Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit & Russell’s Reserve Private Barrels

Wild Turkey has been making a push over the past two years to enter the “super premium” (and super-expensive) segment by offering a series of limited edition bottlings, starting with Diamond Anniversary, then Master’s Keep, and most recently Russell’s Reserve 1998.  Brands usually cannot make the jump straight from mid-priced offerings to super-premium limited editions, so Wild Turkey laid a nice foundation over many years with Russell’s Reserve and Kentucky Spirit.
Wild Turkey made another smart decision in the past few years to start a private barrel program for Russell’s Reserve and Kentucky Spirit, which helped increase its profile and buzz.  Wild Turkey had always puzzled me a little with its market strategy of having three brands (these two plus Rare Breed) all priced within reach of each other.  That seems to cannibalize itself, when perhaps instead Kentucky Spirit or Russell’s Reserve could be reserved for limited bottling runs, and of course a higher price, giving a cleaner progression between those three labels.
The plain bottle for Russell’s Reserve seems to send the message that it is intended to be not quite as “premium” as the stunning art deco Kentucky Spirit bottle, but that’s not where I’ve landed in the past between the two.  Regardless, I like the standard bottle of both of these, and had high hopes for these private selection bottles.
Kentucky Spirit & Russell’s Reserve
Private Selection Review
Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Barrel No. 44)
Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
8 years, 10 months
50.5% (101 proof)
Russell’s Reserve – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (Barrel No. 57)
Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
9 years, 11 months
55% (110 proof)
Tasting Notes
The Russell’s Reserve is a bit darker, as should be expected due to the lack of chill filtration, one year longer in the barrel, and less water added.  Russell’s Reserve is dark amber with a tinge of reddish-brown, whereas Kentucky Spirit is more of a standard medium amber.
Russell’s Reserve had a better nose, with more caramel and oak, and far more robust.  Kentucky Spirit’s nose was overall faint, with plenty of corn, fresh grass, vanilla, and honey.  The edge goes to Russell’s Reserve because of its deeper aromas, but both were enjoyable.
Russell’s Reserve was creamy with a nice blast of caramel and flavors of oak, leather, tobacco, and baking spice.  Kentucky Spirit was thin and less robust in comparison.  Prominent flavors were corn, some pepper spice and cinnamon, along with a little honey, vanilla, and lemon zest, but not enough oak to write home about.  Once again, between the two, the more robust Russell’s Reserve takes the edge.
The finish of Russell’s reserve was overall dry, with good balance and great warmth.  I was looking for a longer finish, but it was medium at best, and even then it had to linger to get there.  Kentucky Spirit’s finish was mostly sweet and on the shorter side, but perfectly pleasant in its own right (perhaps a finish that would be preferable for someone new to Bourbon).  For me, it was an easy call in favor of Russell’s Reserve.
Bottom Line
Before you buy private selection barrels, see if your store has samples available.  Although I could have, I didn’t try either of these ahead of time.  If I had tried them, in hindsight, I might have bought three Russell’s Reserves instead of two, and I would have passed on the private selection Kentucky Spirit, but maybe bought the standard issue instead, knowing that I couldn’t have gone wrong with Jimmy and Eddie making the picks.
The choice between Russell’s Reserve and Kentucky Spirit is easy for me; I knew that ahead of time though (hence buying two Russell’s Reserves out of the gate).  Now both Russell’s Reserves are empty, and the Kentucky Spirit is still half full.  Regardless, I’ve liked the standard Kentucky Spirit much better than this private barrel, and would expect future ratings to be higher.
Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
Kentucky Spirit Private Selection Barrel No. 44:  2.5
Russell’s Reserve Private Selection Barrel No. 57:  3.0
The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

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