Partial Transcript: You guys ready?
Segment Synopsis: Eddie and Jimmy Russell talk about new products Wild Turkey has created over the years, including Forgiven, American Honey, and Spiced bourbon. They talk about the origins of each product, and their desire to expand their sales market.
Keywords: Bourbon whiskey; Expanding markets; Innovation; Mistakes; Mixologists; New consumers; Rye whiskey; Vanilla bean; Wild Turkey American Honey; Wild Turkey Distillery; Wild Turkey Forgiven; Wild Turkey Spiced
Subjects: Alcoholic beverages.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Sales promotion.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Partial Transcript: Well y--now you've been talking about Jimmy a, approving and so forth. Uh, how is it working with Jimmy as Master Distiller?
Segment Synopsis: Eddie and Jimmy Russell talk about what it has been like to work together over the years. They discuss advice Jimmy has given Eddie, the differences between generations, and trends in the bourbon industry.
Keywords: Advice; Buckshot; Consistency; Generations; Jimmy Russell; Trends; Working relationships
Subjects: Distillers.; Families.; Quality of products.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Partial Transcript: W, we were talking about Booker Noe, a good friend of ours. Ask Eddie about the time he first met Booker.
Segment Synopsis: Eddie and Jimmy Russell talk about other people involved in the bourbon industry, and discuss how the bourbon distillers form a close-knit community.
Keywords: Booker Noe (Frederick Booker Noe II); Bourbon industry; Camaraderie; Close-knit communities; Drinking bourbon; Elmer T. Lee; Fishing trips; Kentucky Distillers Association Board of Directors; Lincoln Henderson; Parker Beam
Subjects: Distillers; Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Partial Transcript: Tell about the story of the warehouse supervisor when you first come here.
Segment Synopsis: Eddie and Jimmy Russell talk about how Eddie began working as a regular employee at the Wild Turkey Distillery in order to learn and earn respect. Eddie talks about his initiation at the warehouse.
Keywords: "Sugar barrels"; Earning respect; Initiation; Learning
Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Labor unions--Kentucky; Whiskey--Anecdotes
Partial Transcript: Well now it, it appears that, uh, you all have agreed on a lot of things. Do you ever disagree about anything of importance?
Segment Synopsis: Jimmy and Eddie Russell discuss whether they have had any disagreements over the years. Jimmy talks about how he heard about the warehouse fire in 2000.
Keywords: Consistency; Disagreements; Experience; Fires; Learning; Scared
Subjects: Distillers; Families.; Quality of products.
Partial Transcript: Well can I interrupt with another question?
Segment Synopsis: Eddie and Jimmy Russell discuss the sensory lab where they test their products to maintain consistency and standards. They talk about the process, and what happens when they encounter a bad batch of bourbon.
Keywords: Bad batches; Bourbon formulas; Bourbon whiskey; Comparison; Consistency; Mistakes; Sensory labs; Standards; Tasting; Training
Subjects: Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey.
Partial Transcript: One of the biggest things, uh, Eddie will tell you I fought the--we, uh, Blanton's was the single barrel out as far as I know.
Segment Synopsis: Eddie and Jimmy Russell discuss the long-term planning required in the bourbon industry due to the long aging process.
Keywords: Aging bourbon; Changes; Long-term planning; Marketing departments; Microdistilleries; Salespeople; Single barrel bourbons
Subjects: Distillation; Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Partial Transcript: We've got about five minutes on this battery.
Segment Synopsis: Eddie and Jimmy Russell talk more about the sensory lab, and why it was given that name. [Interview is concluded early due to low battery.]
Keywords: Bourbon whiskey; Color; Products; Samples; Sensory labs; Smelling; Taste testing; Tasting
Subjects: Distillation; Distilleries--Kentucky; Quality control.; Quality of products.; Whiskey.
JOANNA HAY: Are you guys ready?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, whenever you are.
AL YOUNG: Uh, I'm Al Young, and I'm, uh, interviewing Master Distiller JimmyRussell, and Associate Master Distiller Eddie Russell here at the Wild Turkey Distillery. We're going to be talking a little bit about quality issues. We're going to be talking about some advice that Eddie might be handing over to, to, uh, Jimmy and Jimmy back to Eddie, both ways, since they're a duo. They do share in many of the operations here at Wild Turkey. So, we found out a little bit about both of you and your backgrounds and, and how you got to work in the industry. Uh, can you tell us a little bit about how you came up with the name Forgiven?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, it was pretty easy. I wanted to use Unforgiven but it wasa trademark name. Uh, Forgiven is a straight rye whiskey and a straight bourbon whiskey, a blend, which is something that you wouldn't want to do really. Uh, 00:01:00we actually didn't have much rye. One of my employees, uh, mistakenly pumped some rye in on top of some bourbon, so we couldn't call it, uh, a straight bourbon or a straight rye. So, once I finally convinced our company to put it in a bottle and put it on the market, uh, the name we were looking for were Unforgiven, but we are hoping that Jimmy has finally forgiven us. (Jimmy Russell laughs) So Forgiven was the name that we wound up using.
JIMMY RUSSELL: A lot of people thinks this is a marketing spiel but it's not. Iwished it was, because we're short of rye whiskeys, as I said a while ago. We could use, be using that rye for straight rye whiskey, but you can't call it rye and you can't call it bourbon. It's, it's going over well. So this is his project and done well with it. So, uh, what was it, five thousand cases?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, it's about five thousand cases. Yeah, I, when it, when itfirst started, being the good son of Jimmy Russell that I am, the first thing I did was get a sample and taste it. (Jimmy Russell laughs) And I just thought it was such an unique taste with the bourbon front and the heavy rye taste on 00:02:00the back end. But it took me a while to convince our company that it should go in a bottle, because they, they didn't know how, quite how to sell it, but I think it's times have come now to where just anything different in the market is something people's looking for, it, it became the right time.
