Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Bourbon Review 2023 (Batch 5)
I spent about a month hunting multiple stores every week until I finally found this bottle at a gas station convenience store for not too far above MSRP. So let’s crack this puppy open, pour a dram, and do a Russell’s Reserve 13 year review.
Russell’s Reserve 13 year was first released in April 2021 and although they say there have been three annual releases, the bottle codes reveal that there have been 5 bottlings over the course of the three years. All releases to date have been bottled at 114.8 proof.
Russell’s Reserve bourbon is aged in new American oak barrels with the deepest No. 4 char (alligator char). They use water sourced from the limestone-rich waters of the Kentucky River and all their grains are non-GMO sourced. The barrels are selected from the “center-cut” of the rickhouse, which is essentially the 3rd & 4th floors of their 7-story buildings.
Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Review 2023 (Batch 5)
My tasting reviews are unique in that I include the notes of several well-known whiskey critics. The hope is that this format will help me and others to explore and expand their tasting experience. After you have taken your own tasting notes, read the reviews and see if there is a flavor note that others discerned that now you can detect as well.
Swirling the glass (Glencairn) leaves a crown that lasts forever, and then after about a minute, long legs begin to form.
Very potent, fabulous nose! Peanuts, molasses, dark fruits like fig and luxardo cherries, dark caramel, leather, old oak, dark brown or burnt sugar, hint of vanilla. After the glass sat for about an hour after the first crack, rich caramel emerged.
Other Reviewer’s Perceptions
Vine Pair: Citrus is prominent on the nose — toasted orange peel in particular. There’s also a pronounced tartness, like quince or unripe pear, floating just on top of the oaky and wood notes. The interplay between tart and traditionally sweet bourbon notes immediately lends depth and character to aromas. That interaction gradually subsides toward sweet, dessert-like elements of brandy-soaked pears, crème brûlée, a touch of vanilla bean, and dark cocoa.
Drink Hacker: A classic mature bourbon construction, the nose reveals notes of peanut shells and cinnamon red hots, then a punch of butterscotch. More peppery than the 2021 installment, the aromatics create an expectation of a fairly aggressive drinking experience.
Bourbon Bill: Stone fruit, dark cherry, Juicy Fruit gum, a little cocoa, a boatload of oak with tobacco, and leather.
Baking spices, burnt sugar or dark brown sugar, figs, luxardo cherries, orange peel, peanuts or peanut shells, old oak, dark caramel, dark chocolate, leather. Rubbing my tongue against the roof of my mouth, it is very viscous and oily.
Adding a few drops of water and the heat mellows a bit and rye grain flavor jumps out of the glass.
Other Reviewer’s Perceptions
Vine Pair: At first sip, there’s more chocolate here than the nose suggests. Combined with continued citrus notes, it brings chocolate-covered and candied orange slices across the palate. The spice — rye and baking spice, particularly clove — hits as a secondary flavor and lingers throughout the middle and upper palates.
On a second sip, the profile opens up a bit with blackcurrant and fig cookies. There’s oak, certainly, and while the mid-palate gets very lightly dry, it doesn’t flatline the experience. The mouthfeel isn’t quite syrupy, but it’s noticeably thicker than any of Wild Turkey’s famed 101 proof expressions on the market today.
Drink Hacker: The nose suggested an aggressive spiciness, but the palate is sweet and quite restrained, and while there’s ample heat from the ethanol to create some back-of-the-throat burn, there’s plenty of room for the whiskey’s more effusive characteristics to emerge. A few drops of water work wonders, helping that overt cinnamon segue toward more of an allspice character, mixed well with notes of peanut brittle, milk chocolate, and vanilla Coke.
Bourbon Bill: Wow! So good. Ton of dark cherries, and fruits up front.
Long finish with baking spices, caramel, chocolate, tobacco, and sweet oak.
Other Reviewer’s Perceptions
Vine Pair: Far more leathery and peppery than on the palate, the finish is long and fades back to burnt orange peel and subtle notes of dark chocolate. The spice and sweetness work well together; the rye spice on the top of the palate leisurely fades to leave a warming sensation, and the fruitier notes make a welcome reappearance.
Drink Hacker: There’s plenty of cinnamon dragging into the finish. Eventually, the denouement reveals some lingering barrel char elements, which don’t at all detract.
Bourbon Bill: Long finish that lingers with a lot of leather, oak, and tobacco. It’s a sweet oak, not a drying oak.
5 out of 5. This means that the burn from the alcohol is a lot lower (10% to 20%) than what I would expect it to be. In a blind tasting, I would guess this to be around 100 proof, not 114.8 proof.
The higher the score the better, more available, or closer to MSRP the whiskey should be.
|Likability Score||9.1||1.0 – 10.0|
|Availability Score||2||1-Rare, 2-Hard to Find, 3-A Little Hunting, 4-Easy to Find|
|After Market $ Score||2-3||1-Pappy Van Winkle, 2-Stagg Jr, 3-Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, 4-Always at MSRP|
Notes and History
Master Distillers Jimmy & Eddie Russell, father and son, are the masterminds behind the Russell’s bourbon (and whiskey) family tradition.
The first Russel’s Reserve was released in 1998 when Eddie Russell created this small batch label to celebrate his father Jimmy’s 45 years of service at the Wild Turkey Distillery. In 2001 Russel’s Reserve was first released as a 10-year-old bourbon bottled at 101 proof. In 2005 the brand switched the Russel’s Reserve 10-year from 101 proof to 90 proof, which is still the standard today.
In 2013 Russel’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon was first released at 110-proof, non-chill filtered and it quickly became one of the most sought after single barrel bourbons on the market.
Russel’s Reserve 13 year was first released in June 2021.
Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old releases can be tracked through a laser code etched on the glass near the bottom of each bottle. These codes provide valuable information about the specific batch and release year of each bottle.
As of June 2023, Russell’s Reserve publicly acknowledges three different annual releases, however, the laser codes indicate that there have been five separate bottlings between 2021 – 2023. These releases are distinguishable by the first few characters of the laser code on each bottle. By referring to these codes, whiskey enthusiasts and collectors can identify and differentiate between different batches and releases of Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old.
Which Batch of Russell’s Reserve 13 do you have?
Each batch has its own cryptic code laser etched near the bottom edge of the bottle. In the image below the batch code is LL/LE and was released on May 5, 2023.
List of Russell’s Reserve 13-Year-Old Releases and Batch Codes:
|Batch Code||Release Date||Proof|
|LL/LE (Batch 5)||May 2023||114.8|
|LL/LC (Batch 4)||March 2023||114.8|
|LL/KE (Batch 3)||May 2022||114.8|
|LL/JL (Batch 2)||December 2021||114.8|
|LL/JD (Batch 1)||April 2021||114.8|
My Tasting Notes
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