In our previous conversation with Eddie and Bruce Russell, Eddie said there is no truer bourbon than Wild Turkey. The pair spoke about the importance of the Australian market to the brand, and the deep-rooted heritage and inclusivity of Wild Turkey that has made it a favourite among Australian whiskey aficionados.

Continuing the conversation, Eddie told The Shout not only how his journey at Wild Turkey began, but how it has evolved.

“I started out in our distillery as a general employee, within five years I went on to take over the warehouse and worked every job there. I realised that my dad had built this by being honest and staying authentic.

“We do special items, but we haven’t changed the 101, we haven’t changed the yeast, our recipe, or the way we do things and that’s important.

“In my first 20 years or so, the landscape was really limited. It was southern US gentlemen that drank our bourbon, and they were the only people we promoted to, Japan was the only export market. We will stay true to that, but I wanted to bring more people in and be more inclusive, so we started to come out with special releases like Russell’s Reserve, we came out with Longbranch.

“My dad looks at me and says ‘it won’t work, don’t do it’, but I’m not trying to reach those people that we’ve always had, that’s why I’ll never change those products, I’m trying to be creative.

“That’s what I’ve told [Bruce], be creative, you can do whatever you want, just don’t mess up what your grandfather’s built. Stay true to Wild Turkey, but keep creating those things that make people ask ‘what’s coming next?’”

Now with 13 years of experience under his belt, and a commitment to preserving his family’s legacy, we asked Bruce what he envisions for the future of Wild Turkey.

“Like dad said, a lot of it is building on the foundation that Mimmy has built – I call our grandfather Mimmy.

“I have the benefit that I started in 2010, when whiskey was already cool here in the States. A lot of the stuff I got to work on with dad hasn’t just been keeping one product afloat, all of our products are doing really well, and now we’re getting to do a lot of experimentation.

“You’ll see some stuff from us in the next five to 10 years, that growing up I never imagined would come out of Wild Turkey, so it’s an exciting time to be a part of the team.”

Bruce Russell
Bruce Russell

With three generations of the Russell family working closely together day to day, Eddie explained how the two father and son dynamics differ.

“Me and Bruce are a lot better than me and my dad. My dad was just from a different generation, very old school. If you wanted to learn, you had to get stuck in there and figure it out. He helped me out, but it was all about getting in there and getting your hands dirty.

“I’ve tried to take that approach, along with listening to Bruce. My dad never cared what I thought about a product.”

“He still doesn’t,” Bruce laughed.

“For me, I want Bruce to use his creative mind as it’s something our industry never did before,” Eddie continued. “Right now, it couldn’t be a more exciting time in our industry, especially for us, because we come from a background of not wanting to change anything. We don’t change what built [Wild Turkey], but we do change the products we put out there, and give people the chance to taste things they’ve never had before.”

Bruce also reflected on the quality family time that his career path has afforded him.

“It’s been great to work with dad and mimmy both. I started out giving tours, but once I stopped giving tours and started properly working for Campari, dad took me into warehouses and labs and had me give my opinion. I failed a few times, and I learned that I couldn’t just straight up say I liked or disliked it. In the lab, I learned to work more professionally.

“I’ve learned a whole lot and it’s afforded me the opportunity to build a relationship with my dad and mimmy, that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s what keeps me going to work. I grew up in Lawrenceburg where we have Wild Turkey and Four Roses, everybody works in bourbon. So the whiskey part wasn’t that cool to me, but getting to work with my dad and mimmy, that was the best part.”

Eddie Russell in Kentucky
Eddie Russell

After years spent working in Lawrenceburg together and developing a unique bond, the pair are currently preparing to embark on Bruce’s first visit to Australia. In a quick trip to their largest export market, Eddie and Bruce will be spending time Down Under from 12 to 18 November, visiting Perth, Sydney and Brisbane.

Eddie expressed his excitement about showing Bruce the ropes in Australia, but more than anything he looks forward to hearing from Australia’s Wild Turkey fans.

“Coming over there, we won’t just be talking about what we’re doing and what releases we have, but hearing what you all want. I know the first thing I’ll hear is ‘we want 101 Rye over here’ and I understand completely because of the way rye has grown over the last seven or eight years, and we’re making it happen as fast as we can, eventually it will get over there.”

“There’s definitely a few things under wraps that we can’t talk about, which is hard for us because we get so excited about it, but standby to hear more.”

“We will definitely be able to give more details about something new once we’re over there,” teased Bruce. “We have some cool stuff in the works really soon, with some other cool stuff to follow in 2024, so stay tuned.”

Follow @wildturkeyau on Instagram for details of Eddie and Bruce’s upcoming tour and the chance to meet the Russell’s in Australia.

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