I still feel that blind tasting is the best way to evaluate a whiskey, though my convictions are softening on that stance. I’m open to the premise that the situation and the company are variables that contribute in no small part to the overall experience, and influence our memories of a great whiskey. That being said, a terrible whiskey is a terrible whiskey, and its vilification will be further amplified when evaluated among others.
Nonetheless, I received a blind sample from Pops a little while ago and proceeded to review it blind. My notes were less than glowing and included the sentence, “I’d never drink this again.” Little did I know that sample was Russell’s Reserve 2002. Once Pops saw my notes, he knew something had to be wrong because he had a very similar experience. Campari confirmed that some samples had been tainted and generously sent replacement samples to both of us. In addition, my friend also poured me a sample from his bottle, which aligns wonderfully with the Campari replacement.
As you read the following review, I’d like to consider how many samples you have received that may have been altered from the original bottle. How many times have you determined you didn’t like something based on one sample? How have these isolated and unfortunate mishaps shaped the course of your Bourbon journey?
The following are my notes of the unblemished Russell’s Reserve 2002.
“When I tasted 2002 for the first time, I knew I couldn’t mess with it. It was exactly what I had envisioned, and I wanted Bourbon connoisseurs and collectors to experience the liquid in all its glory…”Eddie RussellClick to explore our complete library of reviews to help you choose your next perfect bottle.
Russell’s Reserve 2002 Bourbon
- DISTILLER: Wild Turkey
- MASH BILL: 75% Corn | 13% Rye | 12% Malted Barley
- AGE: 15 Years
- YEAR: 2018
- PROOF: 114.6 (57.3% ABV) – Barrel Proof
- MSRP: $249.99
NOSE: Floral | Fruit | Oak | Absolutely wonderful and improves over time
TASTE: Harmony of Sweet & Spice | Oak dryness creeps in at the end | Amazingly, even a touch of that dusty Wild Turkey funk | The mouthfeel is oily and really nice
FINISH: Builds and then rests with the dryness of the oak but without an unwelcome tannic bitterness.
SHARE WITH: The Wild Turkey fans among your friends will love this. It’s unmistakably Russell’s Reserve taken to a place they won’t visit very often. It’s a $250 retail bottle that is still trading for double that at the time of this review, so who you choose to share it with will depend on how special the person and/or the occasion.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: If you have the opportunity to buy a bottle at retail and don’t mind spending $250 for something outstanding, then it’s an easy bottle purchase decision. However, if that’s not in your budget, or if you’re the type of person who likes to compare expensive limited-edition releases against those incredible private picks for ¼ the cost, you’d probably be better served trying a pour at a bar first.
OVERALL: Receiving a bad sample from Campari was actually a blessing in disguise because it fundamentally altered the way I will now approach tasting from sample bottles. Obviously the demand is high and it’s not inexpensive to begin with, so acquiring your own bottle may not be easy. However, a 16-year old Russell’s Reserve is a special release and in my estimation warrants a special investment. It’s one of the more enjoyable bottles I’ve had this year.
Russell’s Reserve 2002 Background Info
WITH FIRST BARREL PROOF OFFERING, NEW CONTENDER FOR “UNICORN” STATUS ENTERS THE BOURBON LEXICON: INTRODUCING RUSSELL’S RESERVE® 2002
Master Distiller Eddie Russell Releases Highly-Anticipated Sequel to Russell’s Reserve® 1998 with Ultra-Rare, Non-Chill Filtered Bourbon
LAWRENCEBURG, KY (JUNE 26, 2018) As Bourbon collectors continue their quest for those hard-to-find whiskey “unicorns,” Russell’s Reserve® unveils a real Kentucky gem with the release of Russell’s Reserve 2002 – a beautiful vintage hand-selected by Master Distiller Eddie Russell. This marks the first non-chill filtered, barrel proof bourbon from the venerable brand. To find the liquid for the release, this Bourbon Hall of Famer spent years searching through more than half a million barrels for the perfect sequel to the coveted Russell’s Reserve 1998, which received a 94 rating from esteemed publication Whiskey Advocate. A mere 25 barrels were chosen for this endeavor to create a truly sought-after spirit that will be a welcome addition for passionate connoisseurs.
What Eddie found was an exquisite batch distilled in 2002—the year the first-ever camera phone was introduced. While the world explored the wonders of mobile content capture, Eddie laid the barrels to rest in Wild Turkey’s Camp Nelson rickhouses. They sat quietly for 15 long years, aging until they reached peak maturity.
“When I tasted 2002 for the first time, I knew I couldn’t mess with it. It was exactly what I had envisioned, and I wanted Bourbon connoisseurs and collectors to experience the liquid in all its glory,” said Master Distiller Eddie Russell. “The sweet spot for our Bourbon is normally eight-to-12 years, but every now and then you find a barrel that defies expectations.”
This is the newest in a line of outstanding innovative whiskies created by Eddie Russell. In the past several years, Eddie has released some of the oldest Bourbons to come out of Wild Turkey warehouses, a feat that speaks volumes about his skills as Master Distiller. Eddie, a 37-year industry veteran, has mastered the craft of small-batch Bourbon.
As of late, he has been hunkered down, crafting awarding-winning, innovative and ultra-rare whiskies that have spirits aficionados and bartenders around the world buzzing. This year, Eddie and his legendary, beloved father Master Distiller Jimmy Russell celebrate 101 years of combined experience at the Wild Turkey distillery – a touching homage to the Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon that launched Jimmy’s career more than 60 years ago.
Made from a mingling of whiskies aged 15 years, Russell’s Reserve 2002 is a 114.6 barrel proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It has a nose of stone fruits, pear, citrus, oak and a hint of white pepper. It features notes of grapefruit, white chocolate and gentle spice with a finish that is long and malty with notes of cream, banana and coconut. Bottles will be available in extremely limited quantities in TX, OH, CA, FL, NY, NC, Il, OR, GA, TN, WA, AZ, NV and KY for a suggested retail price of $249.99.
This limited-edition offering joins other sought-after whiskies in the Russell’s Reserve portfolio, including Russell’s Reserve 10-Year-Old Bourbon, Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon, and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye.
Disclaimer: Wild Turkey provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.