Russell's Reserve 110
Small Batch Single Barrel
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
55% ABV (110 Proof)
Color: medium brown, with some orange haziness
Smell: big. Definitely a barrel-proof whiskey. Some alcohol heat coming off right out of the gate. Lots of cinnamon and burnt sugar. Toasty oak and vanilla are also present. Lovely, with a ton of depth...I find myself coming back for sniffs time and again.
Taste: really good, classic bourbon profile. Sweetness on the entry with that burnt sugar note. Not caramel sweetness per se...it's burnt sugar, not carefully melted sugar that has become candy. One time, I tried to make caramel candies on the stovetop by melting sugar according to a recipe and totally messed it up, making a burnt mess, and this is what that reminds me of...in a really good way. That charred characteristic is also the bridge between the initial sweet notes and the spiciness that comes on during the palate transition. Slight cinnamon spiciness shows up, but it's much more driven by toasty oak. Some vanilla bean (not sweet) flavor and a savory coconut element as well. Finish is long-lasting and much more about the barrel/oak influence than it is about the sweetness. Also worth noting that it possesses a distinctly creamy mouthfeel. This is definitely a bourbon that you have to "chew."
Overall: I like this a lot, but it's a real thumper, and probably not best for total whiskey novices. It hits all the classic bourbon notes, but does so with a gusto and complexity that isn't common. This reminds me to a certain extent of Booker's, but I like it a lot more and I think it's much more balanced - particularly with regard to the harmony of sweetness and barrel influence. If you like Wild Turkey or Knob Creek, this is a no-brainer. Very highly recommended. A-/A category for me, and a very reasonable and (more importantly) widely-available deal in this crazy, mixed-up bourbon world of ours.