Profile: Wild Turkey’s Eddie and Jimmy Russell

let’s begin

Sixty-two years is a long time to be in any business, but wouldn’t the Whiskey industry be one of the best places to spend that amount of time?

That’s exactly how long Jimmy Russell has been with Wild Turkey, making him the longest tenured Master Distiller in the world.

In his time he has studied under the wings of Bourbon greats such as Wild Turkey’s second distiller Bill Hughes and its founder’s great-grandson Ernest W. Ripley Jr.

Along the way he has overseen the release of some of the brands biggest and most popular expressions, including Tribute, Rare Breed and Russell’s Reserve.

He has also been given the opportunity to take the brand across the globe, travelling to places such as Japan to announce new releases and meet fans.

Humble Beginnings

Jimmy first started in Wild Turkey in 1954 when his job was to keep the distillery clean and sweep the floors. This was not the first time he had encountered Bourbon, as growing up in Kentucky meant he had a lot of distilleries surrounding him.

His father and grandfather first introduced him to traditional Bourbon making methods and he honed his skills within a few years of starting at Wild Turkey.

A Celebrated Name

The name Jimmy Russell is well known within the Whiskey industry. He has been honoured throughout his time with the brand, both by Wild Turkey themselves and outsiders.

Wild Turkey named 2014 “The Year of Jimmy Russell” in celebration of his 60th anniversary of working there.

As well as celebrations throughout the year, they also released the Diamond Anniversary expression.

Keeping it in the Family

This release was significant not only because it was a marking of Jimmy’s time at the distillery but also because it was created by his son, Eddie.

Eddie started at the distillery 34 years ago himself and just like his legendary father before, he is carving out his own path in the world of distilling.

Starting out in 1981 just like his father did, by looking after the smaller jobs at the distillery, Eddie was made Master Distiller in 2015.

That gives the Russell’s a combined total of over 90 years experience working at Wild Turkey, an accolade that is unmatched around the world.

Russell’s Reserve

Such is their fame and notoriety that Wild Turkey that the family have their own range of expressions at the distillery, known as Russell’s Reserve.

This is a hand picked selection that showcases the incredible ability of the Russell’s to create good Bourbon.

Eddie himself is credited with the creation of one of the brand’s biggest selling expressions, Wild Turkey 81.

Those 90 years of experience have certainly not gone to waste.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Eddie is now Master Distiller. Jimmy has no plans to retire any time soon and with both at the helm, only good things can happen at Wild Turkey.

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Tags: EddieJimmy RussellRussell’s ReserveWhiskeyWild Turkey
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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