YOUNG: So you all get together, uh, often to look at new products, and, andthings to, uh, to use to make new things, as well as to guarantee the quality of the existing products, is that right?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, I mean, I work closely with, uh, our guy here that runsour North American technical center. I'm probably more on the innovations end than Jimmy. I mean, what he's built over his fifty-nine years is, you know, true bourbon whiskey, and great bourbon whiskey, and Wild Turkey. So, for me, I've always wanted to get more people involved in our industry. And that means doing some different things, American Honey or the spice, we just came out with, 00:03:00or the Forgiven. You know, there's other things we're looking at to come out with. And it's, the thing for me is that I want to make sure of, is that I never do anything to harm what Jimmy's built Wild Turkey into, which is a genuine product. So, I'm very careful about the things that I do here as far as, you know, innovations or new things that I come out with. Because, you know, eventually I want them to drink 101, or Rare Breed, or Russell's Reserve. That's what it's all about for me. So, you know, the innovations are just getting new, different people into our category.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Why don't you go ahead and say I'm hard-headed and old-fashionedis what you say. (both laugh) That's what he usually says when I'm not around, "He's hard-headed and old-fashioned." (laughs)
EDDIE RUSSELL: Well, you have to be politically correct on things like that,but yeah, it's, you know, I tell people all the time that I thought my name was "no" for many years because I'd say, "Jimmy, let's try this." And he's say, "No." "Jimmy, let's do this." And he'd say, "No." But you soon learn to do things and bring it in here, and if he tastes it and says, "It tastes good," and 00:04:00then you get the okay to go ahead with it. And that's basically what it is. And it's like I said, you know, I just want to get more people into our category. Our consumer has changed so much over the last ten or fifteen years. Uh, not all of them can start with the 101, or the Rare Breed, or the Russell's, so the things I've been doing is trying to gently bring them into those categories.
YOUNG: So, with that in mind, do you want to tell us a little bit about thatspiced bourbon?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, Spiced was an idea that I'd come up with. Uh, what welike to do here, we came out with American Honey, uh, before anybody else thought about the honeys. And I sort of wanted it to be a transition into bourbon. But really it's not; it's more of a standalone product. So, spice was more about something that had the bourbon feel, but lighter and easier for people to drink, to where they would come into the bourbon sooner or later. So, we, we don't like to really follow everybody. So most people's spiced bourbon 00:05:00has been the cinnamon or the hot tasting spice. For us, we went the other way. We did it, it has a little hint of vanilla bean, but it still has an 86 proof. It still has the bourbon feel to it. It just sort of rounds the edges off of it. So, it's been, um, received really well, because it is different from what everybody else is doing. Uh, wouldn't mind to pick up a little bit of that spiced rum market, you know. You always want to get into everybody else's category as you go along. So, you know, that was sort of the idea behind the spice. And like I said, it's, it's went over really well, um, because it has that bourbon feel to it.
JIMMY RUSSELL: It's still got the good bourbon flavor. And a lot of people, itmixes well with Coke or ginger. But, how many people just told us, "Well, we're just going to drink it over, on the rocks."
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah.
JIMMY RUSSELL: They like the taste of it so well. So, what Eddie's doing, mostof the ads and promotionals and all. And we was doing it out in San Francisco. 00:06:00And a lot of people just was drinking it over the rocks out there.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Um-hm.
JIMMY RUSSELL: But it's a drink you can drink over the rocks or it mixes well.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, our industry is driven so much by the young mixologist.And that's the people I'm trying to do things for, you know, whether it be the spiced, or the Forgiven, or, you know, whatever rye we can get to them, because ryes are so hot right now, but that's the people that when I'm out in the market I'm trying to connect with, is the bartender guilds, the young mixologists, whether they're male or female.
YOUNG: So, uh, just how do you arrive at these different flavors? Did you juststart out saying vanilla, that's what I'm going to do, or?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, you sort of have an idea. You, you know, what I want todo in most of our products is just enhance our flavors. You know, bourbon has a great vanillas, caramels, spices, so you think about those things. And we're pretty slow here, we don't get too many things out too quickly. (Jimmy Russell laughs) So, you know, the spice was probably an eighteen-month deal. And it 00:07:00was like, you know, let's do a little vanilla, and then we added a little clove, a little cinnamon, just a hint of. And just tasting it. And like I said, we worked. We got the taste we like, and then we make sure Jimmy likes it, and then, of course, you've got corporate people that they want to say they like it, too. And, you know, I had people that wanted, uh, a complete bourbon taste and I had people that wanted an American Honey taste. And I didn't want either; I wanted the middle. You know, I didn't want real sweet. I wanted that bourbon feel. But the reason I was doing it was to get the people that couldn't drink the stronger bourbon righ off the bat. So, you know, with working with Jimmy, you know, ten or fifteen years ago, and it's not only Jimmy but all the great master distillers I've had the pleasure to meet, it, they didn't believe in mixing. You know, you drink your bourbon neat, or over the ice, or with a little water. And that was mixing it. You know, if you drank it with Coke, that wasn't good. (both laugh) You know, so for me, talking about making a 00:08:00mixable bourbon or something for the mixologist is a little bit different from what it used to be.
