Last week I was musing on "small batch" bourbons and poking some fun at the undefined nature of the term and complaining about how some of the products didn't live up to their single barrel brethren. Jordan Devereaux suggested I try Russell's Reserve small batch bourbon. Like magic, a bottle of it arrived shortly afterwards in a bag from Danielle of Exposure - in a case of cosmic synchronicity. The bag also bore news about the Russell's Reserve single barrel which is all over the blogosphere - and apparently already in stores in Kentucky according to journalist, photographer, author and whisky blogger Fred Minnik. First the tasting; then the analysis:
Russell's Reserve 10 Small Batch Bourbon 45%
Color: light amber with a coppery orange tint.
Nose: soft and inviting with floral citrus (orange, lemon, and lime), varnish and acetone, and a good dose of the rich musky loam aroma that is a common thread through the Wild Turkey lineage - perhaps a legacy of the yeast, warehouses or the very air and earth of that region of Kentucky. It's a nice bourbon nose, but not particularly distinctive or outstanding. It's not deficient in any way either.
The palate entry is sweet with corn sugars and pointed with a cinnamon red hots flavor note and palate heat. The cinnamon red hots wax into spicy oak with saw house dust and sandalwood hints. At the turn this oaky note shows it's bitter side and the finish is long and gentle with oak and char bitter melding with lingering cinnamon scented corn sweet. If sounds pretty good to you, you're on the same page with me. This is very nice bourbon. The sweet, musk, and bitter meld through the palate progression like a rich fierce beer. My criticism is the flavor density. This is soft and comfortable sipping. That's also a substantial strength. This could be an every day bourbon. It has enough richness and complexity to hold you, while being gentle enough and cheap enough to be a daily dram.
*** (almost four stars - I struggled with this one for a moment - but the struggle led me to the more conservative score).
Given that Russell's Reserve bourbon generally goes for around $30 this is a fine value. In light of my previous small batch tasting I'd rank this ahead of Four Roses Small Batch. Like Four Roses Small Batch, it's softer, less flavor dense, and less complex than the single barrel offering. In this case the single barrel Wild Turkey I'm comparing it with is WT Kentucky Spirit 101. Russell's Reserve Small Batch gets the nod for its red hots flavors - perhaps a sign of that 10 year ageing? The elephant in the room here is Russell's Reserve Single Barrel with its barrel strength 110 proof. If the RR Single Barrel stuff is the same mature flavor profile as the RR Small Batch, this could be really fine. In the mean time, RR Small Batch is darned fine sipping bourbon with a laid back relaxed style but some of the nice flavors of the good stuff at a very attractive price.