Proof: 110 (55%)
Appearance: Burnt orange with a nice robe and thick, slow legs.
Nose: Oak, caramel, alcohol, cayenne, plum. Classic turkey profile, but a hint of fruit.
On the palate: Sweetness, then big burn. With water the burn dies down and an unexpected fruity note comes forward. Wine grape jelly, a bit of oak and caramel.
Finish: Sweet but fiery like cinnamon disks. Fades to a pleasant, slightly fruity sweetness. With water the fruit is firmly in charge in the finish. A light jammy flavor lingers and slowly fades.
Parting words: For a Wild Turkey, this is a odd duck. I have never had a bourbon that was this fruity, ever. I have heard people mention a note of grapes in some Wild Turkey products before, but all I had ever gotten was typical caramel sweetness and WT’s characteristic char and oak notes. It’s pleasant, but not very well integrated into the rest of what’s going on here.
Those who thought the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel would be the second coming of Russell’s Reserve 101 proof will be disappointed. It’s not that, but it is good. I’m not sure if it’s good enough to justify the price (close to $50), especially with another perfectly good barrel proof bourbon (Rare Breed) around $10 less already in the Turkey coop. With all that in mind Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is mildly recommended.
A brief postscript about the label: In an era in which superfluous words have overrun whiskey labels like ants on an unattended slice of cherry pie, the label on this new expression stands out as one of the most absurd recent examples of the phenomenon. The label calls it a “Small Batch Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”. A single barrel is the smallest possible batch of barrels so the label isn’t wrong per se, but it is comically redundant and raises serious questions about the minds behind Sky/Campari’s marketing and management of Wild Turkey. My advice to Campari (not that anyone there asked for it) is to remove the “small batch” and save a few pennies on ink while making the label appear less stupid.