This was a very good year for Wild Turkey—some of the best whiskey released in 2023 was made at this venerable Kentucky distillery, including Master’s Keep Voyage and the legacy-celebrating Generations. Both of those were expensive, limited-edition bottles, a far cry from the distillery’s bread and butter Wild Turkey 101. Add another unicorn-shaped notch to the bourbon belt with the release of Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse Camp Nelson F, a fantastic yet elusive new bourbon that you should feel lucky if you get to taste.
The gist of the Russell’s Reserve Single Rickhouse series is that each release is an attempt to highlight maturation terroir, or the effects of a particular warehouse on the flavor of the whiskey. The first Single Rickhouse, Camp Nelson C, came out last year and was aged in the eponymous of the same name. Now we have Camp Nelson F, named after a rickhouse built in the 1940s that is at a lower elevation than others on the Camp Nelson campus, one of three that also includes Tyrone and MacBrayer. This location is the source of many private barrel picks, because according to the distillery the airflow coming off the nearby Kentucky River allow the barrels to “breathe” more.
So here’s the thing—all of this is a great story, but it’s really impossible to quantify. Yes, barrel location has an affect on a whiskey’s flavor, and not just where the whole warehouse is located but also where each barrel is inside the building. Temperature, humidity, and airflow all play a part, and two barrels sitting right next to each other might taste completely different. There’s a bit of dichotomy here—these factors both support the assertion that warehouse terroir is a real thing and make it seem a little ridiculous. But master distillers at every major Kentucky distillery will swear that one particular rickhouse is a sweet spot that yields the best whiskey, so let’s assume they know a little bit more than you or me and go along for the ride.
The bottom line is that Camp Nelson F is fantastic. This is classic Russell’s Reserve bourbon, bottled at barrel proof of 117.6, aged for more than a decade, and non-chill filtered. That signature Wild Turkey nutty grain flavor is present, along with a notes of charred meat, brown sugar, smoky oak, caramel, candied cherry, baked apple, and baking spices. This is a formidable bourbon with gargantuan flavor, and is an exciting addition to the Wild Turkey/Russell’s family. If that proof is a little high for you, a little bit of water or ice brings out some nice floral notes and tamps down the fire a bit, but please do at least try it neat first.
If your inclination is to balk at Camp Nelson F’s $300 price tag (which is certainly going to be more on the secondary market), that totally makes sense. After all, you can find a bottle of regular Russell’s 10 Year Old bourbon for less than 50 bucks in most markets. But the facts cannot and will not be denied—Camp Nelson F is a superb bourbon that is worth searching high and low for. And if you do snag a bottle, please share with friends, it will be very much appreciated.
- 100: Worth trading your first born for
- 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
- 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
- Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this