“I’ve always been a fan,” he says. “When it was tough for bourbon distilleries to get rid of their product in the ’80s and ’90s, he just kept doing the same thing.”
Rice favors the unadulterated care Russell gives his reserve batch by foregoing the “booze up, water down” method many use to wring a bigger batch out of government labeling requirements.
“What he does and what a lot of people don’t consider is -- he puts all his whiskey in the barrel at 110 proof. One hundred and twenty-five proof is the max by law you’re allowed to put in it.
“What that means is when you’re getting 90 proof whiskey or 100 proof whiskey, this means more water is added to it. It really changes the flavors of the whiskey. So even a taste of whiskey -- heavy alcohol airs off a little bit. If you add a few drops [of water] to it, you pick up the subtle flavors. When you put it in 125 proof, compared to 110, it makes a completely different product.”