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American distillers are known for protecting secret recipes and ingredients, but few guardians match the commitment of one Jimmy Russell.
The Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky., where Russell has overseen the stills for 65 years, has used the same yeast strain since the 1950s. At some point, the thought occurred to Russell that were the place to suffer a fire, that yeast might be lost. Why not just choose some other yeast? Unthinkable, son. Russell, then, did the only logical thing: He poured some of the yeast into a bottle, took it home, and put it in his refrigerator.