Russell’s Reserve 13 57.4% (2021)

Wild Turkey Heritage Tribute Release ‎ ‎

I have been a fan of Wild Turkey since my college days and 101 was a staple in my cabinet. It was admittedly mostly used as a mixer in Coke or ginger ale along with the occasional shot or two. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I sat down with that bottle to actually appreciate it.

Before I ever went down the bourbon rabbit hole and frenzy that it is today, 101 would always sit on my bar. I’d drink it neat, in an old fashioned or a gold rush. It was my go-to bourbon. I knew little about the rest of the spirit category. When heading to the liquor store I’d fly right past the rest of the shelf to grab that handle of 101 and be content with my purchase. It was familiar. It was perfect.

Russell’s Reserve 13 encompasses the history of Jimmy Russell and Wild Turkey’s heritage as a whole. It’s a special release that I was excited to sip and enjoy.

Tasting Notes

Tasted neat in a Glencairn with 15+ minutes of rest. Dilution added throughout the tasting with additional rest upwards of an hour.

The first whiff brings a familiar cinnamon spice and that unmistakable oaky funk of Wild Turkey. It always reminds me of a hay loft I played in at my grandparent’s small farm. Apple brandy in aroma, finished in a wine cask peculiarly. I’ve had my fair share of fruity Russell’s Reserve picks but this takes it to a new level. Prune juice, red globe grapes, and a bitter citrus note like ruby red grapefruit. A dark and dank cellar filled with old aging wine casks. Savory spices of bay leaves, black peppercorns, clove, cassia cinnamon bark, and nutmeg. I get hints even of candied fennel seeds. Fresh-cut firewood in a summer cabin. Duty leather sofa and rugs embedded with soot. Water brought out a chili-infused dark chocolate scent that I rather enjoy.

The palate brings an old, decaying oak wood pile imagery. Moss-covered tree stumps and lichen. Vanilla bean pods and a pleasant heather honey flavor. Dried citrus garnishes that have preserved remnants of their expressive oils. Vegetal bitterness with raw cucumber and fennel hearts. Dilution allowed some of the more delicate sweet flavors to emerge. Hard caramel candies and licorice root. A more prominent orange zest flavor is noticeable now as well as familiar yeast roll flavors I’ve gotten often on Wild Turkey products. Maybe it’s just springtime but Hot Cross Buns come to mind with that yeast roll filled with currants and raisins then topped with confectionary sugar. A complex set of flavors hide the more unflattering and dominant oak notes.

A rush of Christmas spices and aromas fills your nose as you finish that first sip. Dried lumber and charcoal kilns. The finish is very reminiscent of the 17-Year Bottled in Bond Master’s Keep release. A straightforward finish to me but with water added, more intricacies arise. Hard caramels and pieces of slightly warm brittle. A spicy chili crisp and hot honey flavor coats the tongue. That Wild Turkey yeast also plays an important role on the finish. Plenty of barrel character remains with a smoked cocktail vibe and expressed orange oils. The finish is all of those over-the-top cocktail accouterments with the flavors seemingly lingering forever.


This bottle has its ups and downs for me.

On one hand, I really rather enjoy the complexity of the flavors and aromas. I feel like I could write paragraphs of all the memories the nose reminded me of. It encaptured a moment in time with it all flooding back like it was yesterday. I absolutely love the nose of this whiskey.

The palate gets weighed heavily down by the dominant presence of oak. It wasn’t a pleasant oak to me and while it wasn’t overly tannic by my standards, the flavor wasn’t satisfying. It was missing a flavor balance in my opinion that water did start to coax out. The fruit-forward nose did not translate to the palate or finish much to my disappointment.

This is still a fantastic bottle regardless of its flaws specifically for my palate. Those who enjoy the more oak-forward bourbons will absolutely love this one. For me and my budget, however, I may stick with the Russell’s Reserve 9-10 year old picks instead.