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Russell's Reserve 15 Year Bourbon Review: A Step Into the Realm of Ultra-Aged, Expensive Whiskey from the Modern Wild Turkey Distilling Company

Updated: 4 days ago


Russell's Reserve 15 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon - 2024 Release

Luxury is the wolf at the door and its fangs are the vanities and conceits germinated by success.
When an artist learns this, he knows where the danger is.
-Tennessee Williams

Russell's 15 year bourbon

With the wild successes of the Russell's Reserve 13 year releases flying off the shelves in an instant at an MSRP of $100, it's no wonder Wild Turkey (and/or their parent ownership) would continue to try to chase that dragon. With each and every batch of that 13 year earning my top score (5/5), did they set out to try to improve on perfection, I wonder?


Every distillery has some aspirations for their sales and profits to be up and to the right. At the end of the day, I get it; we all need to make a living. But in another case of trend-following, likely being ordered from the armchair of an executive at Campari, we see Wild Turkey—a distillery known for being quite satisfied with the quality of their whiskey at the 8-12 year range historically—chasing the age statement game. Many well-known, high-class, ultra-rare whiskeys employ this age statement; a voluntary act distillers are not required to do after the minimum criteria to be considered a straight bourbon have been met. With that extra 2 years of aging came a new price tag, though, this time hitting the shelf at $250. I have no doubt it will face little to no resistance on its path between retailer and consumer at this tag, but one might take a moment to reflect on the concept of worth at a time like this.


That's where the value of an honest review comes in.


RR15

Here at Amongst the Whiskey, we don't rate based on price tags, only the standardized evaluation of the whiskey within. You can count on us to be your most trusted and thorough source for all the best whiskey write-ups, with well-calibrated palates and patient, thoughtful explorations being paramount. This kind of source is far more reliable than what you may have heard from Colonel Tater in your local Facebook group. So with that, I won't bore you with the regaling of the entire history of Wild Turkey, though I do intend to write that up, too. For now, settle in for a review of the latest whiskey vying for your attention and the FOMO reaction of whiskey enthusiasts everywhere: Russell's Reserve 15 year bourbon.


 

Company on Label: Wild Turkey

Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Mash Bill Percentages: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Barley

Proof: 117.2°

Age: 15 years

Further identification: Russell's Reserve 15 year is a limited release Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey distilled by the Wild Turkey Distilling Company in Lawrenceburg, KY; this bottle hit the market in June 2024 at an MSRP of $250


 

Nose: Upon first lifting the glass to my nose, a huge wave of baked bread hits my nostrils with a distinct intensity, much like coming out of a dark movie theater to ultra-bright sunlight. Braving my nose hairs again I find rich layers of leather, dry cacao powder, wicker cane chair, and plain graham cracker. It's your typical oak-bomb at this age, without any sign of tannic characteristics. Granulated sugar, black pepper, and dry vanilla bean can be pulled from the warm glass as the nose goes slightly blind from the evident proof. After some time, classic bourbon notes of gooey caramel and molasses fill the nostrils on long inhales. It's fairly basic overall with those conventional aromas that normally come about with extended barrel aging taking center stage. Think old, dusty oak, leather, black pepper, and decaying linen—a characteristic I attribute to the degradation of lignin in white American oak. On really deep inhales, a kiss of of vinegar can be found. It's about time for a taste before continuing on with the exploration.


Creaminess prevails after a sip, with the vanilla characteristics transforming into a smooth layer of frosting. Rattan webbing and leather are still present and quite distinct. Wonderful creaminess sticks around long in the simple-to-digest glass. If you're looking for infinite layers of complexity, this isn't the nose for you. It pushes me along quickly back into subsequent sips. The now empty glass smells of petrichor, vanilla toffee, and a soft, sandy breeze, sans any salt.


Palate: Holy moly, that is NOTHING like the nose let on. Bodacious cherry flavors lead the charge with fresh raspberry, juicy strawberry, whipped cream, and sweet cranberry sauce in tow. The mouthfeel is instantly coating, spreading, and dancing without any trace of the heat the nose was producing. Another sip produces an equally intense nuclear explosion of flavor. It continues to lean heavily on those aforementioned red berries, but layers in nuances of buttercream frosting and just a hint of lemon, mint, and green tea in the linger. My last sip is bold in its oak prevalence, dancing on the tongue in just the right way to be impeccably drinkable and not in the least bit tannic, which is something I appreciate deeply in a whiskey. The finish is long—really long—longer than the closing credits of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King long. It carries cherry Garcia and milk chocolate late into the 9th inning.


TL;DR: A dark, brooding, reticent nose that disguises a wonderfully bright and fruity palate


 

Rating: 4.5/5



When compared to the Russell's Reserve 13 year bourbon batch 2, I find the 13 year to be vibrant, shimmering, ephemeral, complex, and utterly beautiful. The 15 year fails to live up to this same standard with just a little margin between them, according to my thorough exploration on several occasions. I confirmed this thought with a blind tasting as well. Both were enjoyable, but the 13 year made me smile ear to ear. While still a great pour, the 15 year is too soft and comparatively one-directional to measure up to what I consider greatness. I do know that historically, Russell's Reserve bottlings do tend to get better with time and oxygen, and as I am only on my 3rd pour of the 15 year release, I do hope it can incrementally improve to pinnacle whiskey status from where I have evaluated it today. I am completely confident that this is a distillery that is capable of greatness.


Russell's 15 year bourbon review

 
Nick Anderson - Whiskey Writer and Owner of AmongstTheWhiskey.com

WRITTEN BY: NICK ANDERSON

With nearly a decade of sipping experience, Nick Anderson brings a well-calibrated palate to his profound passion for the whiskey industry. Beginning in Irish whiskey before expanding into bourbon, rye, and beyond, he has long been taking the ephemeral observation of unspoken enjoyment and translating it into meaningful words. He is the owner and primary long-winded whiskey writer for AmongstTheWhiskey.com, and he hopes you find resonance in the patient conveyance of an honest whiskey review.
 

1 comment

1 Comment


Great review! “The finish is long—really long—longer than the closing credits of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King long” just an amazing description lol. Had my mouth watering for a pour of this. Hope to make that happen soon! Cheers

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