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Picking a Barrel of Russell’s Reserve

I’ve seen “barrel pick’s” on shelves, and even had friends participate in them before, but this was my first – and it was, indeed, a “barrel of fun!”

A couple of friends and I joined Barrel’s and Brews for a private barrel pick of Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve. We drove from Nashville to Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, KY and spent a little over 2 hours with the Master Distiller, Eddie Russell – a third generation Russell to work at Wild Turkey, and along with his father Jimmy Russell, a member of the illustrious Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame – and his son, Bruce Russell who is the national brand ambassador for Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve.

We were also joined by Mr. Dan Blair, who has one of the most seasoned and refined bourbon palates in the country.

Warehouse A was dark inside with only a few electric lights and the light from a few windows which allowed us to see the barrels that Eddie had chosen for us sample. As he told us about each barrel, he used a mallet to strike the bung and after a few hard whacks it popped right out. He then used a copper whiskey thief to “thief” the bourbon inside the barrel and poured a sample of that beautiful golden liquid into each of our Glencairn glasses. Being new to this process, I listened as the aficionado’s in our group sniffed, swirled, tasted and voiced their opinions of each barrel.

No two barrels of bourbon are alike. They can share the same mash bill (the recipe), can be aged the same amount of time, can be sitting right next to each other in the same “rick house,” but the taste can be very different, due in large part to the barrel itself.

I love a taste of bourbon, and while I was new to understanding the nuances we were looking for, I could definitely tell a difference from barrel to barrel. After having sampled some 12 barrels at “barrel proof” (yep, I was toast!), we made our selection, and all signed our names to the barrel head. The barrel we chose is now getting bottled and labeled, and I can’t wait for our bottles and relive the experience as I share my very first barrel pick with friends!

It was all so wonderful! The history, the smells and tastes, the folks in our group and the conversations… I wish I could more accurately describe it all, but suffice it to say, it was an amazing, “total sensory” experience!

If you would like to tour Kentucky’s “Bourbon Country,” let me know. I would be honored to plan a trip for you and your friends. It is really is a unique experience.

I also host a Bourbon & Ice Cream Paring event, and you can find out more about that here:

Eddie Russell, Master Distiller

Special thanks to Justin Wilson and James Davenport (@BarrelsAndBrews), Michael Reddish (@SoggyBourbonBoys), Dan Blair (@BeardedDram), Sam Stephenson (@SamuelJStephenson), Dads Drinking Bourbon (@DadsDrinkingBourbon), Wild Turkey (@WildTurkey), Bruce Russell (RussellsRyeGuy), and especially Master Distiller, Eddie Russell (@34YearsMaster).


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