Review: Russell’s Reserve Bourbon (2008)

Review: Russell’s Reserve Bourbon (2008)

Bourbon, by law, has to be at least 51 percent distilled from corn. In the case of Russell’s Reserve Bourbon, it seems like the other 49 percent is rye.

This is a striking doppelganger to Russell’s appealing Reserve Rye, and the similarities are uncanny. And yet I found myself wishing this was a more straightforward bourbon — it lacks the sweetness that makes good bourbon so appealing, but the rye-like characteristics are too muted here to appeal to fans of the spicy stuff. It ultimately tastes more like a blended whiskey than a bourbon, which will sadly please very few drinkers who are attracted by the promise of 10 years of age.

At 90 proof, the bourbon is improved with a little water, but still it lacks uniqueness. Part of the Wild Turkey family, it shares some of its DNA with its pappy, also displaying distinct apple notes but also coming off as thin. I’ve tried it for four nights running in various proportions of whiskey and water, with consistent notes.

A major bright spot: At $23, it’s an awfully appealing buy for a 10-year-old whiskey, but I’d expect to use it primarily in mixed drinks.

90 proof.


Russell's Reserve Bourbon (2008)




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Brett on November 18, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    I just got a bottle this week and, after the first couple days of indecision, found that it has grown on me. I’ll buy more…

  2. J. on April 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

    To me, it’s just an improved version of WT101

  3. Aryeh Jacobson on August 25, 2009 at 5:40 am

    The second expression is by far the better of the two. This is a sipping whiskey and it takes a few sips to get in the fullness of the taste. It’s one to serve friends and neighbors and be sure to have a backup.

  4. Benjamin on December 11, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    This bourbon was recommended by a fellow bourbon buyer at the local liquor store. He told me that it was very smooth and that you could just pour and drink like water. Not the best for the “muller” who likes to mull over a glass, but possibly a safe bet for egg nog so that it doesn’t overpower the nog. I just got home with it and had to try it on for size. I added two ice cubes from my plastic ice cube tray and found that it is very smooth. No real tasting notes other than a very distinct wasabi aftertaste that lingers for a while. That aspect is very enjoyable.

  5. Margaret on June 29, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Recently I ran out of bourbon worth drinking.

    I mean *flat* out.

    Usually I have Bookers, Bakers, Russell’s Reserve and Buffalo Trace to hand, but the College World Series demanded too much sipping and too little replenishing, so I ran out.

    I will re-stock before the 4th, and which of all those wonderful bourbons am I craving?

    Russell’s Reserve.

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