Three Exclusive Russell’s Reserve Casks—Hand-Picked, Underrated Gems – American Whiskey News

Three Spectacular Bourbons You’ll Only Find at K&L
“The three barrels we ended up taking represent everything we love about the Russell’s barrel program.”
— David Othenin-Girard, K&L SoCal Spirits Buyer

We are back with three more outstanding K&L exclusive casks from one of our favorite bourbon brands: Russell’s Reserve. As our SoCal spirits buyer notes in a recent Spirits Journal post, “They represent some of the final stocks from the Old Ripy/Gould distillery.” This historic distillery produced more than a few inspired bottlings over the years, and the trio featured here is certainly no exception. In the past, notice of Russell’s Reserve was muted, but a groundswell of interest is fast emerging, and with good reason as dollar for dollar they are among the best bourbon buys you’ll find anywhere. Dynamic, expressive, and with all the potency one expects from a powerhouse like Wild Turkey, they deliver precisely the kind of profile whiskey collectors adore. We urge you to scroll down and learn what makes each of these casks so unique. They are easily among the best we’ve had, further buttressing our belief that Russell’s Reserve delivers some of the top values in the realm of collectible bourbon. Our stocks are already disappearing fast, so don’t wait too long to secure your bottles.

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel “#18-439” (Rickhouse CN A, Floor 4) K&L Exclusive Kentucky Straight Bourbon (750ml) ($64.99)

This delicious cask of Russell’s Reserve is another stunning example of why the Wild Turkey distillery is simply the most underrated distillery in Kentucky. Distilled on December 21st of 2009 at the now-demolished wooden distillery that sat below the current facility. This cask spent nine long years on the fourth floor of Wild Turkey’s Camp Nelson Warehouse A. These warehouses, about an hour’s drive south from the distillery in Tyrone, are well known for putting out some of the distillery’s best casks over the last couple of years. These warehouses were acquired sometime in the last few decades as Wild Turkey’s production has expanded. Camp Nelson tends to have a slightly different character than the Tyrone warehouses, but not nearly as different as the stone warehouses in Frankfurt produced. This excellent cask, one of two distilled and aged identically in this year’s batch, each has an extremely distinct character. Both have a little bit more honey and less spice compared with the Tyrone stocks. Interestingly, this cask was meant to be released in 2018, but someone reneged on the commitment, so it’s spent the last year in Tyrone. We took the opportunity to snatch this top notch barrel. This is one of the most obvious and open Russell’s we’ve ever bottled. The style here is opulent. Expect big sweet and savory wood tones, vanilla bean, pure raw honey and a velvety texture. A perfect example of the heights this special distillery can achieve.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 07, 2019

I think people might finally be catching on to these Russell’s. We’ve struggled previously to get people excited about them, but for the first time our customers are getting out ahead of these and picking them off with little to no suggestion on our part. The three barrels we selected this year are truly some of their finest yet and represent probably some of the best bourbon we’ll sell all year, including the old and rare offerings. This awesome cask spent a year aging at the Tyrone warehouses compared to its sister 19-0345 which was distilled on the same day and aged on the same floor at Camp Nelson. The nose is a hedonist’s delight. Sweet muscovado sugar, rich dark cocoa, fine tobacco leaf, expensive spices. On the palate moving toward the baked apple and tingly cinnamon heat without going full on red hots. This is the real stuff right here. The chewy rich texture is what gets me most with this one, borderline syrupy. An absolute bomb by any measure.

Illya Haase | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 23, 2019

Russell’s is one of the best bourbons you probably don’t purchase! That my friend is a shame. Just from the first whiff of the Single Barrel 18 439, it pops with the aroma of blood orange, cinnamon and caramel, to name a few good sniffs. The taste is warm, inviting and coats your mouth with fresh mint, tobacco and butterscotch! This is the perfect cigar bourbon. Sitting outside by a crackling fire, just taking in the slowing down time, finally enjoying the moment in this breakneck pace that we all live in. That is what a great bourbon does.

Will Blakely | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 17, 2019

Another season sees another round of exceptional barrels from the wealth of Wild Turkey’s reserve stocks. In this case, my first impressions conjured cornflower, cherry and tobacco – an altogether pleasant, if straightforward nose. The depths therein, however, are anything but simple. Nutmeg, stewed apple, baking chocolate and a hefty dose of cinnamon take center stage backed up by dark sugar and prominent oak. There’s a lot going on here, and I was glad to revisit it several times throughout the day. This is definitely not one to sleep on.

