. Smells tasty, though it takes a hearty inhale to capture these aromas! With time, the aromatics unfurl a touch, showing aromas of vanilla wafer cookies and mint chocolate ice cream. The savory character keeps the more decadent notes in check. Very pretty, though I wouldn’t mind if it was more aromatic.
Palate: On the tongue, this bourbon is spicy and lightly astringent with a viscous mouthfeel. The high alcohol doesn’t mute the flavors. The bourbon offers up similar notes to the nose, including hints of fresh mint, grenadine, and white peaches. The spice aroma resolves into anise and fresh hops in a fascinating way.
The finish is moderate in length and leans on its fruit notes of cherries, rose petals, and crème brulée. Water doesn’t change much about the spirit other than bringing it out of its shell. I love how it seems to expand in the glass until it fills the room.
Whiskey Review: Russell's Reserve 13-Year-Old Bourbon
This is a surprisingly reticent Kentucky Straight Bourbon; one of the least giving on the nose of those I’ve tried. That’s not much of a detractor for me since what aromatics do appear on the nose, palate, and finish, are exceptional. There’s a lovely spiced and savory character that contrasts nicely with the floral and toasted side. I think this is a bargain for its price point (though you’re unlikely to find it close to SRP online) and I highly recommend.
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Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...