Wild Turkey Rare Breed and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon are two great and readily available bourbons. While they come from the same distillery and use the same mashbill, they are otherwise quite different. Rare Breed is a batched product blended from barrels of various ages (~6-16 years) while Russell’s Reserve comes from a single barrel (~8-10 years). Russell’s Reserve was also created to have a different profile than Wild Turkey-branded whiskeys. The question then is, if you have $40-60 to spend, which one should you buy? I already highly recommend both, so it’s more of a matter of understanding how different they are in this Wild Turkey Rare Breed vs Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon Comparison.
Before we get started, I do want to mention that this particular Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is a little different from the usual ones you might find. Apart from being a store pick, this one is 10 years old based on the 11/19/2009 distilled date and 12/16/19 dump date, so it’s a bit older than the usual 8-9 years. Every barrel is going to be different anyways, so your experience will likely vary from mine. This Rare Breed comes from Batch LL/GA from January 2018, which may be a little different than the releases you will find now. Anyways, let’s start the comparison.
The below table outlines key facts and figures for each bourbon.
These two bourbons are drastically different (and great), and turns out I prefer Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon Total Wine Select. I’m a sucker for the more mature and evolved fruitiness, refined oakiness, tobacco, tropical and floral-ness, and less heat. It’s just so damn good and easily competes with $100+ bourbons. Rare Breed is the more brash and burly bourbon with more sugars, oak, spice, earthiness, and heat – a quintessential bourbon. This batch LL/GA (January 2018) Rare Breed’s added rosemary and thyme earthiness reminds me of a better Old Forester Barrel Strength Bourbon, and this Russell’s Reserve reminds me of a calmer and just as good Stagg Jr.
Your choice will depend on your preferences, but both deserve a place on your shelf. I’m still thoroughly amazed that the same mashbill aged for different amounts of time and barrel selection / blending make such a drastic difference. It goes to show that blending and barrel selection are truly an important art.