Ready for some family secrets?!
Every September, we raise a glass in celebration of America’s Native Spirit with National Bourbon Heritage Month. Today, Bourbon is surpassing anyone’s expectation. The Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) reports that more than 19 million cases of Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey were sold in 2014, generating nearly $2.7 billion in revenue. Bourbon consumers around the world would oft be surprised that this global, multi-billion dollar business is cared for and cultivated by generations of families – whether the coopers who makes the barrels or the masters who craft the whiskey. What better way to celebrate the Bourbon business than a chat with three generations of Bourbon makers from the esteemed Lawrenceburg, Kentucky-based Russell clan at Wild Turkey.
Under Master Distiller Jimmy Russell’s tutelage, Wild Turkey has helped to guide the Bourbon industry over the past 61 years. In 1981, Jimmy’s son, Eddie Russell, joined the distillery and Wild Turkey became a family business. With Eddie by his side as Master Distiller and grandson Bruce Russell recently joining the ranks to learn the family business, the Russells continue to leave their signature mark on the industry.
Never ones to shy away from innovation and experimentation, this year Jimmy and Eddie created two new Bourbons and a Single Barrel Rye that will delight whiskey fans everywhere:
- Wild Turkey Master’s Keep – Eddie’s first release as Master Distiller, this limited-edition, delicate and smooth 17 year old Bourbon traveled over 200 miles between stone and wood warehouses (available now, MSRP $150)
- Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye – the first Single Barrel Rye to be released from the Distillery, this spicy whiskey was made with both mixologists and consumers in mind (available in September, MSRP $59.99)
- Russell’s Reserve 1998 Bourbon – from barrels saved during the launch of Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon in 1998, only 1,800 bottles of this very special rich and complex Bourbon will available (available late fall, MSRP $250)
Now, you may know all about Master Distiller Jimmy ‘Buddha of Bourbon’ Russell, but how much do you know about the second and third generation Russells? You might be surprised to know that neither Eddie, nor his son Bruce, planned to follow in Jimmy’s footsteps – who could fill those shoes?! But the genuine love of the craft rang truer than Eddie’s love of math or Bruce’s love of English, and Bourbon trumped them both. We’ve rounded up some fun facts about them both that may be answers to future Bourbon Jeopardy questions about the iconic family, if you ask us.
Beyond the Barrel: Get to Know Master Distiller Eddie Russell and Russell’s Reserve Ambassador Bruce Russell
Favorite bar in Kentucky?
Eddie: Bourbon Bistro in Louisville
Bruce: Haymarket in Louisville or Al’s in Lexington – I like any good dive that serves cheap beer and good bourbon!
Favorite album? Favorite band?
Eddie: ZZ Top
Bruce: ‘Old’ by Danny Brown; Ryan Hemsworth
Most memorable moment experienced throughout career thus far?
Eddie: Not only being inducted into Bourbon Hall of Fame, but having the opportunity to know and learn from Bourbon greats Booker Noe, Elmer Lee and Parker Beam
Favorite place to travel?
Bruce San Francisco – the combination of great music, mixology, food and people make for a fun trip
The most famous person you’ve ever met?
Eddie: Jimmy Russell!
Bruce: Matthew McConaughey, but when I was a kid we once rode on a plane with Britney Spears
If you could have dinner with any 5 people dead or alive, who would they be?
Eddie: My wife Judy, my sons Bruce and Jacob, Nelson Mandela and Vince Lombardi
Bruce: Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Anthony Bourdain, Bill Simmons and Jeph Loeb… but not the entire group at once
1-1/2 oz. Wild Turkey Rare Breed
1/2 oz. peach liqueur
1/2 oz. lemon juice
Peach, for garnish
Build on cubed ice in a tall glass and top with ginger beer. Stir. Garnish with a peach slice.
2 parts Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon
3/4 part lemon juice
3/4 part honey syrup
4 parts soda
Build ingredients in a rocks or highball glass over ice and stir well. Garnish with a lemon wheel and serve with a straw.
Strawberry Basil Smash
2 parts Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon
2 medium sized strawberries
3/4 part real maple syrup
6 fresh basil leaves
1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
Basil tip for garnish
Combine strawberries, maple syrup and basil leaves in a pint glass, muddle gently to release juice from berries and oils from basil. Add bourbon, Lemon juice and ice, shake hard for 10 seconds. Double strain in a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with the basil tip.