Shelby Griffiths | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 17, 2019

Out of all of our Russel’s Reserve barrel picks this one stood out to me as the most baking spice driven. The aroma is incredibly warm & inviting with notes of cinnamon, orange peels, fennel fronds, with a touch of anise. I felt like the bourbon was enveloping my palate like it was cozying up in a warm fuzzy blanket on a cold night. Letting the those warm baking spices really come through and giving you the impression of a perfect Autumn night.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 15, 2019

I’ve enjoyed all our Russell’s Reserves private barrel picks but this one in particular was such a fun bourbon to pour into a glass; so many interesting things going on and one of the more, tropical bourbons I’ve come across. On the nose I got cola and sarsaparilla, fennel seed, and then a strong whiff of coconut, vanilla, cherry, and chocolate came through unexpectedly. This is a nose you could contemplate for quite a while as things tended to move around and change. The palate expressed a lot of the cherry that was evident on the nose but added flavors of Hawaiian fruit punch, oak spice, candy coated fennel seed and demerara sugar. The finish was long and left me with a numbness in the center of my tongue, reminding me of how I’ll sometimes feel coming out of the dentists office. Along with the fun tactile ride, cherry notes and baking spices left their footprint on the finish.

Jeffrey Jones | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 12, 2019

In a few words this barrel is expressive, direct and classic. The nose has vanilla, spice, and caramel aromas. In the mouth it is concentrated, and has a lot of depth and complexity in addition to some honey flavors. With a splash of water, vanilla notes come out in the nose. In the mouth, it is a little lighter bodied and comes across as slightly sweeter, but is still rich, juicy, complex, and classic.

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 11, 2019

The nose on this guy immediately comes across to me as sticky toffee pudding. The butterscotch, date, and vanilla characters are front and center and it feels warming and immediately comforting. The spice notes carry over to the palate, and are punchy and bold in the flavors. This would make for the ultimate after dinner bourbon heading into the cooler weather months as the flavors just scream the holidays to me.

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel “#19-1108” (Rickhouse CN A, Floor 4) K&L Exclusive Kentucky Straight Bourbon (750ml) ($64.99)

We picked another set of excellent Russell’s Reserve barrels with the wonderful Bruce Russell back in April of 2019. Of the 20 casks we tasted that day, we selected three barrels that stood out as being some of the finest we’d ever experienced from the venerable distillery in Tyrone, KY. That’s saying a lot considering the incredible casks we’ve previously sold, but the bourbon world is starting to wake up to WT and especially these old casks which were distilled at the old demolished distillery down the hill from the current facility. Barrel #19-1108 was distilled on the exact same day as the excellent cask 18-439. It was filled into the same Camp Nelson rickhouse A and the same floor as its sister cask. The only difference in their maturation is cask #18-439 was pulled to Tyrone a year earlier and left there after being selected by someone else, but never bottled. We snatched that up the second we got a snort, but bought this barrel because of its obvious merits as well. It was only after that we realized they’ve been distilled on the very same day and aged in similar places. This cask is probably what most traditional Wild Turkey drinkers are looking for. An immediate rush of cola, big clove, dark vanilla bean, burnt citrus peel, hints of licorice, maple syrup, dried herbs and leaves. The palate is surprisingly supple with classic Red Hots, roasting coffee beans, citrus oil and a sweet caramelized oak. Big, bold and spicy—this is why they call her the Kickin’ Chicken.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 07, 2019

It’s always interesting to taste two casks that were distilled on the same day and lived in the same warehouse, but somehow taste wildly different. Whereas the 18-439 seems to have moved into what might be described as a bit of an outlier profile, this is right where I imagine a great barrel of WT at Camp Nelson for 10 years would be. The nose is that great contrast between the sweet cola, singing citrus peel and the dark earthy spice that we know and love from Turkey. The palate is rich and textured with less cinnamon than its sister and more roasted spices, sweet bark and earthy pepper. The palate is driven and long with the dark green herbs and menthol taking over. A really serious bottle best for an expert palate.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 07, 2019

The WT Russell’s line may be some of my favorite consistent single barrels we’re able to get. This barrel hit a lot of high tones for me. The nose was a bit tight under the proof but I got strong herbal hints of sassafras, fennel bulb contrasted by sweeter notes of brown sugar, maraschino cherry, and green apple skin. The palate was bright and very sweet, with baking spices, caramelized yellow peaches and brown sugar ginger cookies. The textural component was nice as well, it was soft with a light kick and the finish was long and just a touch waxy. A beautiful dram of bourbon I’d be happy to work on through the holidays.

Shelby Griffiths | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 17, 2019

This barrel stood out to me with its friendly, charming quality. Golden apples, dried citrus peels, fresh caramel, sarsaparilla, with a touch of anise. The palate was very approachable, with an endearing sweetness. Uplifting, warm, and cheerful, this bourbon is like that friend that can always cheer you up when you’re having a bad day.

Will Blakely | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 17, 2019

I was first struck by the sweet and sticky nose, which caused me initially to interpret this bottle as the brown sugar beast among the lot. Upon further investigation, though, it unveils an impressive and nuanced array of flavors. The dark syrup is merely an adornment for apricot, sultana, orange zest and crunchy graham cracker. And atop all that, somehow, white pepper and rosemary float effortlessly, providing a compelling counterpoint without creating strife. With exceptional balance and a fascinating finish, it keeps me coming back for more.

