Since the 1950's, the Samuels family has been producing Maker's Mark at their historic Loretto, KY distillery. Maker's Mark, which contains no rye in its mash bill, is a 6-year-old classic winter wheater that you can find just about anywhere, anytime. Its red-wax seal has been declared "distinctive" by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and it was the first bourbon I ever tasted, at the tender age of fifteen. In 2010, Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr. and Master Distiller Kevin Smith decided it was finally time to introduce a new product.
Their intent was to deepen Makers' classic caramel and vanilla flavor profile, but to avoid a bitter finish at all costs. After dozens of failed experiments, Bill and Kevin called upon Mr. Brad Boswell, owner of Independent Stave Company, whose cooperage has been making barrels for Maker's Mark since it was OK to smoke on planes.
Bill Samuels, Jr. also declared that his desire was to release a new product that was "absolutely yummy."
Maker's 46 is a reference to the 46th recipe that yielded the product we've reviewed. Regular, 6-year-old Maker's is removed from its barrel. 10 "seared" French oak staves are then dropped into the barrel and the whisky is dumped back in. The barrels are further aged in the coolest part of the warehouse (the bottom floors) in the winter months. The final product is cut to 94 proof (as opposed to their standard 90 proof), resulting in the deeper, more intense, absolutely yummy whisky (Maker's preferred spelling). Here's what 'ol Will and I thought:
Maker's Mark 46
Maker's Mark Distillery
$34 at Fort Jackson, SC Class VI
Color: Dark copper.
Nose: Vanilla, brown sugar, oak, citrus peel, confectioner's sugar, honey.
Overall: B. Maker's 46 is a damn good wheated bourbon, with a spicy, cinnamon kick to balance the classic caramel and vanilla profile. It is also: 1) tastier than 90 proof Maker's Mark; 2) a solid value; and 3) a result of some legendary men taking a professional risk. Maker's 46 has a full, complex profile but it's versatile enough to mix into a Manhattan or sip neat while your wife is watching some stupid show on Bravo...