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Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon Review

Distiller: Wild Turkey. ABV 55%, No age statement (estimated 8-9 years). Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley. Price: $35-50.

The Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon rounded out the night (bottle 9 out of 10) at our inaugural Axis of WhiskyFest in Chicago. Being a big Wild Turkey fan, I was glad the Russell’s was represented–seeing as it’s some of the best of what WT makes.

The Russell’s Reserve focuses on small batch releases like the excellent 10-year-old, and single barrels like these. Naturally there’s variation barrel to barrel, but you can count on them all for a quality pour.

This particular batch was extraordinarily close to the excellent Henry McKenna 10 from Heaven Hill. (Not such a surprise, perhaps, as the two share an identical mashbill.) Dark, leathery, and sweet, with burnt sugar and vanilla on the nose. The palate adds dark molasses–then the rye turns up as a spike of mint. The finish has dark oak and spice. It’s a pour that takes water well, given the relatively high bottling proof–a few drops will bring out more spice.

If you’re in the mood for a dense, dark, leathery bourbon from Wild Turkey, the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel won’t let you down.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Russell’s Reserve Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

Highland Park Harald Review

Distiller: Highland Park. ABV 40%. No age statement. Region: Islands. Price: $90-100.

Highland Park’s a first-rate distiller, Scotland’s northernmost, and one of just two distilleries on the Orkney Islands. Their 12-year-old is an excellent introduction to single malt for the uninitiated, and 18-year-old is the nectar of the gods.

Then there’s the Harald. This Duty Free-only release from their Warrior Series struck me as thin, raw, underpowered, and muddled. There are hints of familiar Highland Park flavors–baked apple, baking spice, and light peat–but they’re barely detectable at such a low ABV (40%). Which, at this price point, I find a bit baffling.

It’s the mixed blessing of the no-age-statement trend. You get home runs like the Aberlour A’Bunadh, then dribblers that go foul of the third base line.

When it comes to HIghland Park, at least, I’ll be sticking to the standard age-statement releases. – BO

Buy Highland Park whisky online at Mash + Grape