YOUNG: Well, you know, you've been talking about Jimmy approvement and soforth. Uh, how is it working with Jimmy as a master distiller?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Well, it's not always been easy. You know--(both laugh)--butwe, we've done pretty good. I mean, we go home, it's, we don't, you know, worry about what's happened at work. But, you know, like I said, I had ideas I thought I wanted to do but learned pretty quickly that through Jimmy's experience, uh, he's been very good in the last few years of letting me sort of, um, blaze my own trail. But, you know, for a long time, he wanted me to make sure that I knew how to make Wild Turkey and make it right. Um, it's sort of hard to follow in the shoes of somebody like that. And I've had that question to me a million times, "How do you follow in the shoes of, you know, somebody 00:09:00that's as respected as much as Jimmy in our industry?" And it's, you know, it's, it's not easy to do, so it's not been the easiest thing in the world but it's definitely been the enjoyable thing for my whole life. I mean, I've loved it from the very beginning.
YOUNG: And what kind of advice would you give, Eddie?
JIMMY RUSSELL: Well, as, uh, as I said, make sure that Wild Turkey's thestandard. There's good taste, good flavor consistency all the time--the regular Wild Turkey bourbon be consistent in taste and flavor, day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out, that's the advice I give him. And you know, he, he's got his own ideas, what, uh, he's younger, a lot younger than I am. He's my son. (both laugh) But, you know, the younger generation is completely different from the older generation. And, uh, well, I'll, if you, when you come in the business, you start talking about spices and things like that in the bourbon business, what would they have said to you? You're crazy. What's the matter with you? (laughs) But this is a big trend now, and this is, this is the younger generation. This is y'all's generation that, that's what you're looking for now. And eventually, they'll go from them into the regular bourbons. Uh, 00:10:00I've seen this happen over the years. Uh, many, many years ago, there was a lot of these things tried in the states, and they just went by the wayside. And they're coming, now, I think there'll be more and more of these, because the younger generation is looking for more things like that, where the older generation like I, you know, you're just looking for the good bourbon flavor and just bourbon. But you're seeing more and more trend going in the other direction now. But I'd say some of them was--actually, we were way ahead of our time here many years ago. We had a product called Buckshot. It was a cherry flavored bourbon. Well, uh, it didn't go over very well. Uh, it had a bucking bronco and a rider on a bucking bronco on the label. Called it Buckshot. And now that's one of the things that's coming out now, is some cherry flavors. And gosh, that's been, say, it was about the time you came here, wasn't it the eighties?
EDDIE RUSSELL: It was probably the late eighties. And that's the thing aboutwhat's going on now, is, you know, we were doing experiments, whether it be 00:11:00finishing in a different cask, or flavoring bourbons, but our consumer was, our whole industry I think was more focused on forty-and-older males, and especially Southern males. And they wanted their bourbon on the rocks, or neat, or with a little water. So things like that didn't go over. And, you know, like I said, through the young mixologists, it's become a young, uh, men and women's product anymore, which is a great thing. I mean, they finally discovered a probably one of the only true American spirits there is out there. And it, it's a great deal for me, I know, because thirty-two years in, it's like, you know, people were looking for everything else, but we had such a great spirit right here in Kentucky. So, that's what it's about, like I said, for me, is just getting more people into our category. Putting more different products out there for them to try. Uh, Jimmy's advice to me, when I first started here, was I needed to work 00:12:00twice as hard as anybody else, because they would think he was playing favoritism. And, you know, I thought that was funny at first, but it, it didn't matter. I mean, when I came here, within two weeks I realized it was home, so that was no problem for me. And then, over the years, it's like don't change anything, you know, about how we do Wild Turkey. I mean, we have new facilities, new equipment, but he still makes Wild Turkey and we still make Wild Turkey the same way we made it thirty-two years ago. And I'm sure fifty-nine years ago, you know, there's not much difference except equipment and the, and the things, you know, where you do your work.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Tell them about--I was going to--no, I better not say it. We,we was talking about Booker Noe, a good friend of ours. Ask Eddie about the time he first met Booker.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Well, I can't really repeat what he said. (Jimmy Russelllaughs) I was--(laughs)--I was very lucky because I came along. I, I got to be 00:13:00around all the, the other Jimmy Russells in our industry, Booker Noe, and Elmer T. Lee, and Parker Beam, and all those guys, which were just like Jimmy, true characters of our industry. I think, I think us younger guys have a long way to go to get to be those type of characters. But I was just in, I didn't think anything of Jimmy. He was just Jimmy, or my dad, you know. But when Booker first came out here, he sat around, and talking to Jimmy, and they were tasting whiskeys, and he asked Jimmy about another person's whiskey. And he said, uh, "Well, what do you think?" And Jimmy was always sort of that politically correct, he said, "It's pretty good." And he called him a lying something, something, something.
JIMMY RUSSELL: S.O.B. (both laugh)
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, but that was just Booker. I mean, he was such acharacter, and--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --you knew, you knew Booker, Al.
EDDIE RUSSELL: You know, I mean I can remember Parker Beam coming here andlooking at how we were doing our process. And I was, you know, twenty-three or (twenty)-four years old, and I thought, What's Jimmy doing with giving our 00:14:00competition, you know, what's going on here? But then I soon realized, you know, we're such a small community here in Kentucky and we're really a close-knit community. I mean, I knew all of those master distillers and I know Freddy Noe, and Craig Beam, and Greg Davis, all the younger guys. So, it's just really neat how close we all our in our industry. We see each other a lot. Uh, even if we don't, it's like, you know, we've known each other forever. So, it's been really neat in that aspect of it. We're not much competitors here in Kentucky, because we're all looking for a different flavor and a different product. You know, out in the market, that's where the difference is. (laughs) Your sales guys sort of compete really hard against each other. But Jimmy always told me this, "We don't talk about everybody else's bourbon; we just talk about our, our own." And that's sort of what I've tried to live by as I've got into doing the seminars, and moving out in the market, and doing some of the marketing end of the stuff. 00:15:00
HAY: Do you have any Elmer T. Lee stories?
