Maker’s Mark with a big infusion of French Cognac Oak
Notes: This bourbon, much like its founder, is iconoclastic, not to say obstreperous (in the case of Bill Samuels*, anyway). This whisky comes in a few variations/incarnations – most of which are distinguished by different colors of sealing wax, and the coveted overdip bottle . Spelled without the “e” unlike most bourbon or other American Whiskies except for George Dickel , Old Forester, and some of the micro/craft products.
It uses red winter wheat instead of rye (hence the designation whetted bourbon) giving it a lighter taste, bouquet, and mouthfeel than it’s rye brethren. While most of the Maker’s Mark production is bottled at 90 proof there was a gold wax dipped version at 95 proof for Japan ( and a few cases got loose here in the U.S.) The regular old standard version of Maker’s Mark is reviewed here.
It should be noted that this is NOT the much maligned lower proof ( 84 proof) bottling that came out February 9th, 2013 generating a firestorm in social media. A few bottles made it to market but after only about 10 days time Maker’s Mark relented and cancelled the lower proof bottling. The speculation that this was all a publicity stunt have never been confirmed but it did cause a huge reaction and media coverage that only benefited the brand ultimately.
Maker’s Mark has always done a few unique things when it comes tot aging whiskey, one of which is their constant rotation of barrels within a warehouse to ensure a constant consistancy ( a Herculean task considering the weight, flammability and other considerations) . Most other distillers depend on blending barrels from different areas to achieve a uniform product style. This version or expression of Makers Mark is a little like a double wood aged whiskey in a way. Instead of recasting the whiskey in a different barrel altogether for a period of time, Maker’s Mark inserts some ( 10) charred French Limousin Oak staves into a barrel then reseals the barrel, refills it , then repacks the barrels in a cool area for 3 to 4 months with constant monitoring on its progression (very small window for error aging this way)
Appearance: A more intense depth of color with a deeper, richer, (but not a lot darker) gold/amber
First Impression: Caramel, cocoa, dried fruit and oak notes on nosing. A bit more spirity than a rye but sweeter. Lots of oak influence on the whisky both in color and smell. You can actually pick out the charred oak and the fact it is Limousin Oak in the nose. But on the other hand it does not seem as integrated and a touch overdone . Vaguely reminiscent of charcoal filtering smell some products get.
Taste: A good bit woodier and drier than the standard Maker’s Mark with more char and French Oak ( which is a bit more subtle than the American Oak) with a more cedar, charcoal and cinnamon notes with good bit more vanilla and leather notes.
Drinks: Bridges the gap fairly well between the original Maker’s Mark and heavier bourbons but keeping to it’s own path. The extra but very distinctive flavor makes for drinks with more punch than standard Makers Mark and closer to s small barreled micro.
Bottle: A more or less complete departure from the old style bottle. A much more flowing look with a round shoulder hybrid of flask and bell shapes and a heavy decanter type bottom all executed in a very bright almost sparkling glass. The old style paper label is gone,replaced with direct silkscreening onto the bottle, which allows a lot more clear glass to showcase the color of the whiskey.The number “46 ” is quite prominent below the Maker’s and the iconic red was seal on the shoulder of the bottle and the sealing wax dip ( and oh so important and trademarked drips) still grace the neck of the bottle. Under the wax they use a plastic topped composite style cork to give a good leakproof seal to your bottle and supply that lovely cork pulling from bottle sound. Overall a very new and sexy package.
Other: We took a tour of the Distillery a few years back, and it is quite a showcase. It is one of the few to still use cypress wood vats instead of stainless steel tanks and all that copper and brass in the still safes gives it a wonderful antique feel rather than the high production factory (not to say soulless computer controlled chemical plants) that some of the others remind us of.
Final Thoughts: Think Maker’s Mark with a lot more wood (specifically French cognac type oak) – again almost a small barrel aging taste to it but they started out with a 6+ year old whiskey and essentially finished in with a good load go extra wood to give it more character rather than adding the wood at the beginning which probably would have created an overly woody mess if they aged it 6+ years.
Price seems a bit high for what it is to me. There are a lot of other (even older) bourbons such as the Weller 12 Year Old that sell for about half the money. Bottom line; if you like Maker’s Mark you will probably love this one, I just don’t find it as interesting as some other whiskies out there for the price range.
Fast loading after getting past the annoying date-of-birth screen (okay, it helps them gather some demographics, but I always wonder those sites do with the information). Decent information and good pictures of the whisky and recipes and a number of videos and various chapters/sections to explore.
If you become an Ambassador you will get a number of perks and a special section of the web site – I highly recommend the tasting information and printable tasting/evaluation notes – originally written by Gary Regan with commentaries and amplifications by Bill they are very helpful for beginners and will give you a glimpse what you will be facing if you ever run into these guys at Bourbon Fest.