Break out the bourbon: Wild Turkey’s master distiller Jimmy Russell celebrates 60 years of service with the distillery this year. That makes him the longest tenured, active master distiller of any whiskey brand in North America.
Jimmy Russell, who grew up less than five miles from the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY, began working at the company on Sept. 10, 1954; his father had worked there as well, as did his wife. The Bourbon Hall of Famer, who turns 80 this November, now works with his son Eddie, who joined Wild Turkey in 1981 and today serves as distiller.
In the past six decades Jimmy Russell studied under whiskey luminaries, including Wild Turkey’s second and third master distillers. Among his many accomplishments, Jimmy Russell created Rare Breed, Kentucky Spirit, American Spirit, American Honey, Tradition, Tribute, Wild Turkey 17-year-old for Japan and co-created (with son Eddie) Russell’s Reserve.
Wild Turkey will kick off “The Year of Jimmy Russell” with the April 15 opening of a new, state-of-the-art visitor center, which includes photos and memorabilia that serve as a time capsule of Jimmy’s colorful life. A documentary on Jimmy Russell will allow fans to get a glimpse into the life of this legendary whiskey maker.
What’s more, Wild Turkey is releasing a commemorative Diamond Anniversary limited-edition bourbon created by Eddie Russell. Diamond Anniversary will be available first at the Visitor Center starting in April, but will expand to key markets around the country this fall.