In today’s world of here today and gone tomorrow there are very few industries or jobs that people stick with for an entire career. One exception to that rule is Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famer and Master Distiller Jimmy Russell. Today is a special day at Wild Turkey Distilling Co. in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky as they celebrate the man, the myth, the legend, the Master Distiller’s Master Distiller, the Buddha of Bourbon – Jimmy Russell.
Jimmy started at Wild Turkey on September 10, 1954. Stop and think about that for a moment. 65 years. He’s not quitting at 65 years, no, Jimmy Russell, the heart and soul of the Wild Turkey brand is just hitting his stride.
Here’s an open letter from his co-workers and family members.
Excited to share that beloved Master Distiller – “Buddha of Bourbon” – Jimmy Russell is celebrating 65 years of making bourbon at Wild Turkey! Since 1954, Jimmy Russell has been the heart and soul of the Wild Turkey brand and today marks 65 years of a monumental career.
1954 was a banner year in the US for music, movies, marriage and bourbon. Elvis launched his music career with “That’s Alright (Mama),” Marlon Brando starred in his Academy Award-winning masterpiece “On the Waterfront,” Marilyn Monroe married Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio and Jimmy Russell joined the Wild Turkey Distillery team. All iconic moments in American history that shaped their respective industries.
65 years have passed since September 10, 1954 – the day Jimmy officially walked through the distillery doors – but the legacy lives on as we honor our father and grandfather once again as the longest-tenured, active Master Distiller to ever live.
By now, Jimmy needs no introduction. He’s the last of his kind. A living legend. The Buddha of Bourbon. The Master Distiller’s Master Distiller. Husband. Father. Grandfather. Great grandfather. Friend. Whatever you call Jimmy (or as us grandkids call him, “Mimmy”), he’s most likely left as lasting an impression on you as he has on us. Quick witted and kind, he’s the embodiment of a true Southern gentleman who’s enjoyed his fair share of whiskey
There would be no bourbon boom without Jimmy and his peers – weathering the storm of bourbon’s decline and watching as the world rediscovered America’s Native Spirit. Jimmy has seen it all, and Wild Turkey is a testament to his unwavering conviction.
This year is an exciting one for the brand and for the Russell’s clan. Eddie has released his fourth Master’s Keep expression – Cornerstone Rye – to much critical acclaim; Bruce has headed back to Kentucky to stake his claim as both a global ambassador and an apprentice while spearheading the barrel pick program; JoAnn is taking up Jimmy’s mantel by traveling across the country spreading the gospel of Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve.
Jimmy…well, more often than not, you can find him in his favorite chair inside the Visitor Center greeting his legions of fans and pulling that good, ole sharpie out of his pocket to sign bottles and pose for photos. Being a Russell is the greatest honor, and we ask that you help us honor Jimmy on his anniversary by sharing a favorite photo or story of him on social media tagging @WildTurkey and using the hashtag #JimmyRussell65.
Jimmy may not be an Instagram influencer YET, but he’s certainly the most influential person we’ve met in the world of bourbon. Let’s all raise a glass to Jimmy…and make sure his glass is three fingers worth.
We’ll raise a glass to that. Cheers!
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