EDDIE RUSSELL: My favorite one of Elmer, and he's, he was such a differentperson than even Jimmy or Booker, but I got lucky enough to go on a fishing trip--(Jimmy Russell laughs)--with him one time. And he liked to fish. And Booker was with us. You know, they, you brought your own product. And we've done that over the years, where you bring your own product, whatever you want to bring. And Booker's hadn't been out too long, and Rare Breed had not been out too long, which was one of Jimmy's first steps into the higher-end bourbons, or the boutique bourbons, or top-shelf bourbons, whatever you want to call them. And, uh, Booker sat me down and said, "sit down"--he just called me "Russell"--"Just sit down, Russell"--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --I was going to say, he just called him Russell. (laughs)Yeah, that's all he ever called him.
EDDIE RUSSELL: He sat me down, and he said, "I'll teach you how to drink mybourbon." Well, he drank his bourbon out of a tea glass. And he got two tea glasses, poured his Booker's half full and the rest with water. So, we sat 00:16:00there and drank that. And I had brought Rare Breed, and I looked over, and Elmer T. Lee, he took it, he opened it up--it hadn't even been opened--he opened it up and just touched it to his hand like that, and rubbed his hands--(rubs his hands)--and went--(smells his hand)--"Oh, pure Jimmy Russell," is what he said. And I just, I was in awe that he knew as much about Jimmy, you know, that he could just smell it and think that was what Jimmy was about. And then, of course, being the young kid I was, I poured me and Booker in a glass with no ice, no water, or nothing, I said, "Here, no water needed." And he called me a few things on that trip, too. (both laugh) But, uh, he, you know, it's like everybody, you know, if I didn't have Wild Turkey, there's bourbons that I would drink, and the same way, Booker liked the Rare Breed, because it was such a barrel proof-type whiskey, which was, was what he was used to. But those are some of the things that, you know, I'll never forget, you know, getting to do things like that with those guys.
YOUNG: You know, we lost another whiskey icon recently, Lincoln Henderson.00:17:00
JIMMY RUSSELL: Yeah.
YOUNG: I know he was a good friend of Jimmy's.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Yes.
YOUNG: Um, any thoughts about Lincoln?
JIMMY RUSSELL: You never did get to know Lincoln.
EDDIE RUSSELL: I, I knew him some. Not as well as you did. I just, you know,respected him for what he did. Know that he did a lot for the Brown-Forman Corporation. You know, really, he didn't put his name out there as much as some of the others did. But, you know, just seemed to be a very nice guy. I got to know him a little bit with his Angel's Envy and why he was doing it, which was very impressive. But I'm sure you know a lot more about him.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Yeah, uh, Lincoln, well, you served on a board with Lincoln too,didn't you? We, uh, we, uh, all us, there was Elmer, Elmer and Lincoln, all of us was on the board for a long time together. And, uh, it was a thing that, you had some, you know, that would get up and stomp, and spit, and go on. Lincoln sat back. Wouldn't he?
YOUNG: He would.
JIMMY RUSSELL: And he'd sit back and says these, and, but he was a good fellow.00:18:00He, he was a gentleman. Well, uh, I, I can't, everybody in the bourbon business is on the board of directors at the KDA or the master distillers, they, they're all gentlemen. And they'll, they'll, uh, go on with, you wouldn't, you couldn't tape us together. (laughs) Because when we all got together--(laughs)--he would, we would, uh, but somebody said they'd like to, my wife said one time, she'd like to be a little mouse in the corner when we was all together, just doing, talking to each other. (laughs) But, uh--
EDDIE RUSSELL: --yeah, when I first started in the industry, and that was whenBooker came to the distillery, and I was, like I said, no more than twenty-three, twenty-four years old. And there was a marketing person with Booker, and he looked at me, because him and Jimmy were sitting there, telling stories about fathers and past, you know, runarounds, and things they'd done, and he looked at me and said, "You know, you ought to be taping all this stuff." 00:19:00And, and I should have, because some of those stories that, you know, that are gone now with those guys. I know me and Freddie try to make some good stories, but we'll never catch up with the original ones. (laughs) So, you know, things like that, it's just, you know, just when you get around on it, it's about what's happened in the past and the industry, and you know, how everything's been done through the process that we go through as doing a time-honored process. So, it's just been neat with all the things that's happened.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Tell him about the story of the warehouse supervisor when youfirst come here.
EDDIE RUSSELL: (laughs) Well, Jimmy started me out in the union. I actuallycame here for a summer job.
JIMMY RUSSELL: He didn't like it when he started out. (laughs)
EDDIE RUSSELL: You know, and I thought Jimmy at that time was plant manager,master distiller, human resources, and the whole bit. And he started me out bottom person on the pole. So I stacked cases, rolled barrels, dumped bottles, painted buildings, and mowed grass. And still loved every minute of it. Within 00:20:00two weeks, I knew I was home and was going to stay here. But they were a little shy of me because of who Jimmy was. And then my second week here, on a Friday at, uh, the crew leader in the warehouse, he said, "Come with me." So I thought, you know, I was just happy to do whatever they wanted me to, I thought it was a dream job. And he took me up to the fourth floor, which is where your best whiskey is--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --the sugar barrel--
EDDIE RUSSELL: --and walks me up to this barrel, and he says, "Have a taste ofthat." And I mean, I was so green, I didn't have a clue what he was talking about. Because of the bungs in the barrel, you have to drill them or beat them out. Back in those days, we beat them out. He just reached over and pulled the bung out. He said, "Get you a taste of that." I was smart enough to bring a cup though. I wasn't quite that nave. So, I got a little taste straight out of the barrel, which was, you know, probably something I wouldn't want my employees to do--(laughs)--but back in those days it happened quite a bit, and to this day, it's probably still the best tasting whiskey I ever had. I mean 00:21:00it, he knew, he knew where the best barrel was. It was such a great taste. You could just feel it going through every vein in your body. So, I was initiated at that time. People, when, when I didn't go home and tell Jimmy what had happened. I waited many years. I told, actually he snuck up behind me as I was giving a tour one day, and this was probably fifteen or twenty years later, and I was telling that story. He in the background, and that's how Jimmy is, he'll sneak up on you. "You never told me that before." And I said, "No, I didn't aim to ever tell you that one." But that was something that, you know, things like that, you just never forget. And it just, it, you know, working in the union like that was the best thing that could ever happen to me because I learned where everything was. I went in the distillery as a relief operator. I knew where every pipe, every valve, and everything was before he finally brought me into the distillery to teach me how to actually make the bourbon. So, even 00:22:00though I didn't think it was such a great idea at twenty-one, at, at thirty-five or forty, I realized it was probably the best thing you could have done for me.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Well, he's, he's had to oversee people now that he grew up with,or went to school with, and all, you know, and they respect him a lot more now because you know, if he'd started up here, well, you had it easy, which, but they can't tell him that. He's done everything they're, and they know that he's done everything they've had to do.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah.
