Russell’s Reserve 13-Year: Unveiling the True Essence of Wild Turkey

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The Russell’s Reserve 13-Year is the crown jewel of the Wild Turkey collection, and its allure is undeniable. But amidst the extensive range of flavors, does every bottle offer the same remarkable experience? Let’s delve into the world of Russell’s Reserve 13-Year and uncover the essences that set each bottling apart.

Embracing a New Perspective

By now, you’re likely familiar with the three prominent Russell’s 13 bottlings: April and December 2021, and May 2022. While many enthusiasts refer to them as batches, I propose a paradigm shift. Let’s abandon the traditional batch numbering system. Instead, let’s classify Russell’s 13-Year (114.8 proof) in a manner reminiscent of Rare Breed (116.8 proof) – by emphasizing the bottling date. After all, no one describes a recent Rare Breed bottle as “batch 25” or any other number. They simply mention the month and year or use the first two letters of the date code, like “JD” for April 2021.

Consider this perspective for a moment. As the production of Russell’s Reserve 13 continues to soar, keeping track of batch numbers may become burdensome and potentially confusing. Furthermore, if there is ever a change in proof, it could lead to divided opinions on whether to continue the existing numerical sequence or start anew. However, by using the bottling date or code, all confusion is eliminated. There’s no need for lists or charts. Differences in flavor profiles can be easily referred to by the bottling date.

If you need further convincing, here’s something to ponder. Beyond word of mouth, we have little knowledge of what constitutes a Russell’s 13-Year batch. While we’re aware that the initial 2021-2022 bottlings differ in terms of age and maturation locations, there’s no assurance that it will remain consistent. In the past, I’ve witnessed Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel private selections being stored in tanks for over six months. There’s no reason the same couldn’t happen with Russell’s 13. As a result, two “batches,” months apart, could potentially be identical whiskeys.

So, there you have it – my argument against using unofficial batch numbers. While I hope the community embraces this suggestion, I remain doubtful. Enthusiast-made batch numbers have become buzzwords among influencers and flippers, stirring up FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and driving unnecessary comparisons. But let’s shift our focus to the review of a Russell’s Reserve 13-Year bottled in December 2021, or as the cool kids call it, “batch 2.” 🙂

Before we proceed, let’s emphasize that every bottle of Russell’s Reserve 13 is a treasure. If you possess one, count yourself fortunate. If you have more than one, consider yourself abundantly lucky. And if you have an ample supply, remember to share the joy. While I appreciate the nerdy side of this hobby, particularly when it comes to Wild Turkey, I find snobbiness and judgmental attitudes tiresome. It bothers me when someone shares a celebratory pour of Russell’s 13, only to be met with comments belittling their choice of batch. Let’s move on from such triviality and focus on the main show. Let’s pour ourselves a glass!

Russell’s Reserve 13-Year Bourbon (December 2021) – 114.8-proof, 13-year Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey (non-chill filtered) – distilled & bottled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, KY

Sipped neat from a Glencairn glass after allowing it to rest for a few minutes…

Color: The whiskey exhibits a dense copper hue, almost rosy in appearance.

Nose: Prepare your senses for an intense experience, with enticing notes of toasted brown sugar, vanilla bean, maple syrup, fragrant oak, blood orange, sweet clove, and a hint of tobacco.

Taste: As the liquid caresses your palate, you’ll encounter a luxurious, oily mouthfeel, accompanied by flavors of chewy salted caramel, English toffee, medicinal cherry, charred oak, savory orange peel, and subtle hints of steeped black tea.

Finish: The finish is long, warm, and oh-so-flavorful – featuring notes of molasses, oak char, dark chocolate cherry cordial, cola, cinnamon, nutmeg, smoked citrus, and a touch of antique leather.

Overall: The inaugural release of Russell’s Reserve 13-Year set the bar exceedingly high. However, in my opinion, the December 2021 bottling surpasses it! Both releases boast exceptional characteristics of well-aged bourbon, but December’s offering stands out with its robust and darker tones, along with pronounced spice notes on the finish. Through conversations with Bruce Russell, it appears that this distinction is due to a greater inclusion of whiskey aged on higher rickhouse floors, resulting in a remarkable blend of 13- and 19-year-old bourbon. This expression encompasses everything I seek in a barrel-proof Russell’s Reserve, and I am genuinely grateful to have it grace my shelf.

Rating: 4.75/5 🦃

Reveling in Satisfaction

Before concluding, I must acknowledge that my preference for the December 2021 Russell’s Reserve 13-Year may differ from the majority. Based on conversations with friends and observations from social channels, it seems to be the least favored among the three known releases to date. However, that’s perfectly fine. Besides, I have yet to sample the May 2022 Russell’s 13, which appears to be the most highly regarded of the bunch. Nevertheless, even after tasting it, I am confident that I will continue to cherish the two releases that preceded it.

As stated earlier, every bottle of Russell’s Reserve 13 is extraordinary. Let’s not get too caught up in the minutiae. Take a moment to appreciate what lies before you. Sometimes, the best value lies in appreciating things at face value. And whatever you do, do not succumb to the unofficial “inside info” hype machine. Fear of Missing Out is something we all battle with occasionally. Rest assured, the whiskey you have in your possession right now is marvelous. Don’t let unnecessary worries steal your joy.



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