Today, September 10, marks 54 years that Jimmy Russell started work at the Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. I talked to Jimmy a couple months ago for the story in the latest issue (due out October 1) of Malt Advocate, he told me how he started out in Quality Control:
"This is really the only full-time job I’ve ever had," he said. "It wasn’t hardly the same as it is now. They called it "Quality Control." Now you do Quality Control and people bring you samples and you sit there and run them. Back then, you went and got your own samples, and then you might be unloading a truck of grain after you run them. Unloading it with a shovel!"Now Jimmy's been there so long, and been the master distiller so long, it's hard for anyone else to remember when Jimmy wasn't making the bourbon. He learned how to do it from a pre-Prohibition master distiller, William Hughes:
It wasn’t always "the Russell way." When Jimmy learned distilling, it was "Mister Bill’s way." Master distiller William "Mister Bill" Hughes was a "seven-day man," as Jimmy put it. "He lived up on top of the hill, and he was here seven days a week. He’d worked before Prohibition, here at this distillery." Mister Bill took young Jimmy under his wing, and taught him distilling.And we've all benefited. Hats off, and shake hands with one of the finest folks in bourbon -- a business that is chock-full of some truly warm, decent folks -- happy anniversary, Jimmy Russell. Thanks for all the great whiskey.