After a call with Maker’s Mark President Bill Samuels in February, and receiving a sample in March, today I spoke with Master Distiller Kevin Smith about the new Maker’s Mark bourbon, called Maker’s 46, that will hit store shelves in July.
This is the first genuinely new product (Maker’s has experimented with different proofs and ages in the past) released by Maker’s since its first bottling in 1958. According to Smith, he and Bill Samuels had a vision in mind when setting out to create their new bourbon, so rather than find a winner by trial and error, they put down a desired flavor profile on paper and got to work.
The new flavor profile is meant to appeal to drinkers who enjoy spicy ryes and aged bourbons, which typically boast a more aggressive bite than Maker’s. Smith and Samuels envisioned a bourbon with a toasty warmth and spiciness, but they wanted the traditional bourbon sweetness and forward finish to remain. So rather than starting from scratch, they started with a flavor they know well – Maker’s Mark.
Maker’s 46 begins its life as regular Maker’s Mark, but at the point when the bourbon is typically bottled, it’s instead placed into a holding tank, and 10 oak staves are inserted into the empty barrel. Then, the bourbon is poured back into its original barrel, now fitted with oak staves, and left to age for two to three more months until it reaches the flavor that Smith and Samuels set out to achieve.
The oak staves were created by Brad Boswell, a self-proclaimed “wood chef.” He started with aged, seasoned French white oak, and seared the staves at a high heat, trapping the vanilla and spice notes inside the wood. Kevin Smith was quick to note that Boswell played a huge role in choosing and modifying the staves to give Maker’s 46 its desired flavor.
So how does it taste? Quite good, actually. On the nose, Maker’s 46 is warm and toasty with some holiday baking spices – cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg – as well as vanilla and caramel. The bourbon is noticeably spicier, but still soft enough to hold on the palate, and the toasted oak notes are apparent without totally dominating the flavor. The signature forward finish remains, and there’s a pleasant, lingering spiciness on the tongue.
Maker’s 46 clocks in at 94 proof and will retail for $10 more per bottle than regular Maker’s Mark. Look for it on store shelves this July. (UPDATE – click to read a review of Maker’s 46 Bourbon).