The father-son Master Distillers at the heart of Wild Turkey bourbon, Jimmy and Eddie Russell, have a combined 96 years experience making the world-renowned sweet, spicy, and bold spirit. As you might imagine, they’ve had a long time to refine their ideas about the liquor.
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Jimmy has maintained his archetypal tastes: “I’m strictly a neat bourbon drinker,” he says. But son Eddie, who joined the company in 1981, likes to change it up, enjoying bourbon in a variety of ways, depending on the situation (and the Kentucky weather). So who better to guide your bourbon consumption? Here, straight from the mouth of the younger Russell, are seven ways aspiring bourbon aficionados should drink, “chew,” mix, and appreciate the most authentically American spirit:
“Most of the time I drink my bourbon with a couple cubes of ice. Every now and then, I drink it neat. I’m not big on whiskey stones. I do think that as ice melts it changes the flavor up a bit; it opens up some things. So I do like a little ice instead of the stones.”
“You gotta get in there and taste it, instead of just drinking it. That’s called the ‘Kentucky Chew,’ getting it all around your mouth. For Wild Turkey, it’s going to be a journey. You’re going to taste dried cherries, dried fruits, vanillas, caramels. That method’s been around all my 35 years. All the master distillers just put it in their mouth and chew on it and get all those flavors through.”
“What I always strive for Wild Turkey to be is a nice, thick viscosity with a good, sweet caramel/vanilla taste at the beginning, but then turn into that explosion of spiciness with a nice, long finish. A little journey from start to end, not just one flavor the whole way through. More of a good mix between sweet to spicy and bold.”
“Ryes are especially something [new bartenders] are fond of, and they’ve grown tremendously. My son’s favorite drink is rye on the rocks.”
“I like the Old Fashioneds, Manhattans — those types of classic drinks that have been around forever.”
“When I started [working] with the mixologist bartending crowd, they were mixing 12 or 14 ingredients to make a cocktail. As a taster, you can only taste three or four things at a time, so you should avoid ordering a cocktail that has more than four or five ingredients. Now, you don’t see good bartenders using too many ingredients so much. They’re like a chef making a great dish: They know what flavors bourbon has and they want to enhance those flavors.”
“I’ve always been a bourbon guy, but I think I’ve learned to understand more different flavors. Everybody’s palate changes a little bit as you get older. For me, it’s been about understanding exactly what I like — not just what I was looking for — but what I actually liked.”
Hunter Slaton is the content director for Studio@Gawker.