Review: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon

Review: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon

Russell's Reserve Small Batch Single BarrelThis is one review we’ve been itching to get up for you for a long time, and finally we’ve got our mitts on this latest from Wild Turkey master distiller (and all around good guy) Jimmy Russell: Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon.

The name has had many in this biz scratching their heads: Wouldn’t a single barrel release, by definition, also be a small batch? More intriguingly, this release is the first in the Russell’s Reserve series bottled without an age statement. The original Russell’s Reserve carries a 10 Year Old age statement and a $34 price tag. At $50 a bottle, is the Single Barrel older, or is it just a selection of the best barrels of the 10 Year? Who knows? Next time I see Jimmy, though, I’m going to pry it out of him. (Also of note: Bottles are not individually numbered, so there’s no way of tracking what barrel you’re getting… if that’s important to you.)

Another major difference we should get out of the way up front is the alcohol content: 110 proof vs. 90 proof for Russell’s 10 Year. It’s also incredibly dark in the glass, one of the darker Bourbons on the market today. Pouring a glass releases tons of wood character into the room. I thought I was in store for a barrel bomb when I tucked into it, but that’s not the case. The nose straight from the glass once things settle down offers some wood but also coal, cinnamon/baking spice, and just a hint of vanilla.

On the body, it’s a bit hot but easily manageable without water, then sweet. There’s more of a burnt sugar/dark caramel than the typical vanilla profile of younger Bourbons, with a distinct charcoal note (courtesy of the dense alligator char on Russell’s barrels) that leads to an unusual touch of licorice on the finish. Somewhat minty, but more of a dried mint than fresh. Inviting and restrained, this is sipping Bourbon that welcomes conversation, a dense and chewy whiskey with a clearly impressive pedigree. Way to go, Jimmy!


Russell's Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon




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. josh on April 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Yeah, very confusing. I don’t think a single barrel can be a small batch. A small batch indicates a small number of barrels being mixed into a batch, which disqualifies it for “single barrel” status.
    Do they do both? Are some barrels Ok’d for bottling while others are set aside to be blended to acquire the desired flavor profile?

  2. Christopher Null on April 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    josh – my hunch is that since Russell’s Reserve is technically called “Russell’s Reserve Small Batch” they are actually just appending the “Single Barrel” onto that, to keep the branding consistent. I don’t know about the barrel selection process, but I hope/assume that “single barrel” means single barrel.

  3. josh on April 4, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I hope so too Chris, and that makes more sense. This release, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and the Jefferson’s 21 year, I love April! Who needs a spring release of Pappy?

  4. Gerald Herrin on December 26, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    I like this bourbon, any time, any place.

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