Brought to market in 2001, Russell’s Reserve was created in 1998 by father-son duo and whiskey powerhouses Jimmy and Eddie Russell. With over a century of combined experience in the whiskey industry, the two men have created dozens of recognizable and beloved whiskeys in their careers, a number of which have fallen under the Russell’s Reserve umbrella.
Since launching its flagship Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon in the early aughts, the brand has gone on to produce a number of other notable bourbons and rye whiskeys. Now that you know the basics, here are eight more things you should know about Russell’s Reserve
Russell’s Reserve is part of a lineup of whiskeys produced by Wild Turkey…
Russell’s Reserve is, in fact, a part of the Wild Turkey lineup. Jimmy, who has been the master distiller of Wild Turkey for upwards of 60 years, is often referred to as “the master distiller’s master distiller” or “the Buddha of bourbon.” He then taught his son Eddie everything he knew about the trade when Eddie joined the team at Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, Ky., in 1981. As the longest-tenured master distiller still active in the global spirits industry, he has received a Lifetime Honorary Membership to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association’s Board of Directors, one of only five people to receive the honor.
…which is now owned by the Campari Group.
In 2009, Wild Turkey — and thus Russell’s Reserve — was acquired by the Campari Group, one of the largest companies in global spirits. Since the acquisition, Campari has invested over $300 million into expanding Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve’s production capacity. In March 2023, the company announced that it is investing $161 million into Wild Turkey to construct an additional distillery and create more full-time jobs. The distillery — which is slated to be fully operational by August 2025 — will increase production levels to 14 million proof gallons annually, which is a 5-million-proof-gallon increase from its current production. Ugo Fiorenzo, Campari America and Canada’s managing director, says that the expansion will “allow for the continued growth of the Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve franchise, both in the United States and internationally.”
Jimmy and Eddie Russell are one of the only father-son master distiller teams in the industry.
When Eddie Russell joined the team at Wild Turkey in 1981, he marked the third generation of Russells to work at the Lawrenceburg distillery. Originally working as a relief operator, Eddie worked his way through the ranks to become supervisor of new production, then warehouse supervisor, and then manager of barrel maturation and warehousing. In 2010, Eddie joined his father in being inducted to the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2010, and five years later, they became one of the only father-and-son master distiller teams in the world when Eddie was named master distiller of Wild Turkey — not replacing his father, but working alongside him.
The first batch of the whiskey was created to celebrate Jimmy himself.
In 1998, the first batch of Russell’s Reserve was dreamed up by Eddie Russell to celebrate his father’s 45th year serving Wild Turkey. Intended to celebrate his achievements and then-approaching retirement, the batch was distilled that same year. But rather than releasing the whiskey when Jimmy retired — which he obviously has yet to do — the 23 barrels of whiskey were allowed to rest for 15 years before Russell’s Reserve 1998 hit shelves in 2014. The release marked the most limited run of whiskeys ever produced by the brand with just 2,070 bottles entered into circulation. Rather than releasing Russell’s Reserve 1998 as the flagship bourbon under the label, Jimmy and Eddie chose to produce Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon as the first release to markets.
The original bottlings of Russell’s Reserve were higher proof than they are today.
When Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon was first released to the public in 2001, it was bottled at 101 proof — which is no surprise coming from Wild Turkey, whose flagship whiskey was famously bottled at 101 proof. In 2005, Russell’s Reserve rebranded, changing the proof of its 10-year-old bourbon from 101 to 90 in addition to swapping out the original tan and black label with the red label known to consumers today. The decreased proof was likely due to a number of aging barrels losing their proof too quickly during the maturation process, impacting the flavor profile of resulting spirits. The lowered proof allows for the bourbon to retain more of its luscious character, as less water is necessary to bring the liquid down to bottling proof.
Jimmy and Eddie Russell were the brains behind several beloved whiskeys.
With over 100 years of combined experience, it’s no surprise that both Jimmy and Eddie have a number of impressive labels to call their own. During his over-60-year tenure at Wild Turkey, Jimmy has been responsible for whiskeys such as Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Wild Turkey Tradition, Wild Turkey American Spirit, and many more. Following in his father’s footsteps, in addition to creating Russell’s Reserve, Eddie was also the brain behind Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary, which he created to celebrate his father’s 60 years in whiskey, Wild Turkey Signature Line — including Wild Turkey 81 — and even Longbrach bourbon, which he co-created with Matthew McConaughey.
There are six expressions of Russell’s Reserve available today.
In addition to Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old, the whiskey brand has five additional labels available for purchase today — two of which are limited-edition releases. Available year-round from the brand is Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon, and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye. As for limited-edition releases, the whiskeys currently available include Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Old Bourbon and Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse. The whiskey label uses two mash bills — one for bourbon and one for rye — both of which are exclusively known by Jimmy and Eddie Russell.
The brand’s Single Rickhouse collection celebrates the nuances of aging whiskeys.
In August 2022, Russell’s Reserve launched the Single Rickhouse collection, which will explore the subtle differences in spirits aged in various resting places. As the name suggests, each whiskey that has been and will be released in the collection has been aged in one single rickhouse, with the denotation of each noted on the bottle. According to the brand, the collection is intended to explore “the often unsung contributions specific resting places have on a whiskey’s final character [and] celebrat[e] varied nuances of whiskey aging across these different environments.” The only whiskey in the collection to date is Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse from Camp Nelson C, bottled without chill filtration at 112.4 proof from just 72 barrels, all aged within the seven-story rickhouse on floors three and four. Further adding to the whiskey’s appeal is the fact that Camp Nelson C is now closed, meaning this whiskey will never be able to be recreated. The limited-edition bottling carries notes of coconut, toffee, vanilla, dried fruit, chocolate, and baking spices.