JIMMY RUSSELL: And so, they can't say, "Well, you had it easy." He had, hestarted at the bottom and come up from the bottom-up. He didn't think it was right at that time, but he realizes now, I think, why, why it was and all, it's, they respect him a lot more, especially in small comunities where everybody knows everybody else. Uh, it's a lot more respect for you.
YOUNG: Well, now, it, it appears that, uh, you all have agreed on a lot ofthings. Did you ever disagreed about anything of importance?
JIMMY RUSSELL: Not a whole lot that I can think of.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Uh, no, not really, I mean, at first there was probably things.00:23:00I mean, we had wooden cypress fermenters and I wanted to go stainless. And he was like nope. We actually built one, and we tested through it for about eight years before. You know, things like that, that I thought I knew, but it didn't take me long to figure out that, you know, the things he was doing was, he was training me the right way, which was good. I mean, you know, you can take all sorts of shortcuts. And, you know, some people in our industry start out as master distillers. I'm thirty-two years in and I'm associate master distiller, and that doesn't bother me a bit. And people ask me that all the time, and I keep telling them, "Thirty-two years in I still learn things from it." You know, if something goes wrong, you know, you've got that experience, you, you go ask, and he knows. Some of the times the things he'll tell you, it's, you sit down and taste whiskey with him and you taste something off, and he can taste it and tell you exactly what it is. Or, I'll taste him on whiskey, he'll tell me what floor and how old it is a lot of times. And it's like, I don't see how he 00:24:00does that. But, you know, that's just through that experience, which he's taught me, which has been good. But nothing really serious, because, you know, everything that he's ever done has been about keeping Wild Turkey as a genuine product and the taste and flavor of it. I can't, I can't go against that too much, you know. So nothing really serious.
JIMMY RUSSELL: He's a master distiller. He's just, too. So, he's in theBourbon Hall of Fame of Master Distillers, so.
HAY: What about any challenges or, or a story of something in the years you'vebeen working together, where you were in the trenches together, something went wrong, there was something that had to be remedied, something fixed, a disaster, any stories like that, where you were in the trenches together and you want to tell us about it?
JIMMY RUSSELL: No, I, only the story I can tell you about, he scared me todeath. I was in Spain when we had the warehouse fire. And I was in Spain, and 00:25:00I got back to the hotel that night, you know, there's a big difference in time. The first note, that was before all these cell phones and everything else, you know.
JIMMY RUSSELL: So, you know, the first note I picked up was, "Daddy, give me acall on,"--he had a cell phone, I didn't even have one--it said, "Daddy, give me a call on my cell phone." Well, you know what goes through your mind there: something's happened in the family. I had a whole stack of other, from people at the distillery. And what it was, there was a fire that we was in here, but when you pick that up, shew, when you pick that up, the first thing was from him, it said, "Daddy, give me a call on my cell phone." You know, it, it really shakes you up away in Spain, and they're here, because if, if it had been somebody from the distillery, I wouldn't have thought much about it, but your own son calling you and telling you, "Give me a call on my cell phone; I need to talk to you," the only thing you could think about was your family until I got those other notes that, uh, was from the distillery people. Then I knew it was 00:26:00something here, but.
EDDIE RUSSELL: You know, I think the only time that I mean, we argue and that'sgood. I mean, you should disagree to disagree sometimes. And, and we do, and we have over, I mean he's called me hard-headed and I've called him hard-headed plenty of times. (Jimmy Russell laughs) But, you know, I always thought that I knew more or had learned more than the way I was progressing in the industry. But, you know, after thirty-two years, you realize he just wanted to make sure. But there was times I'd get madder than a hornet at him because I thought, you know, he kept me in the distillery for eight or nine years, learning the process of making the whiskey, and what it should look like, and the, the temperature, you know, just the whole process. And then moved me up to the maturation end, and I thought, and I, I think I even told him one time, I said, "So it only takes three days to make it and you, you kept me there for nine years?" I said, "We age it six to twelve years, so how many of these years before you're going 00:27:00to believe that I know what I'm doing in the maturation end?" So, you know, there was times like that. But nothing really serious. Like I said, it was always, and I think we can credit my mother for this: she wouldn't let us be too hard on each other once we left the distillery. I mean, we could argue all we want, but when we got home, we were all, you know, made sure we was eating my mom's good cooking. We weren't going to say anything bad. (laughs)
HAY: Well, can I interrupt with another question?
YOUNG: Well, I don't mind at all. You do ------------(??).
EDDIE RUSSELL: We got, we've got another big tour out there.
HAY: I know we're going to do a full interview with you, Eddie, in a, in aminute. Um, but while we, while we still have you two together, could you talk about this room, or rooms like this, that you've been in over the years? I mean, this is the new version, isn't it?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah.
