We were lucky enough to secure two Wild Turkey Single Barrels for DEPs for 2020. Two barrels may seem like a very small amount of barrels for an entire year. It is. We were originally only slated for 1 single barrel. Apparently an account somewhere in Kentucky did not take their allocation and we were awarded one of those barrels. That is the state we’re in at the moment. We used to be able to choose as many barrels as we wanted to from multiple distilleries. Obviously those days are sadly behind us. While some distilleries still favor their home state who supported them for years, others that are primarily owned by foreign entities tend to have a more global perspective. It’s the current climate we’re in so we simply have to make the best of it.
Here is a little background for our barrel selections. At DEP’s we like to try and take customers of ours to select barrels when possible. In the past, I have tried to alternate between taking a few deserving employees or select customers. I’ve heard negative comments about this which I find amusing. Things being said such as, “you let customers pick your barrels?” My response to that is “who do you think is buying the bottles?” Our barrels do not have a consistent flavor profile across different brands. That is intentional. Not everyone has the same palate. For example I tend to like the high rye mashbills with a lot of oak influence. Someone else may like a sweeter profile. Clearly some brands represent different parts of the spectrum of flavors. We find that taking diverse groups to select barrels means that we have something for everyone in our single barrel selections. While everything we have in-stock may not be for you, we can almost guarantee we’ll have something that is perfect for you. Barrel selections at distilleries are a special treat. Every time I get the opportunity to go to one it isn’t lost on me of how special it is. I’m just happy we are still able to go to a distillery to select a barrel.
We were lucky enough to go down to Lawrenceburg on February 13th to select a Kentucky Spirit and a Russell’s Reserve before all of the Covid-19 restrictions shattered normal life. We arrived at the visitor’s center a little early. Master Distiller Eddie Russell was sitting there patiently waiting for us. If you haven’t been to Wild Turkey, it is definitely worth the trip. While the layout has changed over time, the one constant is the view of the Valley from the property. In the spring and fall it is especially stunning. Also, how many other distilleries have the Master Distiller walk you through an actual warehouse to sample your single barrels. Always a great experience there. All of us who went on the trip had been before so we opted to skip the tour. We went straight to the rickhouse to select the barrels. Once inside Eddie ran us through the gamut of barrels from different floors/warehouses. After about six different barrels we came to the one from Rickhouse E. Eddie did tell us that this was the first year that barrels would be introduced into the single barrel selections from this warehouse. The process isn’t for that isn’t a choice but a necessity. The barrels for the program simply come from wherever they have the aged product that fits the single barrel profile. This barrel was funky. Completely different from anything we had tasted up until that point. Distinct Sourdough yeast struck us all. We knew it was funky and different. It didn’t seem to fit the Russell’s Reserve profile to us but we liked it. As we moved on we tried an additional half dozen barrels. Eddie will taste you on as many as you want until you find what you like. Your palate though can only handle so many different samples at barrel strength. Palate fatigue is real and once it sets in, it takes a while to get it back to normal. Luckily for us the final 4 barrels we sampled we found to be superior to the first few. These stood out. They were from the old familiar Camp Nelson warehouses. “Camp Nelson” is where Wild Turkey has some off-site aging facilities. This has been commonplace in the bourbon industry even before the boom. Take Four Roses for example. They once owned the warehouses you can see across the street from their distillery but haven’t in a long time. Those are Turkey’s warehouses now. Four Roses aging facilities are down near Bardstown in Cox’s Creek, 45 min. from their distillery. Turkey has the Camp Nelson warehouses which are about an hour from their distillery in Lawrenceburg. Having these different facilities gives them different flavor profiles. It’s a great advantage for distilleries to have these diverse aging Rickhouses. It gives them more to work with. We have always loved the spicy flavor profiles that can come out of Camp Nelson. We knew right away that these barrels were going to give us our Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. Not to mention that the Camp Nelson barrels were the only ones that were 10 years old. We all agreed on the barrel after a little discussion and the selection was made. We knew that the “funky” barrel we liked was going to be our Kentucky Spirit barrel. You can choose. Because of the proofing, the customer is able to choose, the label. Since we knew the barrel from warehouse E was softer and slightly sweeter we decided that barrel should be proofed down to 101 for the Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel. The hotter, spicier and more robust Camp Nelson barrel would be our 110 proof Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. Again, going back to our mantra of the fact that we try to have something for everyone. We could have chosen to make both barrels Russell’s Reserve or even both Kentucky Spirits. How awesome to be able to have that luxury? As I said previously these small details and the experience itself will never be lost on me. How cool it is that I am able to not only able to take part in the process but make those kinds of decisions. I will forever be grateful for those opportunities. I hope you like our selections as much as we do.
Written by Matt Corley, DEP’s liquor buyer