It has been 52 years since Maker's Mark became a brand. Since then it has grown into one of the iconic bourbons - whiskies for that matter - and it is behind almost every bar in the world. The recipe has been unchanged, the bottle remains with its signature red wax seal and SIV mark, and it has been produced by the Samuels family: Maker's is the reliable premium bourbon we all know and love. Now, we have have a new Maker's, Maker's 46 and word on the street is that this stuff is phenomenal.
Photo Courtesy: © Shannon Graham
I've known about the release of Maker's 46 for some time, yet I have not had the chance to taste it myself. However, I have Lance Mayhew as a back up and his review of it makes me want to try it even more. Read Mayhew's review of Maker's 46...
For anyone who has followed Maker's Mark or spoken with Bill Samuels Jr. this release was a big surprise; a big, big surprise. I've talked with and interviewed Samuels on multiple occasions over the last few years and he has always been a staunch advocate that his brand was not going to be like the others with multiple specialty bottlings of different ages, proofs, or some other special attribute. Excerpts from my interviews include: "it's bottled at one proof, the right proof" and [it's already] "the way it should be." Those conversations led me to think at first that this Maker's 46 had to be a hoax, but it's not.
Photo Courtesy: © Shannon Graham
In all fairness, markets and demand do change and it has always surprised me that Maker's Mark was a single bottle distillery. I also have to give credit to Samuels for waiting out for the perfect new rendition of Maker's. In a video on their website (here) Samuels and Master Distiller Kevin Smith discuss 46. In it Samuels says that keeping bourbon in the barrel longer or releasing a higher proof is "not state of the art" and that with the release of 46 they "didn't want to suggest that what we were doing would be an improvement of Maker's Maker, or something better."
So what is so special about Maker's 46? It is a combination of an extra 2-3 months of aging in barrels that have charred oak staves inside. The name - or more appropriately, number - of this new bourbon comes from those chunks of wood as Smith explains in the video:
"... profile 46 stave that had been seared on the outside....that caused the flavors we were looking for: the oak toast aroma to come through, those deeper, richer vanilla caramel notes, and the most amazing piece was that spiciness that came out of it that wasn't bitter..."
Smith goes on to say that 46 is more of "distant cousin" of Maker's Mark because you can tell that it is Maker's, but it has a unique character all its own.
All of that said, it seems that Maker's 46 is a hit, though just like any other "shiny new" whiskey is hard to find because it is produced in limited quantities and will be released periodically. There are a few online stores that are selling it and your local store may still have some bottles on the shelf. There is even a bottle on Ebay right now for $75, but that's $30 over the suggested retail price so be wary. It's not that rare. All I know is that I can't wait to try some new drinks with this bourbon, the profile sounds intriguing.