Private whole-barrel programs have been catching on in the United States as connoisseurs with strong brand preferences become ever more determined to acquire a whiskey that no other enthusiast—no matter how well connected—can replicate.
Every barrel of bourbon has its own unique flavor, so going through multiple options in search of the perfect one isn’t an easy task, even for a seasoned bourbon veteran. Similar to Jack Daniel’s barrel offerings, the new Wild Turkey Private Barrel program offers enthusiasts a chance to choose one cask to be aged and bottled just for their use. Helping customers select their barrels is Eddie Russell—Wild Turkey’s Master Distiller, a member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame, and the son of distilling legend Jimmy Russell. Eddie asks questions to get to know the customer’s preferences and then tastes sample barrels of either Russell’s Reserve, a rich, complex bourbon, or Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, full-bodied with a slightly sweeter flavor.
Those who can make it to the distillery in Kentucky get to taste with Eddie; for those who can’t make the trip, he selects the bourbon he thinks best suits the customer’s preferences. “There have been a few customers over time that must have a similar palate to mine,” he says, “because they picked my perfect profile for bourbon. I was amazed the first couple times it happened, but it does happen. Those barrels are tough to part with until you see the customer’s reactions through the process, and it brings it back to why we’re in this business in the first place.”
Wild Turkey bottles the customer’s Private Barrel bourbon before shipping, complete with custom tags for each customer. Laws are complicated and varied when it comes to buying spirits directly from the distiller, especially when interstate commerce is involved. The Wild Turkey team shepherds customers through the process and makes sure they get their bottles—all 174 or so—that come from each barrel. Contact Katrina Egbert (email@example.com, 502.839.2176) for more information. Prices vary by the barrel but generally run about $8,500, which is much less than some other whole-cask offerings.