Russell's Reserve 13 Year Batch 3 (LL/KE) Bourbon Review
I previously reviewed the LL/JD laser code batch 1 release as well as the LL/JL batch 2 release and they both earned my top marks as well as the 'Keep Amongst the Whiskey' distinction. When batch 3 came around I knew it would be a no brainer to at least try it since I was lucky enough to find one thanks to a great friend who sent me to a local store who had it. I will again link this great resource from rarebird101 on reading Turkey laser codes. Hopefully I can shed some light on the batch 1 vs 2 vs 3 debate by the end of this; my previous finding was that 1 was roughly equal to 2. It was so close in fact I went out and stated:
I don't find any meaningful differences between the two here, so maybe we can relax and assume any of these laser codes are delicious. It's incredible how similar the tasting notes ended up on this one when I look back at batch 1 now. I think these might be all from the same tanked batch.
Well, now that batch 3 is out I want to make sure that statement is still fundamentally roughly accurate. I have heard that batch 3 ended up being a different barrel blend makeup so the 'same tank' theory is definitely out here. Once again rarebird101 is the authority in all this and he states:
December is batch 2 and is pretty much the same as batch 1, but with some barrels from higher floors. Batch 3 has 20-year whiskey in it, but in similar ratio to batch 1 and 2.
So let's dig in and see what we get!
Company on Label: Wild Turkey
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Barley
Age: 13 years
Further identification: Russell's 13 comes with a white top label and a blue bottom label; it is NCF stated; this has the LL/KE laser code which is known as batch 3 amongst the people keeping track of such things
Nose: Up front I find stewed plums, brown sugar, walnuts and a touch of fig. It feels dense, heavy and bold. There's an great barrel influence definitely teetering into hyper-aged territory as leather and tobacco tones begin to ooze out of the glass. Bright grape tones rise up with good heft from deep inhales. Warm printer paper, hazelnut and fresh earth cover scent present softly. There's a nice vanilla aroma here but the glass falls off a bit at this point in intensity. Time for a sip.
Returning I find molasses, hints of black pepper and a touch of clove has developed in the glass. Mmm the nose has developed marvelously now that the glass is warming up and getting a little lower. I begin to find balsam fir and more leather - though now it's laced with something sweeter. An incredibly traditional / classic Wild Turkey caramel, butterscotch, and funky nuttiness begins to pervade the glass. Mmm mmm mm. Emphasis on the butterscotch. The funk returns late in the glass. There's a pleasant consistency in this two-act show that started slow but built into a real treat. The empty glass smells of gummy peach rings, smoked vanilla ice cream and leather.
Palate: Spice forward for certain on the first sip. Cherry skins, raisin, plum and tart strawberry flavors fill my mouth. There's a heft to this despite the mouth coating being a touch drying. It feels weighty in gaseous terms, but little in the way of a liquid linger. Another sip produces distinct herbaceous molasses, clove and prunes. Patience between sips is rewarding here as I find much sweeter tones beginning to flourish - strawberry vanilla smoothies come to mind. Tannic notes build near the bottom of the glass similar to the bright grape aromas of the early nose. The linger is much longer & more consistent after a few sips warm this pour up. I find peanut brittle and ciabatta bread in the slow wave that follows taking a small gulp. My last sip is enjoyable with cinnamon, tobacco and balsam fir incense.
Wow, that one started slow but really came into its own by the end. Do not write this batch off at one sip! This leans heavily on classic Wild Turkey notes that fans of the brand will know and love. I personally prefer some of the sweeter tones that tend to be more rare in these barrels, though some warehouses (like Warehouse E) produce them more consistently for me. I am glad this pour eventually reached those same heights - so I am glad to call this one another favorite of mine!
As a quick confirmation I will have a small sip of batch 1 and 2 alongside and see if I notice anything different, as I did when I reviewed batch 2.
Comparing them I find batch 1 (easily the lowest fill level / most oxidized mind you) has more orange peel and something bordering on bubblegum going on which I didn't find on batch 3. Otherwise it is very similar overall and certainly on the same quality level. Batch 2 has some light perfume-like floral tones that I didn't have on 3 but again nothing exceptionally different here either. Revisiting batch 3 for good measure shows off its own unique highlight: tobacco funk.
So if you stuck me up at gunpoint and told me to rank them I'd still give them all an honest overall equivalency. My personal preference and how my palate is working today prefers the orange peel citrus sweetness of batch 1 just a touch. They're all exceptional and that is all that matters! Some may try to rank them differently, but for me the only difference is the one main one-liners from the above paragraph. The rest of the whiskey is really built up from the same parts.
As for the barrel blending information I did dig up some info that I was not able to confirm the accuracy of so do with this as you please:
Batch 1: 135 barrels of 13 year and 35 barrels of 19 year whiskey
Batch 2: Similar blend to batch 1
Batch 3: 41 barrels of 20 year, 17 barrels of 18 year, and the rest being 15 year and 14 year barrels from warehouses CNA, CND, CNE
I'm not surprised to see CNE amongst the list of warehouses given the flavors this release has been producing...
I hope this was helpful! Cheers!