HAY: What happens here? What's it like and how do you work together, or whatdo you look for, and what do you do here--
YOUNG: --you want me to kind of pay for my keep for a minute, and offer aquestion up, and see what happens? Not that you're doing anything wrong; 00:28:00you're, you're fine. We're sitting here in the sensory lab. And, uh, this is where you do your evaluations of your whiskeys and a whole lot more. Would you like to kind of tell us about this room and what, what really takes place here?
JIMMY RUSSELL: Well, this is where we do all our tastings. When we, when westart filling, we start filling barrels tomorrow probably, we'll have samples set, we had the new products in here a few minutes ago. This table, by the end of the month, will have all the samples we made for that month. And we're lazy. We don't have to get up; we move it around to us. But we'll, we're comparing the every day's production. We want to see. We're not going to put it in a new barrel if it doesn't taste right to start out with. So, uh, we're tasting. And we do not taste together. Uh, we wouldn't be in here together. I'd come in and taste. We've got score sheets over here and I put down my scores. He'd come in. He'd taste, put down his scores, and the other tasters would. You never 00:29:00taste together. Al will tell you the same thing, Eddie will. You know, if we're all, if the three of us are sitting here tasting right now, if I picked up, maybe something gets my eye, bat my eye, you know what they start thinking? He thinks something's wrong with it. They're looking for things that's not there. So we, now once a week, we meet on our new product, once a week, and evaluate what we've, all of us taste. Now if something, if one of us doesn't think it tastes right, then we'll, we'll, after everybody's tasted that day, we'll meet that day and talk about it. What, some, some days, you know, your taste buds are a little off. You've got a cold or something, a little bit. You come back and say, "Well, I thought this and this. And did you see it?" "No, didn't see anything," but most of the time, it's, it's, uh, your own taste buds. But that's one of the things, and we're, we're sampling over here in this corner is barrel samples. We're sampling six- and eight-year; we know how it's doing each year. Uh, these you see sitting on the table right now, this is our 81 proof, is, uh, the ninth--uh, the twenty-eighth day was dumped, we're getting 00:30:00ready for bottling on the twenty-eighth. The tall bottles are standard. The two samples are, we compared them. And Eddie and I both, uh, we hardly ever have to go to the standard. We know what it needs to be and what it tastes like. But we do have a standard that we can compare against to make sure that it's consistent in flavor and taste.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, and, you know, when I started, I had a pretty good feelfor the aged whiskey. (laughs) So there wasn't too much training on that part. But like the, the new distillate right off the still, or the White Dog, or whatever you want to call it, that, uh, you know, I had to learn a little bit. And I can remember back in the beginning, when I started, they would set up white whiskeys from each distillery and say, "Tell me which one's which." And at first, I could get a couple. I could get ours because I knew what it tasted like. And I could get Maker's because it was so sweet. But the rest of them I had to learn and I had to see the differences in what they were doing. So, you 00:31:00know, the tasting part of it you, you learn over the years. As he said, there's five of us that taste the new distillate, and we sit down and talk about it. Jimmy's probably our harshest critic, which he should be. (Jimmy Russell laughs) Uh, you know, and everybody else sort of gets along and talks about what's going on. This part of it is, is a fun part of it. But it's very important. You don't want to put something in the bottle that you're going to get a complaint sample of, because I have to initial a paper when I taste this saying I approved it. So if they get complaint samples, the first thing they do is see who approved it. So you want to make sure you're not approving something. If you have doubts, you go grab Jimmy or you go grab somebody else, and you, you have them look at it. And like he said, not every day is your taste buds working correctly. So when you, you have something off, you make sure that somebody else is tasting it, too. Uh, but this is the, uh, biggest quality control I'd say for every distillery. 00:32:00
JIMMY RUSSELL: Yes.
EDDIE RUSSELL: I mean, you can do all sorts of scientific tests. You can doeverything you want to, but it boils down to what it tastes like. And that's the most important part. And I'd say, any distillery you go to, they're going to tell you the same thing: they want it to taste a certain way. And if it doesn't taste that way, then you're trying to figure out what happened in the process. So, it's a very important part for us and also a pretty fun part.
JIMMY RUSSELL: You know, it's one of those things, you know what your producttastes like. We know each other's products. We can, we can just about tell you it. Just like Eddie drinks Pepsi's. If I pour samples out here of Coke and Pepsi, he's going to pick out the Pepsi. The same way in ours, we, we know the flavor and the taste. And actually, when we get to this point, ready for bottling, it's a lot of, made a lot of bad mistakes for the seven-, six-, seven-, eight-, ten-year, because it's been the day the grains come in it's checked: the grinding is checked, the cookers are checked, the fermenters are 00:33:00checked every day, the new product is tasted, the new barrels are inspected. So, if it gets down to this product, a lot of us made a lot of bad mistakes. (laughs) But, uh, and saying it's not dependent on one; it's several of us has to approve everything. So, that's the main thing, that's being con-, back to what I stated all along, be consistent, be consistent in that flavor and taste. The thing that's helped us all in the bourbon business, we talked a little bit about, is the old standards are still the big products, but there are all of us are coming out with the single barrels, the small batches, and they're making a big headway in the marketplace now. They'll never be what your standards are, because, uh, they'll never grow that much. But, uh, they're the big things. And you, young people, that's what you're looking for, is something different, and something different, something, uh. And all of ours, the day it's made, our bourbon is the same formula. We use the same percentage of corn, rye, and barley malt, the same yeast, the same cooking temperatures, the same distillate. 00:34:00The day it's made, and a lot of people don't understand that. Because it tastes different, each one of them will taste different, but it's us selecting the barrels for different ages and different products, where Al and them, they might use five or six different yeasts. Uh, but ours is, we have two formulas here; we have our bourbon formula and a rye formula. A lot of people think these small batches, you just made batches for each one of them. But we're not that smart here. We wouldn't know how much to make for ten years from now. You'd either have too much of one or not enough of the other if you was trying to make each batch. All of us are basically the same on that. It's basically the same formula, uh, day in and day out.
