Rare Russell's Reserve 1998 Completes Wild Turkey Trifecta

Rare Russell’s Reserve 1998 Completes Wild Turkey Trifecta

By Nino Marchetti / October 9, 2015

Russell’s Reserve 1998The folks at Wild Turkey, namely co-master distilling legends Jimmy & Eddie Russell, have been on a tear of late with the new premium whiskey releases. You’ve got the limited edition Master’s Keep 17 year old bourbon, which we gave a review score of 85 points recently. Then there’s Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye, joining the Russell’s Reserve brand as a permanent line extension. Coming to the party now is Russell’s Reserve 1998, a very rare small batch bourbon with a fun back story.

The tale of this whiskey’s origins, as spun by Wild Turkey lore masters, goes something like this:

As the son of the longest-tenured, active Master Distiller in Kentucky, Eddie Russell, a Master Distiller himself, always knew his father would celebrate many milestones at Wild Turkey.  Although not much gets by Jimmy, Eddie often has a masterful and secretive hand in ensuring the “Buddha of Bourbon” celebrates each milestone accordingly.

In 1998, before Jimmy Russell’s 45th anniversary (and assumed retirement), Eddie set out to create a bourbon fitting of his father’s legacy as “the Master Distiller’s Master Distiller.” Enter Russell’s Reserve 1998 – an exquisite small batch bourbon that honors one of the most endearing father and son distilling teams in the spirits industry. With 61 years under his belt, Jimmy is no closer to retiring but Russell’s Reserve 1998 is a tribute worthy of a man who many consider the reason America’s native spirit is having a profoundly important moment on the global stage.

Working side-by-side with his father for 35 years, Eddie decided to hold onto some of the barrels distilled in 1998 in the hopes of creating a special whiskey aged to perfection – the same year Apple introduced the iMac. This particular liquid is the most complex and mature to be released under the Russell’s Reserve namesake – having spent its lifetime maturing in the distillery’s timber rickhouses and taken out of the barrels at the peak of its maturity.

The result of this labor is a 102.2 proof, non-chill filtered American bourbon expression that’s said to be around 15 years or so in age because of being placed in a steel holding tank for some time before bottling to stop maturation.

“Typically, a bourbon this old picks up a lot of flavor from the barrel and can taste quite woody and dry,” said Eddie Russell in a statement. “We like to retain the caramel, vanilla and fruity notes in our whiskies and this particular liquid seemed to reach a sweet spot around the 15 year mark.”

It was important for us to stop the aging before those less desirable flavors took over the overall profile of the bourbon. I guess I am going to have to find another bourbon to celebrate Jimmy’s retirement… if that ever happens.”

Getting a hold of a bottle of this may be difficult for most, as only 2,070 of these gems will be released nationwide after being drawn out of just 23 barrels. Price point is set at around $250 each, and as for official tasting notes, limited information from Wild Turkey suggests “a golden amber bourbon, with notes of dried apricots, pears and bananas and featuring hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.”