Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

Finally! A picture of a bottle of Russell's Reserve Rye! See? I wasn't kidding when I wrote a couple of weeks ago that it looks a lot like the bottle for Russell's Reserve Bourbon. One difference between the two (and one that I doubt most of the buyers of either will notice) is that Russell's Reserve Bourbon is 10 years old while Russell's Reserve Rye is only 6 years old. Why is this? I really have no idea, but I can speculate about possible explanations. First, the rye is obviously intended to compete with Sazerac Rye, which is 6 years old. Why shouldn't RR rye be the same age. Second is the pricepoint. Austin Nichols wanted this whiskey to retail around $25 or $30 a bottle, which might be a bit low for 10 year old rye. As a point of reference, Michter's 10 year old rye costs $81 a fifth. That's an outlier, of course, but it is generally true that rye of a certain age will be more expensive than comparable Bourbon of the same age. Wild Turkey rye is a couple of bucks more a bottle than WT Bourbon. The same is true of Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon and rye and of Sazerac rye and Buffalo Trace Bourbon. It could be that the Austin Nichols people decided that they couldn't offer 10 year old rye at the pricepoint that they wanted for this product. Third, it could be that there weren't stocks of Wild Turkey rye whiskey that were older than 6 years. WT rye is a young whiskey, and most of what goes into it will be just a shade over the legal minimum of 4 years old (legal minimum for straight rye without an age statement, that is). If Austin Nichols decided relatively recently to do a Russell's Reserve rye, there wouldn't have been much aged whiskey available. They may have decided to go with 6 year old whiskey instead of waiting for another four years to introduce the product. And fourth, it could be that Jimmy Russell and others at Wild Turkey just thought that WT rye at 6 years old was perfect for the flavor profile that they were going for. Sometimes, decisions like this aren't all about marketing.

Indeed, it would be hard for me to argue with the age of this rye. It still has a bit of the wildness of the regular WT bottling, but the additional age has toned it down and given it more caramel. As we have discussed before, more caramel is more better. I certainly don't have much experience with such things, but I can't really say that additional age would make this any better. About all I can complain about is the proof: I wish that this were 101 proof instead of 90. This is a very enjoyable rye.

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