Russell’s Reserve 13
Whiskey producers create products that span a range of both prices and availability. Enthusiasts, like myself, tend to spend significant time and effort to taste or review everything in the portfolio of a brand (as I’ve done with Willett). These same folks are, typically, the loudest when demanding new releases. Today we review Wild Turkey’s response to the folks begging for something to combat Elijah Craig Barrel Proof with it’s regularly released offerings of barrel proof, age-stated, unfiltered bourbon with a reasonable SRP. How does Wild Turkey fare? Let’s find out…
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The video above shows the Weekly Whiskey review of this product, and if you’re checking out our YouTube channel you’ll see Russell’s Reserve 13 lands as an honorable mention in our Whiskey of the Year video as well.
I mentioned in the intro the things enthusiasts clamor for. Let’s take a second to talk about the market segment where Russell’s Reserve 13 occupies, because I think it’s important to view this release with context to the overall American whiskey market (and not the secondary market where you’ll see folks asking insane prices for bottles).
The $50 to $75 price point is a vicious market to be in. Many craft producers find themselves releasing product in this category simply because they lack the leverage/economies of scale to drive prices lower. Some producers find themselves in this range because it provides more margin–capitalizing on the consumer mindset of if it costs more then it must be good. Then there are the large producers who have the capacity and means to release products that could be argued as being underpriced for what they offer. Enter Russell’s Reserve 13.
Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Old pays tribute to the distillery’s heritage and the legacy pioneered by venerated Master Distiller Jimmy Russell while showcasing Eddie’s innovative talents and expert ability to develop supreme flavors through careful aging and a keen sense for identifying only the highest quality barrels. The result is a daring, batch-specific new statement with enticing flavors, such as notes of plum, chocolate, and toasted brown sugar, that speak to the ever-evolving mastery of the Russell family.
Going toe-to-toe with Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, but seemingly with a goal of being a step ahead, is no easy task. Heaven Hill releases three batches per year of their twelve year old, uncut, unfiltered straight bourbon whiskey. How can Wild Turkey top this? One answer is right on the label. It’s older.
Coming to the table with a lower proof than any of the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof batches, but with an additional year of age seems like a pretty solid attack vector to me. It doesn’t hurt that there’s a big thirteen on the front label, making it very obvious you’re getting an older (and presumably premium) product. The other key points are the statements of being barrel proof and non-chill filtered and SRP of $70.
At this point, the only thing left to do is make sure the bourbon inside the bottle tastes great. Let’s have a pour and see how this release stacks up.
Nose – Rich and robust. There’s a very obvious oak character that shows up right off the bat and mixes in nicely with a bit of a common Wild Turkey warehouse funkiness–which is a good thing. There is some candy-like qualities to the nose, confectioner’s sugar, caramel corn, and a strong Madagascar vanilla mixing with a slightly bitter citrus note, and packed with baking spice and even some smoke.
Taste – This rolls around sweet and savory in a great way. A hint of root beer with all the spice, the oak ties things together nicely for me as well. There is a nice layer of sweetness that really rounds this out. Hard candy caramels show up. The mouthfeel is a touch thinner than I’d have expected but there’s so much going on in the sip that it’s keeping me entertained. Mocha…and something like a dash of cherry with Dutch cocoa powder mixed in.
Finish – As the initial hit of oak gives way to the multiple layers of sweetness that contains candy, caramel, and fruit this pour really starts to dance. More savory and bitter notes come through for me in the form of cocoa and dark chocolate with a dash of smoke, and then it really kicks with a spice on the end that’s something like black pepper.
Bourbon Finder Grade: A-
This is a dense and flavorful release, wow! I think this is Turkey dialed up to near it’s maximum. The mouthfeel here is the only thing that held it back from scoring a tad higher for me, but I am (in no way) disappointed by Russell’s Reserve 13.
Does this stack up nicely against Elijah Craig Barrel Proof? In a word: yes. That’s a simple answer to a complicated question, so you’ll need to explore a bit of each product on your own to see which suits you best, but I can confidently say that I’d be happy with a pour of either.
In the interest of comparing limited editions, Jay and I did a side by side with Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Decades. You can check that video out below. Thanks for reading along!
Our grading system: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is, so our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible–as such–we decided that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us (and didn’t accurately showcase variability in taste from day to day). We use a simple grade school system to apply a grade to the whiskeys we review because we feel it is indicative of the whiskey’s grade for us on that particular day. A grade of a “B” today may very well be a “B+” or even a “B-” on another day, so rather than focusing on a precise score today that may not stand the test of time, we are just sharing our overall grade of that pour for that one tasting. Pour a bit and enjoy, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!