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Whiskey Review: Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Camp Nelson C Bourbon

Editor’s Note: This whisk(e)y was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Multi-story rickhouses create vastly different environments for the whiskey they age. Each barrel gets a slightly different climate as the heat climbs to the upper levels of the rickhouse. This not only makes each rickhouse unique in what materials it is made of and what kind of insulation or climate control it has, but makes it so each barrel gets a different result due to where it is in that building.

With that many variables occurring it is always fun to see something from a distillery that focuses on an aspect of this and that is what you get with Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Before I get to the whiskey, Russell’s Reserve is a brand released by Wild Turkey Distillery. It started with a small batch master distiller Eddie Russell made to honor his father and co-master distiller Jimmy Russell, who at the time had worked 45 years at Wild Turkey. That small batch became a full release three years later and has developed into a whole line of products.

Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a new line from Wild Turkey that focuses on unique releases from one rickhouse. This initial release is looking at Camp Nelson C, specifically floors three and four. Camp Nelson C was a seven story rickhouse that has been demolished, making this particular release a bit of Wild Turkey history. 

What makes these single rickhouse releases so unique? Well there is a great overview of whiskey including the aging process on gobourbon.com that really gets at the core of this. Basics come down to as the temperature increases the whiskey is absorbed by the barrel and experiences evaporation with the air, and as temperatures cool the whiskey is extracted from the barrel, bringing with it a number of elements that create the flavor. Barrels are often moved around to limit the impact of the more extreme areas in the rickhouse. The central areas tend to be seen as prime locations as they are naturally insulated by the other barrels. 

Now these kinds of one off releases have some novelty to them, and you get some insight into a new aspect of a distillery. But, there is something to be said for the flagship products like Russell’s Reserve 10 year that have had their flavor profile so dialed in that the blending process creates a consistent exceptional product.

This first entry in the Single Rickhouse line is blended from 72 barrels from that one area of the rickhouse. While not quite as hit or miss as a single barrel pick might end up, the more limitation in barrel selection that occurs the less variety there is in the blending process. So does the first release of Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse live up to the rest of the Russell’s Reserve line? 

Russell's Reserve Single Rickhouse Camp Nelson C Bourbon review

Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Camp Nelson C (image via Ian Arnold/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Camp Nelson C

Vital Stats: 56.2% ABV. Batch of 72 barrels aged in the third and fourth floors of the rickhouse at Camp Nelson C. SRP of $249.99 per 750ml bottle.

Appearance: This has a rich honey color. This really coats the glass in such a way that I hesitate to even discuss it having legs, the beads that finally formed just sat suspended for a very long time.

Nose: The smell of this is heavily toasted oak, corn, and vanilla. There are fainter notes of cinnamon, toasted coconut, and citrus.

Palate: I get a lot of spice up front, a combination of black and white pepper with a touch baking spice. This carries over to the mid palate with the addition of a heavy amount of oak. The finish has a slight caramel quality to it with a hint of toasted oak. The addition of water shifts the flavor profile around a bit. The front and mid palate become a sweet caramel with just a hint of lemon oil while the finish becomes a very dry oak with a leathery black pepper spice to it. 

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