By Father John Rayls
I am a big fan of Wild Turkey as an icon of true Americana. Of course, the name Jimmy Russell is intimately connected with this distilling concern. I had the privilege of meeting Jimmy last year as I toured the Wild Turkey Distillery. I found him to be kind, gentle and imminently approachable – a true Kentucky gentleman. He is also very knowledgeable in all things whiskey. I am specifically a big fan of Wild Turkey 101 as one of the best bourbons, for the money, currently available. As a result of all of this, I allowed my expectations for the Russell’s Reserve Rye (Small Batch) to get out of hand. My first exposure was a serious let down and I moved the bottle to the back of my shelf. However, I decided to revisit this Rye when I had more time and to approach it as I do a good Irish Whiskey. This demands a slower process because it is a more subtle experience. You can only imagine my surprise when I actually enjoyed this 6 year old tasting experience.
Russell’s Reserve Rye (Small Batch) is a 6 year old bottled at 90 Proof. It is not a punch you in the face tasting. Instead, it lulls you into a sleepy approach and then reveals some surprises when you least expect it. The appearance is a light orange/brown color with very thin legs. The bottle is very attractive with Jimmy’s name in raised letters (as a signature) built into the bottle. The nose might lead you to believe you were drinking a bourbon instead of a six year old rye. It’s filled with a gentle caramel aroma with some leather over light oak. I was disappointed to find little spice in the nose. It’s there, but way in the background.
The taste experience begins as a smooth mouthfeel. It’s light, but still smooth. Caramel and vanilla make an appearance, but not an overwhelming one. The action is mostly in the mid-mouth area. It’s sweet, subtle and pleasant. It really drinks as a bourbon until the finish makes a strong and surprising appearance. The finish is long and takes place mid-mouth as well. However, the pepperery experience also activates the rear sides of the tongue and shows up at the back of the mouth for a very nice closing. It lingers in a very nice way and your tasting shouldn’t be hurried or you’ll miss the best parts.
Russell’s Reserve Rye (Small Batch) 6 Year Old is economically priced and can be found for under $40.00. This is an easy drinking rye that most whiskey drinkers can afford. It’s worth a trip to your local supplier. It’s also a good rye whiskey for non rye drinkers to try out. It’s an interesting tasting full of surprises. Just don’t judge too quickly.