July 12, 2017

The Best Drinking of My Life - Turkey Hunting with Eddie Russell

The Hot Pickle Has Landed!!

Buy the bottle here
Check out the podcast here

We had high expectations when we brought 8 folks down to Kentucky with us to go barrel hunting. The trip still managed to blow our minds. The absolute highlight was our time at Wild Turkey choosing a Beast Masters Club private barrel with Eddie Russell.

Eddie Russell taps into a barrel in Wild Turkey Warehouse A

Hot Pickle's Origin Story

We all assembled at our AirBnB outside Louisville, piled into a Suburban, and made a b-line to Liquor Barn, where we picked up some "research" bottles - private barrel Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve and Four Roses. We stocked up on some snacks and "healthy breakfast" foods like donuts and cans of expensive super-diesel iced coffee.

In the checkout line, something caught our eye. It was an individually wrapped Hot Pickle. Jeff "Professor Rickhouse" Roth purchased said pickle and started making it talk in funny voices.  Hot Pickle told dirty jokes on the car ride home. The term "Going Full Hot Pickle" was batted around. It became our spirit mascot for the trip. So much so that it could never be eaten, like some kind of sacred cow that would be treated with the utmost reverence even if she was taking a dump in the middle of the street.

Beast Masters Go Bluegrass!

The trip took us through Michter's Distillery (podcast with Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann), Heaven Hill (podcast with Bernie Lubbers), Four Roses (Ed Young podcast and barrel pick coming soon!!), and finally Wild Turkey.

Wild Turkey is just a gorgeous spot, situated on these rolling hills that dip down into a little valley of trees. There are old train tracks running across the valley where they used to transport materials to and from the distillery back at the turn of the century. It was hard to capture the scene in a picture but here's some sweet drone footage I found on YouTube:


Jimmy & Steve
As we walked into the gift shop, a friendly gentleman in a cowboy hat held the door open for us. I paused and said to Ben, "I think that's Jimmy Russell!".  Sure enough it was the man himself, who was only to happy to sit and talk with us for half an hour about the history of the distillery while we waited for the bus to bring us to the rick houses. Turns out that when it's hot Jimmy likes his bourbon with some ice. Go figure.


We entered Warehouse A, which was built in 1890, to find Eddie Russell there with his hand-hammered whiskey thief and a dozen hand-picked barrels. Eddie is the kind of guy who is immediately likable in a disarming sort of way. He has such obvious love, pride, and incredibly deep knowledge of whiskey that it's an amazing pleasure to sit with him and taste.  "I've got 700,000 barrels of whiskey and I've picked these twelve for you to taste today," is pretty much the best setup for any drinking experience I've ever heard.  As he hammered on the barrels, popped out the bungs, and sunk in his thief to fill our glasses we got to learn the history of bourbon-making firsthand.

Eddie Welcomes us to Warehouse A

We spent over two hours with Eddie talking and drinking. We tasted many barrels and several of them were so good that we had to go back for a second round. Afterward, all the Beast Masters in attendance agreed that this had been the best drinking of our lives. Finally the choice was unanimous, an incredible barrel from Warehouse G that was distilled on New Year's Eve, 2007.

It's Unanimous!  After the pick, Eddie signs the barrel.

Hot Pickle Redux

So strong was our bond with the Hot Pickle that it was packed, checked at Louisville airport, brought back to New York, and now holds an honorary seat on Prof. Rickhouse's bar. Out of all the bourbons we tasted down in Kentucky, our Wild Turkey barrel was the most memorable, and so gave it the honor of being dubbed "The Hot Pickle"!

Drink Along!

When we started Beast Masters Club, our goal was to bring you in on some of the great experiences we had at SmokyBeast. So we're super happy that you can pick up this unique bottle (there are about two dozen left at the time I'm writing this), download the podcast and sip along while we talk with Jimmy, learn all about Wild Turkey, and pick our cask.  Long live the Hot Pickle!


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