The standard Maker’s Mark charmed the pants off me. That is saying something, as for the most part, I am not the biggest fan of bourbon. I likes it just fine, but am led far more often to Scottish fare. Something about this Kentucky staple struck just the right chord in my heart however. Having said that…you can imagine how the announcement of Maker’s 46 had me chomping at the bit in anticipation.
Taking a page from the playbook of John Glaser, the folks at Maker’s decided a little fresh wood added at the right stage of maturation would be just the ticket to open the floodgates of innovative enlightenment. Bourbon regulation, though tightly controlled, is obviously not quite as bound by the fiercely conservative traditions that govern Scotch production, as I have heard nothing about MM having the fights that Glaser did when he released the Spice Tree. All the better for those of us salivating in anticipation.
After the standard period of maturation (6-7 ½ years for MM) 10 seared wooden staves of French oak are inserted into barrels of Maker’s and the spirit is re-racked to allow the new wood and spirit to get to know one another for a few months. These oak staves are there to add a caramelized sugar depth.
Though this was obviously a labor of trial and error (the ‘46’ refers to the batch experiment that was finally deemed a success), the efforts paid dividends.
The nose now is much mellowed and less fruit heavy than the standard Maker’s. And yes…those rich caramel flavors do rest heavily atop the sweet spicy nose that normally characterizes this bourbon. Slightly waxy and heavy on the vanillins, this one sorta surprises with a healthy dollop of maple. Fruity, but less cherry than I can normally pick up from this distillery. Dusty corn, of course, the hallmark of bourbon and mild nutmeg fill in the gaps.
Spiced corn and youthful fruit are the first to cling to a taste bud on tasting. The 46 fades into a throbbing popcorn and fruit-tinged finish, but the oak holds on a little too long.
Quite a snazzy little variant on the Maker’s Mark standard. Better? Not certain. Perhaps a touch. More mature and mellow anyway. Even a few more months in wood in the Kentucky clime allows for a more mature spirit.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Pat at www.standstillphotography.ca