YOUNG: What do you do with it, despite your best intentions, all of thisconcentrated effort to make this quality product, when something just doesn't smell right at the end?
JIMMY RUSSELL: Well--(Eddie Russell laughs)--I'm not going to say ontelevision--(Eddie Russell laughs)--what I usually tell people. (both laugh)
EDDIE RUSSELL: That's exactly what I was thinking too. (both laugh)
JIMMY RUSSELL: It's not cusswords, really. (all laugh)00:35:00
EDDIE RUSSELL: Let's just say it's out.
JIMMY RUSSELL: (laughs) No, no, you know, if it gets to this point, uh, I canhonestly say this: we've had one bad batch in my lifetime here. And you can blame it all on me. It was even before Eddie came. Uh, our, uh, it, uh, got through the grain people. A load of grain come in, it got through them. The cooking people caught it. It's like cooking at home, you know. You're cooking at home, you know if something's wrong in the cooking. And they caught it. And as Eddie says, I'm hard-headed. I decided I was going to take it all the way through. We fermented it, distilled it, put it in new barrels, and waited for eight years. It still had the same flavor and taste as it did, as it smelled in that cooker. The load of grain, there was some gasoline that leaked, uh, leaked in on it, a little spot of it. And normally what we'd have done was, it, if it 00:36:00had been, uh, if they'd caught it in unloading the grain, they'd sent the load back. But they didn't. But they caught it in the cooker, and normally what we'd have done there would dumped it out for cattle feed. And I, hard-headed, I said, "Well, I'll see if I change, but it didn't," it, we sold it to a place down in Louisville that takes Coca-Colas and all kinds of sweet stuff and makes, uh, alcohol out of them for gasohol, that's, that's where that ended up. But, uh, it was an expensive project. (laughs) With new barrels, but what a--(laughs)--it was an expensive project. But I just wanted to see if, if anything would ever change and it didn't. Same as the day as they went in that barrel, they came out, you still had that--one of the main things you've got to look for in grains--I'll also tell you this--is must, moldy, musty taste. If it's in there in that grain, it's going to distill over, and I don't care what you do to it, it's going to be there at the end. You can't never get rid of it. If it's any off flavors going in that barrel, it's going to be there at the end. It don't-- 00:37:00
EDDIE RUSSELL: --and that's--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --don't you--
EDDIE RUSSELL: --and that's why you taste it to see that, because you markthose barrels down, and you blend them in slowly. And, you know, there's going to be, we've got 530,000 barrels, there's going to be a few that don't meet Jimmy's standards. So, you know, you have to sort of make sure you, you slowly add those in, and, you know, do things like that to, to make sure you're not changing your whole product. So, I mean I rate them and they're, we have a code on our, in our computer system for musty. If we think it has a little musty smell, then we give it that code or that taste. And we give it that code. And then we look at it over the years, and you might only add a couple of barrels to a 1200-barrel dump just to make sure it doesn't change the flavor of your whiskey. So, that's what you have to do with most things like that.
JIMMY RUSSELL: One of the biggest things, uh, Eddie will tell you, I foughtthe, we, uh, Blanton's was the first single barrel out, as far as I know, and we was the second. Booker's was the first barrel proof and we was right behind 00:38:00him. But in sin-, in single barrels, that's coming from one barrel and one barrel only. Every barrel has a little different taste. The way a tree grows in the woods--I use an example all the time--you can plant the same flowers all the way around your home. Some of them will do better on one side than the other. Same with white oak trees. And I, I fought our company for years on the single barrels, because you heard me say in the beginning, I want Wild Turkey to be the same day-in and day-out and year-in and year-out. And every barrel tastes a little different. But I'll promise you this on our single barrels: you won't be able to tell the difference in them. Because we're going through--tell him how many barrels we go through a lot of times to figure it.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Well, he, he makes, he won't let me just pick out differentflavors. He wants a profile, a taste profile. So, you go through a lot of sampling to pick out the ones that, you know, the single barrels--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --we used(??)--
EDDIE RUSSELL: --there's not a huge, you'll do fifty barrels and sell it, youknow, you know, a couple of times a year. But to get to those fifty barrels, we go through several hundred to pick out those fifty, because we're, we're looking 00:39:00for the same taste in all of them or as close a taste as you can get.
YOUNG: And I think the whole reason behind all of that is to keep thosecustomers coming back--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --right--
EDDIE RUSSELL: --yeah--
YOUNG: --you don't want them to get one taste associated with Russell's Reserveand have it change.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Exactly.
YOUNG: Or for that manner, any of the other Wild Turkey offerings--
EDDIE RUSSELL: --yeah--
YOUNG: --uh, and drive away your customers.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Right--
EDDIE RUSSELL: --yeah, and that's something you, you fight your corporatepeople, because you know, they think you can change a proof or change an age, and it's going to be the same. And it's not. (laughs) You know, that's what's the difference is in our products. So, you know, you fight that with them. And it's, luckily here, Wild Turkey, Jimmy's always had enough pull to, to keep doing it the same way he's always done it.
