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Friday, 5 April 2013

Family Values: Newly Released Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon

Take a second to think... when was the last time you did something really meaningful with your old man?  I'm not talking about having a conversation about football, cars, golf, politics or whisky, but actually took the time out to cook a perfect steak, carve something out of wood together, catch a fish, build a wardrobe or jam for a while on your guitars. 

Reason I ask, is that last Saturday, whilst my wife, mother and daughter were out shopping,  my father and I decided to bang out a few old Stones riffs, reminisce about some classic albums and enjoy a couple of decent drams before lunch.  It was a real spare of the moment thing, but something which reminded me how much I missed spending time with my dad -  now we live nearly 150 miles apart.

Papa Ridley is an extremely creative and practical man.  Not only has he been performing in bands for over 50 years but has always been my go-to guy for repairing my collection of old guitars, amplifiers and anything electronic, despite how knackered it may appear. I realised just how great and supremely practical a dad he was on Saturday April 5th, 1994 - amazingly 19 years ago today when, together, we built a speaker cabinet in his garage from some old plywood and some throw away speakers he had lying around.  

Reason I specifically remember this date is that a little after 1pm, a BBC news report came through on the radio we had on in the background that Kurt Cobain had just topped himself, leaving me as a teenage fan in a state of utter disbelief. That speaker cabinet has subsequently been used for nearly the past two decades and whilst I could never quite conjure up the screaming guitar tones that Kurt used to, it still reminds me of a symbolic moment bonding with my father over music.  To be honest, my dad never much cared for Nirvana, but felt compelled to help me as best he could in educating me with his own superb record collection.  

Now where am I going with all this?  Well, yesterday a rather interesting bottle of bourbon arrived at our office, fresh from Messrs. Russell & Russell.   I am of course talking about Wild Turkey's Jimmy and Eddie, the remarkable father and son combo, who have between them a collective 90 years of experience making bourbon. Now, if there's anyone who can probably talk about creating something meaningful with their father, it's Eddie Russell.   And I'd be willing to bet that pretty high up on that list would be Russell's Reserve, the duo's brand new small batch, single barrel bourbon.  

Created using a selection of alligator charred casks, (the heaviest level of char available) the Russells earmark a number of these casks for their Reserve selection, this being the latest in the line.  The result is a whiskey that is bottled at 110 proof.  Despite there being no indications as to the age of the spirit (a six year old RR rye and a ten year old RR bourbon have also been released prior to this) doing some research shows up that there are around 800 bottles of this new Russell's Reserve. Unfortunately, for those outside of the US, you may have to wait a little while to source one -  there are no plans to release in Europe, but the odd bottle might float its way via the usual channels (ala Whisky Exchange or Master Of Malt etc) 

So have the Russell's joint endeavours been in vain?  More's the point, like my father and I -  have they hit a few bum notes during their jam together?  Let's find out...

Russell's Reserve - Small Batch Single Barrel Bourbon - 110 Proof -  750ml - $49.99

Nose: A wonderful spicy, peppery rye note greets you initially, with fat vanilla pods, golden syrup, a hint of cedar wood, toasted orange peel and a little liquorice/anise note.  At 55%/110 proof you'd expect there to be some prickly notes, but everything is refined, soft and velvety.  Given time in the glass, some plump raisin notes emerge alongside some vanilla pipe tobacco and a hint of flat cola.  It has an effortless about it often seen in single barrel bourbons that will really appeal to the single malt drinker in spades. 

Palate:  Oily and very spicy, with lots of liquorice, clove, white pepper, sweet vanilla, a touch of brazil nut and marzipan.  This really doesn't need any water, but if you're planning to add some, be gentle: too much will ruin the oily/spicy balance completely.  

Finish:  Long lingering notes of drying aromatic wood, liquorice and a wonderful creaminess.   A second finish with some darker earthiness emerges too, with tobacco leaf notes and dark chocolate nestling on the back palate. 

Overall:  This is a stupendous bourbon, make no mistake.  It's refined, controlled and supremely complex.  Lord knows what age it is, but age really doesn't matter in this instance.  What the Russell clan have done here is triumphant.  One thing's for sure, it's certainly inspired me to spend more time with my old man...