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Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (California Drammin’) Review

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel (California Drammin’) Review

When bourbon groups form together and begin doing single barrel selections, there is no grail holier than obtaining a Four Roses or Russell’s Reserve pick. On paper, both picks are pretty evenly matched.  Both are aged around nine years old. Both have proofs that typically hover around the 110 proof point (all RRSiB’s are bottled at 110 proof). And both are typically from barrels plucked from a predetermined set of warehouses at the start of every year.

So when the newly formed California group “Neat Drinker’s Association” had the opportunity to pick a Russell’s Reserve barrel, they jumped on it. The barrel that they selected came from Warehouse E, which is this year’s “wildcard warehouse” due to its previous history of producing some really unique and off-profile barrels. Their sticker art was created by the incomparable Ally Easter, who integrated the obvious Wild Turkey theme with a classic 1960’s album cover by “The Mama’s and The Papa’s.” And what better name to put with a sticker like this than “California Drammin'” to make it all complete.

So with a bitchin’ sticker and a barrel selected from a warehouse that has been known to produce some really wild profiles, I knew this was a bottle I had to get. Would this get me down on my knees? Would it keep me nice and warm? I’m ready to find out on this cold and gray winter day. I sampled this neat in my Glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Fragrant cedar wood, peanut butter fudge and caramel swirl cake mix. The nose is much brighter than typical Russell’s Reserve picks I’ve tried before and the fruit scents are even more numerous than a typical Turkey pick. There are scents of soft orchard fruits like apples and cherries as well as golden raisins and toasted orange peel. Of course vanilla bean is present as usual and it wraps everything up quite well.

Palate: Out of all of the flavors that are hitting me, I find that orange marmalade sticks out the most. It’s literally smothering everything. The spicy pep of cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns keep dancing around on my tongue with every sip while ancho chili powder, tobacco and old leather add delicious depth. That doesn’t mean that each sip is devoid of sweetness. I get thick molasses flavors in lieu of the more typical caramel notes I typically find in Wild Turkey.

Finish: Remember how I said the nose was one of the brighter Turkey profiles I’ve experienced? Well the finish is just the opposite. Oak and tobacco double up to create a sensation that you’re tasting a bourbon that’s more like 15 years old rather than 9. And even though I’ve been tasting fruit all along, the finish turns decidedly more “high-rye” like with notes of mint and fresh herbs. It’s incredibly unique and makes me feel like I’ve been drinking two different bourbons this whole time.

Score: 8.2/10

True to form, Warehouse E delivered a wacky ride of flavors. Showcasing some great “bright” notes (which are hard to explain, but you’ll know it if you sip it) and ending as a tannin-lover’s dream, this bottle has it all. It’s definitely one to take to your next Wild Turkey bottle share because it’s so unique and unexpected.

Final Thoughts

When I was new to bourbon, I passed on most Russell’s Reserve picks because I felt there wasn’t as much variation as the 10 different recipes that Four Roses offered. But after getting to know some of the unique characteristics of the Wild Turkey Warehouses more and more, I no longer hold that opinion. Wild Turkey may offer the same base notes, but there can be a remarkable range of flavors throughout. As with most single barrels, trying before buying may be the key to your satisfaction as each one can be different. California Drammin’, however, is one such bottle that’s as excellent as it is unique and will be sorely missed when it’s gone.

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Ratings Breakdown

1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)

2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it

3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)

4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)

5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)

6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)

7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)

8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)

9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)

10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)

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