Jeffrey Jones | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 12, 2019

For me this was the barrel that was the most like a good piece of candy. The nose has floral and vanilla aromas, and in the mouth it was sweet, with butterscotch and caramel flavors. A touch of water continues this flavor profile, but opens the bourbon up a little. Although sweet and pretty, this barrel has a certain amount of elegance to it to help make it a delicious treat.

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 11, 2019

The herbs and anise notes jump off the nose as soon as this hits your glass. The aromatics are insanely lively and unique. Tea, pepper, and orange rind come across on the palate, but there is sweetness in the form of toffee and vanilla to give some balance. Any opportunity we get, K&L likes to get our selected barrels bottled at cask strength so the customer can decide how they want to enjoy them. While you do get some heat on the tongue, this one isn’t overwhelming, but has just a high enough proof to make the finish go on and on.

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel “#19-345” (Rickhouse CN F, Floor 6) K&L Exclusive Kentucky Straight Bourbon (750ml) ($64.99)

This barrel is the outlier among this year’s selection of Russell’s Reserve. Unlike the other two, which were both distilled in December of 2009 and aged in Camp Nelson Warehouse A, this cask was distilled on November 13th of 2009 and spent nine years on the 6th floor of Warehouse F on the Camp Nelson campus. Like cask 439, this one was was bottled on June 29th of 2019. For whatever reason, it shows more of the earthy aromatics than the other casks. Still it remains very balanced, but is neither as sweet as 439 nor a spicy as 1108. Instead, the aromatic profile is very roasty, showing the Turkey’s dark meat a bit here. Expect strong aromas of roasted vanilla and coffee bean, forest floor, sweet charred oak, leather and dried herbs. The palate is long and sweetens up enough to keep it from feeling harsh or austere. Some might argue that this is the best cask of the three, but it is simply a different side of Turkey that we happen to absolutely adore. We don’t see that many casks that show this profile and when we do we snatch them up immediately.

David Othenin-Girard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 07, 2019

This gorgeous barrel, aged for slightly longer than the other two, is what I like to call the dark meat. This is that earthy, herbal Turkey that lacks the overt spicy heat of its siblings, but makes up for it in complexity and aromatic depth. The nose of roasted coffee, candied citrus, birch and old leather. On the palate a black tea, more roasting herbs, sweet wild honey and dried plums. Weirdly the easiest of the three to consume despite the slightly more restrained flavor profile. Really damn good hooch here.

Will Blakely | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 17, 2019

This expression proved the most difficult for me to classify, and that might make it the most interesting. Savory and unique, an indelible herbal note sets the tone. A persistent nose of yeast, like fine lees in wine, keeps my face glued to the edge of my glass as I try to discern the secret blend of herbs and spices that causes my mouth to water like this. Banana and its leaves, subtle paraffin, and Brazil nut pair seamlessly with sweet cereal and gentle chamomile. It’s mind-boggling, but an exciting and intriguing challenge. Is that teak wood I smell? Walnut? Just when I think I’ve settled on something, it’s gone, replaced by something equally enticing. I implore you to solve these mysteries for yourself.

Shelby Griffiths | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 17, 2019

I felt like each time I revisted this barrel it kept revealing something new, a deeper layer to me. At first on the nose I found notes of mocha & milk chocolate, that then evolved into a more herbaceous eucalyptus & tea tree character, all while having a subtle note of nuttiness, like Brazil nuts, lingering in the background. The palate was focused and attention grabbing with a sweet peppermint quality that enhanced this already complex experience. Definitely a whisky I would like have at home to have more time with, and share with friends.

Jackson Lee | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 17, 2019

Another wonderful offering from WT. Similar yet different from the other private Russell’s barrels 19-345 hits with purple plums, chocolate covered raisins, vanilla, and sarsaparilla on the nose. The palate starts off a sweet demerara sugar note, with a velvety texture and moves into cherry punch, plums, and purple NERDS candy. The finish presented more of a maraschino cherry note mixed with sweet herbs and lingered for quite a while. Solid bourbon for the price!

Stefanie Juelsgaard | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 13, 2019

Creamy vanilla, sponge cake, and candied fruit shine on the nose here. This is rich and luscious, but not heavy, as it has higher tones and brighter notes to it. This would make the ultimate pre-dinner bourbon either alone or mixed with its punchy and fresh flavors.

Jeffrey Jones | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 12, 2019

Another interesting and delicious selection. I tasted this single barrel bourbon with and without water. Without water the nose has caramel notes that lead to an expressive, round, juicy, and concentrated sprite. There are beautiful spice notes that help round out this bourbon. With a drop or two of water, the nose is deep, complex, and interesting. In the mouth, barrel #345 is still concentrated, and the honey and caramel sweetness are expressed more fully. The spice notes are still there, but are a little more subtle.

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