I’ll get back to writing about fiction eventually, but I’m still in the Christmas afterglow and I just had another shot of this very nice bourbon my wife bought me for Christmas.
Russell’s Reserve, from the people who bring you Wild Turkey, is a 10-year-old premium small-batch bourbon. I haven’t tried other Wild Turkey samplings, so I don’t know how Russell’s stacks up to those. But we’ve tried a number of bourbons in our house, and Russell’s stacks up very well against those.
The first thing I noticed about this one, once I poured a shot, is that it is a tad darker than most other bourbons — likely a result of long contact with the charred oak barrel. I like that.
The second thing I noticed was the nose. This bourbon has a big, sweet, caramel and butterscotch kind of aroma. There’s a hint of fire and smoke and all that, but the butterscotchy-vanilla-caramel thing dominates. I think this one has a scent that rivals Rock Hill Farms. I like that.
The third thing that I noticed was that the flavor perfectly matches the nose. With some bourbons, you get a sharp nose and a mellow taste. Others have a faint nose, but a strong fiery flavor. With this one, the aroma and the taste match nicely. This is a mellow bourbon. When I want a lot of bite from a bourbon that smacks the inside of my head around a little bit, I’ll reach for my old favorite Knob Creek. When I want a mellow, rich, smoooooooth bourbon … Russell’s Reserve will do very nicely, indeed.
The fourth thing I noticed was the wonderful, thick feel of this bourbon on my tongue. Don’t bolt this one down; let it sit there a moment. And don’t take a teeny sip, either. My wife tried this one with me. After a small sip, she pronounced it OK. After a bigger sip, she looked at me and said, “Oh … I see what you’re talking about.” It has a thicker, fuller mouthfeel than Woodford Reserve, in my opinion. I don’t think Russell’s will displace the beloved Rock Hill in my wife’s estimation, but she liked it.
The fifth thing I noticed was that, like other good bourbons, Russell’s Reserve goes through a series of complex tastes as you drink it. The sweetness gives way to smoke and leather after a few moments. I like that a lot.
The last thing I noticed about Russell’s Reserve is probably the one thing that keeps it from knocking off Rock Hill Farms as my favorite. The aftertaste of Russell’s Reserve fades very quickly. I like a bourbon that lingers, like Rock Hill or Blanton’s — the latter being the best finishing bourbon I’ve encountered so far. If Russell’s held on the way those others do, I’d call it just about perfect.
Even with that caveat, Russell’s Reserve is a wonderful, mature, mellow, full-bodied, 10-year-old, 90-proof example of the Kentucky distiller’s art.