June 2013
Wild Turkey father-son distillers
Jimmy Russell grew up in the bourbon business. “As a kid in Law-
renceburg there were four distilleries, and I had relatives at each
one.” The son and grandson of distillers, Jimmy went to work at
Wild Turkey at age 20, starting out in quality control and working
his way up to Master Distiller.
Since Jimmy’s son Eddie joined Wild Turkey, it has been less
a passing-of-the-torch than a sharing of it: The two have worked
side by side for almost 33 years, and have an unbelievable 90 years
of combined distilling experience between them.
Unlike Jimmy, Eddie did not grow up wanting to work at the
distillery: “I went there for a summer job and after a couple of
weeks I realized it was home for me.” His early responsibilities
included rolling barrels, dumping bottles, stacking cases and mow-
ing grass. (“I made him start at the bottom like everyone else,
so that the team would respect him,” Jimmy recalls.) After a few
years his dad instructed him on grinding grains and making the
mashes. Over time he honed his tasting skills and began creating
the blends alongside his father. Several years ago, Eddie launched
his first solo product, Wild Turkey 81.
Just how do they differ? “Eddie would tell you I’m hard-headed
and old-fashioned,” says Jimmy. Eddie phrases things a little differ-
ently: “I think the difference between Jimmy and me is that I like
to experiment with different things and he does not want to change
anything. I would never change what he has spent almost 60 years
building, but would like to try new things to bring in new consumers.”
Fathers provide wisdom,
guidance and inspiration. Some
also pass along a passion for the
wine and spirits business.
he wine and spirits industry can be a
very small world, at times almost like
a family. In some cases, it literally is.
Every year as Father’s Day approaches
we speak with fathers and their children who both
work in the beverage alcohol business to learn
what inspired them.
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