Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Campari Group
Distillery: Wild Turkey
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: 10 Years
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
Color: Light Amber
Price: $38 (2020)
Russell’s Reserve 10 Year is part of Wild Turkey’s Russell’s Reserve line named in honor of Jimmy and Eddie Russell, the father-son master distiller team that have a combined tenure at Wild Turkey in excess of 100 years. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year is a small batch bourbon that’s comprised of hand-selected barrels that have been aged for at least 10 years, but possibly more. Like all of Wild Turkey’s bourbons, it’s made from their single bourbon mashbill.
Strong aromas of vanilla and caramel come forward, with whiffs of aged oak, graham cracker, and leather following. It’s a strikingly quintessential bourbon aroma, and given its lower 90 proofpoint, surprisingly robust. Very pleasant overall offering little to take issue with.
Again quintessential bourbon flavors take the lead, with caramel and vanilla notes resting against tobacco and seasoned oak. A slight rye spice also weaves in, but allows the other flavors to show more prominently. The bourbon has a nice mouthfeel, albeit slightly thin. No different than the nose, there is nothing at all off-putting, and the flavors present themselves in a very straightforward and matter-of-fact way.
Rye spice reaches its crescendo in the finish, leading the charge as the flavors climax in full force. The spice quickly fades, revealing vestiges of toasted marshmallows, leather, tobacco, and again, fairly prominent caramel and vanilla notes. It turns slightly dry as it fades away, but leaves a warming feeling in your chest.
As double-digit age statements on everyday-available brands seemed to fade away in recent years, Russell’s Reserve 10 Year now stands among only a few that proudly fit this bill. While it might not be considered readily-available in all parts of the country, Eagle Rare 10 Year is probably the best direct comparison offered by another distillery. It comes in at the same age, proof, and approximately the same MSRP. By comparison, Russell’s Reserve 10 Year offers the more quintessential flavor profile, resting on caramel, vanilla, and aged oak notes as opposed to the more fruit-forward flavor profile found in Eagle Rare. Eagle Rare 10 Year is also offered as a single barrel via store selections, and while the standard release isn't labelled as a single barrel it's effectively bottled that way using a continuous barrel-by-barrel bottling line, so sometimes you'll find gems and other times duds.
Within Wild Turkey’s regularly available bourbons, Russell’s Reserve 10 Year has the highest age but one of the lowest proofs. This distinction allows the nuances of higher aged Wild Turkey bourbon to be showcased in a more delicate way. And because it’s batched, Russell's Reserve 10 Year is presumably more consistent as compared to Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel and Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit. Because Wild Turkey’s regularly available bourbons all originate from the same mashbill, a low barrel entry proof, and fall within a relatively tight age band, variations between them are arguably more nuanced than variations among bourbons offered by some of Kentucky’s other big distilleries. With that being said, Russell’s Reserve 10 Year still finds its place within the Wild Turkey lineup offering an experience that’s different enough from the others to make it worthwhile.
I almost hate to admit it, but this was the first bottle of Russell’s Reserve 10 Year I have ever purchased. This fact surprised me, as it carries a high age statement, it’s readily-available in my area for around $35, and I generally like Wild Turkey’s products. In the past, I have been much more likely to purchase Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel or Wild Turkey 101 which are staples for any bourbon collection, followed by Rare Breed and Kentucky Spirit on occasion. Because Wild Turkey bourbons draw a relatively narrow band across proof, price, and even (arguably) flavor profile, why not pay a little less for Wild Turkey 101 or a little more for Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel? Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel can be found for around $55 in my area, and I know it to be generally in the 8-10 year old range. Additionally, it comes in at 110 proof which is a full 20 proof points higher than Russell’s Reserve 10 Year making it a more full-flavored affair. On the other end, Wild Turkey 101 is robust and quite versatile at its 101 proof and for less than $25.
But there is a place for Russell’s Reserve 10 Year, and it’s probably better compared to Eagle Rare 10 Year when it comes to value. Coming in at a similar MSRP, on paper Eagle Rare 10 Year is generally revered as a tremendous value. As a result it's difficult or impossible to find in some areas, and upcharged in others. By comparison, the two bourbons taste quite a bit different, but are of similar quality. But Russell's Reserve 10 Year is quite a bit easier to find, and as a result presents not only a great value, it's lurking right in front of our eyes.
Russell's Reserve 10 Year may not be the most talked about Wild Turkey bourbon, but it offers a tremendous value for those seeking a higher-aged and lower-proof bourbon from one of the nation's best distilleries.
Wild Turkey offers less in the range of bourbons than other big Kentucky distilleries, largely because they use only one bourbon mashbill and their distillate enters the barrel well under the maximum 125 proof required by law. However, each of their products offers something unique, and Russell's Reserve 10 Year is no exception. Just as importantly, it's readily-available and typically found within range of its MSRP. While it’s not often cited as people's favorite Wild Turkey product, it's a must-have for anyone seeking a traditional higher-aged, lower-proof sipping bourbon.