While talking with David Jennings (Rarebird101) for our episode this week we got deep into some whiskey questions. Of course you can’t have a whiskey conversation without drinking some whiskey right? Well it just so happened that we had two of Wild Turkey’s new expressions, Master’s Keep Bottled in Bond 17 yr and Rare Breed Rye Barrel Proof. What else would you drink when chatting with one of the most knowledgeable people on all that is Wild Turkey?
While we sipped on these two great bottles, two questions surfaced. What is Jimmy Russel’s linage outside of Wild Turkey and who are today’s Bourbon Baron’s? While it is well known that Eddie Russel and Bruce Russel will carry on in Jimmy’s footsteps for years to come at Wild Turkey, there has to be several people that have had learned their craft under Jimmy’s watchful eyes. One that came to mind was Alex Castle at Old Dominick Distillery in Memphis Tennessee. She started at the famed Distillery on the Kentucky River as a Production Supervisor and moved her way up until she received an offer as the head distiller at Old Dominick and now serves as their Master Distiller and Vice President.
So who else has learned from Jimmy? What does his coaching tree look like? This is something I will continue to dig on and come up with a proper list to see what kind of shade Jimmy has cast over the bourbon world since the 1950’s. The second question is an easier one to tackle or is it? You see, did the bourbon barons of the 1800’s and early 1900’s actually work in the distillery or were they just rich men that possessed the means to build and run a distillery with the true master distillers being lost to history? Wow, this might take longer then I thought. I believe that I might have to consult Michael Veach and see what his thoughts are on both questions. I’m most certainly going to drink more bourbon whiskey with questions like these.
In my opinion the Bourbon Barons of today are not the companies and people who own the distilleries, but the men and women who are called Master or Head Distiller. Men like the Jimmy Russel and Fred Now are two that come to mind right away, but who are the others? Jim Rutledge would surely be on this list with his many years at Four Roses and of course you couldn’t leave off Harlen Wheatley with his rise at Buffalo Trace. As a wheated bourbon super fan I would be sure to list the late David Pickerell, the founding father or “Johnny Appleseed” of craft distilling and former master distiller at Maker’s Mark.
Those are just a few of the names that come to mind. Heck, I might even have a who are the next bourbon barons or baronesses list. Over the next several months these are two questions that I plan on writing an article about. You set there and ponder on what the Big Chief can come up with. Stay tuned in to see what I can dig up from bourbons past and see if Jimmy’s tree grows.
Until then grab yourself some Wild Turkey, what you don’t have any? Better go buy some, then pour a glass a Jim and I take you on another trip down The Bourbon Road with a very Rare Bird while drinking two fabulous whiskies. Cheers
Mike (Big Chief)