JIMMY RUSSELL: We've got to watch the marketing and sale people. What, why,when we're meeting Wednesday for the long-range projections. You know, they think, Well we're going to do this next year. Are you going to do it next year? 00:40:00Say, you want to put out a twelve-year-old next year? "We're putting out some twenty-one-year-old now, but we want to increase this and this." And they think you can do it next year. I said, "No, you've got to give us long time notice before, you can't decide one year you're going to do something different the next year. You've got to have that planned well in advance." See(??), it's not like most things. You know, we're in the business, uh, business, if they don't turn over their inventory in six to eight months, they're not going to be in business very long. We're not even thinking about it here for six-, to eight-, to ten to twelve years. So, uh, this is one of the things, I think, you know, now they both agree with me on it, these micro-distilleries starting, you're seeing a lot of White Dog on the market now, and moonshiners, moonshine, we call it. And basically the reason I think it'll fade away, but the reason for that, these micro-distilleries that are starting up, you can't keep spending money for four years before you put out a product. They've got to get a little money coming in, and that's where they're getting their money from now. But you just 00:41:00can't, in other words, you'd have to have a lot of money to start today making it and wait four years before you can even put any of your product on the market. Uh, you've got a lot, a lot of cash flow going out every year not getting any return on. So that's a big thing that we've got a plan for all time. And that's hard to convince marketing and sales people. They think, uh, Well, we can do this next year or two years from now. But they can't do it, you can't do it in that time in our business.
YOUNG: It would be a lot easier if we could put a new tap on and pour it out.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --that's--
EDDIE RUSSELL: --it sure would--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --that's another thing in, in my lifetime. Ever since I've beenin the business, if you want to get rich quick, find out a way that you can make a four-year-old bourbon taste like a six-year-old bourbon. Uh, speed up the aging on it. Everything's been tried in our business. And nobody's ever come up with anything yet. I know one company, many years ago, they sealed all their windows in their storage buildings. They put heat and air conditioning in it. They had heat for three months, then air condition for three months, heat for 00:42:00three months, trying to change the seasons. Didn't work. Everything, I don't know if anything's ever been, everything you can think of has been tried. But just to make a bourbon taste older than what it actually is, it's Mother Nature that has to take care of it.
EDDIE RUSSELL: Yeah, there's even more than that's shooting wild music into theaging, trying to make the whiskey jump around and age quicker in this way. It's, yeah, like, that'll work.
JIMMY RUSSELL: (laughs) You heard about that, have you?
JIMMY RUSSELL: (Eddie Russell laughs) Did you hear that one? About one,they're playing music in the storage buildings, making, vibrating the, to make it age faster. (laughs)
YOUNG: Just bounce along and have them get some age on it.
HAY: We've got about five minutes on this battery. Um, we can go get anotherone and keep going, um, or we can change gears whenever you're, whenever you're ready.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Yeah, because you've got to interview, Eddie, yet.
YOUNG: I've still got to reinterview Eddie.
YOUNG: So, uh, what else do you want us to talk about?00:43:00
HAY: Uh, I'm, I'm curious about why this is called a sensory lab.
YOUNG: The term sensory.
HAY: Can you talk about that? Because novices like myself are like, why is ita sensory lab?
YOUNG: Well, we had, uh, okay. You know, we, to use the term sensory lab, um,to designate a room where we do a lot of different things to our product at the very beginning and when it's finished, after its aged out. What do you all, how do you define sensory lab?
JIMMY RUSSELL: Well, basically a lab where you're doing all your taste--and yousee, we're got different samples set up here today comparing different ones, uh, for the tasting people. Those over there, it's three samples of each one of them. Two of them's exactly alike; one of them's not. You're sensoring to see if you can pick out the difference. If you go down through there and you're not able to pick out any difference, then there's no difference in the product. But if the majority of the people starts picking out the one that's off, you know 00:44:00then it's, but we're doing everything in here, uh, for a sensory lab, it--
HAY: --why isn't it called tasting lab?
EDDIE RUSSELL: Well, it's because you're using your senses. You're using youreyes for the color, you're using your nose for the smell, or you're using your taste buds. I mean, the only thing you're really not using is your feel and touch and your hearing. So you're using your senses to make sure your product's right. I mean, if I go into the warehouse with Jimmy, we take it out of the barrel, the first thing we do is look at the color, so you're using your eyes. And then we're going to nose it. And that's a huge part of it, is the smell, what it smells like. I mean, you're going to know something's off from that nose. And then, of course, our favorite part is your taste buds, you know, so your other senses.
JIMMY RUSSELL: We have to spit it out though.
HAY: Do you always?
JIMMY RUSSELL: Well, yeah, because, you know, a lot of times we might, we might00:45:00taste forty or fifty samples today. And we'll never taste over five or six at one time. We'll taste five or six and go out, do our jobs for forty-five minutes, and come back. If you start sitting here and tasting a lot of samples, you'll deaden your taste buds. And like Eddie said, one of the most important things--you know, in bourbon, it's the only product in the world you can't add color to. The day it's made, it looks just like the bottle we had sitting here, just like water. In bourbon, all the color has to come from aging in that barrel. If you put color in it, it becomes a whiskey. We can't call it bourbon anymore. So that's one thing you've got to be consistent in, in sampling and putting your barrels together for bottling, to make sure that color is the same all the time. And that's, because if you could put color in it, you could do whatever you wanted to with it. But this here, it's all natural in, in bourbon. It all has to be a natural product. You just can't, uh, do what you want to to it and still be bourbon. You can't do anything to it. 00:46:00
YOUNG: I believe, I believe y'all agree though that when you come into thesensory lab, you can't be wearing shaving lotion. You can't be wearing some fancy shampoo.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Yeah.
YOUNG: You've got to, I've seen it done, and I think you all maybe have too,you maybe take a little White Dog and kind of rub it on every once in a while before you go in there to make sure you've got no aroma of your own in there.
JIMMY RUSSELL: Another thing--
YOUNG: -- --------pause(??)--
JIMMY RUSSELL: --another thing that is--
[End of interview.]