After a slight sabbatical consisting of a trip to Baltimore (where my hotel overlooked Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and I was able to watch the closing innings of the Toronto Blue Jays at the Baltimore Orioles from the comfort of my hotel room) and, of course, Easter, I am back to review a bourbon that is neither rare nor indie, but that I found absolutely outstanding: Russell’s Reserve 10 Year.
Now, the Russell’s Reserve 10 Year came highly recommended by my co-worker, friend and fellow bourbon enthusiast Josh McAllister, who mentioned how he had sampled it not too long ago and it immediately became one of his favorites. I know Josh to have good taste, so it made my short list as well, and soon enough, an opportunity to sample it came up. The company I work for often has a few international interns at any given time, and we were lucky enough to have Cecile, who came to us from France, in our department. On her last day a few weeks ago, we decided to have a toast to bid her Bon Voyage at our weekly meeting. Spies were dispatched to find her drink of choice, and it was reported back that she was a fan of Wild Turkey. Perfect.
The Russell alluded to in the name Russell’s Reserve is none other than legendary Master Distiller Jimmy Russell (as well as his son, Associate Distiller Eddie Russell), the man behind Wild Turkey. Jimmy Russell is a legend, and I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at the Bourbon Classic this year in January. So Russell’s Reserve, which claims to be Jimmy’s hand picked small batch, should truly be the representation of his son and his combined 85 years of experience. The website also mentions that they cut it with water less than other bourbons before barreling, and that “Russell’s Reserve is matured in barrels with the deepest #4 char, or “alligator” char, ensuring the maximum flavor and colour is developed during aging.”
So I bought a bottle and, as our weekly meeting wrapped up, poured glasses for those hearty souls to toast the outgoing Cecile, off to new adventures!
My take: Wow. There is everything to love about this bourbon. The availability (here in Michigan, I’ve seen RR at local Meijer stores – I’ve seen Blanton’s and Elmer T Lee there too – so it’s not too hard to find), the price point (between $28-$33 here in Michigan), the bottle (classy) and cetainly not the taste.
The nose was warm and inviting, with notes of caramel and vanilla. Enough sweet cinnamon showed through to make me anticipate a ‘popping’ taste (more on that in a second), and the age and char showed through with a deep, distinct air of toasted oak.
The taste was also warm, but I didn’t get the jarring taste of burned wood that I anticipated, nor a spicy ‘bite,’ but rather, a smooth soft woodiness mixed with a slight sweet vanilla and caramel taste. I will reinforce the word ‘smooth,’ because I was taken aback with just how smooth this was, not too thick a mouth feel, but not thin in anyway. Alongside the oak and vanilla, there were the sparkles of cinnamon, but minus the roughness that sometimes follows it.
The finish was clean and soft, if a little short. I was impressed all the way around and, if Wild Turkey or Mr. Russell ever put out a barrel strength, I would sincerely love to try it. It’s not a perfect 10, but for what it is it’s an A in my book.
Dan’s Rating: 9.1