There was an excitement in the air as our chapter members sat in front of American Whiskey Royalty, Eddie Russell. He is a link to bourbon’s past present & future, and been distilling for Wild Turkey for over 35 years. Eddie brought his expertise, down-home sensibility and graciousness to the table at this USBGLV event.
“To be able to be in front of the USBG where ever I’m at is great. We just want to say thank you.” -Eddie Russell
After an impassioned intro by Chef Rick Moonen of RM Seafood, RX Boiler Room and Top Chef Masters. Eddie spoke of the journey American Whiskey. He started by speaking of George Washington & Rye, all of the way to Elijah Craig, the man credited to starting Bourbon.
Chef Rick Moonen
Eddie also illustrated a portion of his own personal journey and how he got started. “Well my dad has been doing it since 1964 and I didn’t think that I was going to get into it but when I tasted some whiskey right out of the barrel and I was like Dorothy, I clicked my heels and knew that I was home. We now are one of the only father and son master distillers in America.”
Talking about the origins of Wild Turkey, “An Irish family in 1869 by an Irish family can be credited to starting our distillery. During Prohibition it was shut down except for a little bit for medicine.”
Eddie mentioned that before prohibition the market was still pretty Rye heavy and then continued, “After Prohibition Bourbon to ok over. Booker Noe from Jim Beam, Elmer T Lee Ancient Age, Parker Beam from Heavan Hill. Those were making nearly all the bourbon for the country.”
As time passed and the changing of the American palate, “Most started taking Rye out of the mash-bill and aging less, and lowering the proof (most were 80).” Wild Turkey stayed the course and he continued, “I thought Jimmy Russell was crazy not wanting to change anything. I’m glad he didn’t!”
We were then led through a tasting. Wild Turkey 101, Russell’s Reserve, Rick Moonen’s Private Barrell (available at RX Boiler Room) and the new Master’s Keep. All of these whiskey’s showed the best in what bourbon can be. From the most flavor for value, the 8 year aged Wild Turkey 101 to the ultra limited releases of the 17 year aged Master’s Keep.
Even after tasting, the entire group of seasoned bartenders were hanging on every word as Eddie gave us some more insights on more little known facts, “Russel’s are still tasting, white dog, barrels, my dad is 82 years old and keeps working out of love. We are a non GMO facility, one of only 2 in Kentucky. I’m proud of it. Some export countries require it. Back to the roots and we retain the same recipe for bourbon and one for rye. All with one mother yeast strain.”
We then went upstairs for a cocktail competition and good time. Chef Rick Moonen made a Kentucky specialty called a Bergoo which he playfully described as “critters in a cauldron.” It was delicious and rich and truly unique.
All of the cocktails were pleasantly quaffable and did not disappoint. Joe Pereira of Herbs & Rye took home the prize with a delicious spirit forward cocktail made with Wild Turkey 101. All that attended were delighted to be a part of such a special event.by