Ultimate Beverage Challenge 94 points - (Great Value)- Honey orange color. Acute peppery, cooking spice aromas burst from the glass in waves of sage, thyme, honey wheat, then with further air contact the nose settles in offering slightly torched/burnt cereal grain, baked fruit scents that carry forward into the maple-like, roasted midpalate. Aftertaste is medium long, honeyed. Classy, substantial. (Mar 2015)
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Makerís 46 is a handcrafted, full-bodied Bourbon whisky that starts off as original Makerís Mark. The transformation into Makerís 46 begins when fully matured Makerís Mark is emptied from the barrel so that 10 seared French oak staves can be affixed to the sides. Then, Makerís Mark, which is made with red winter wheat for a smooth taste, is put back in the barrel and aged for several more months, allowing the natural caramel, vanilla and spice flavors released by the staves to enhance the end product.
It seemedlike any other day at the Maker's Mark Distillery, as workers dunked tops of whiskey bottles into tubs of red wax. Only this time, the bottles were different Ė and so was the bourbon.
Since the late 1950s, the quaint distillery tucked into the Kentucky hills has churned out just one product Ė Maker's Mark. That's changing with next month's introduction of Maker's 46, a close cousin of the original but with a different aging method in the final weeks to give the whiskey a distinctive taste.
While the world of expensive spirits is rife with offshoots, Maker's was steadfast in clinging to a single product until now.
"This is our first creation in 52 years, and it really is a creation," Maker's Mark President Bill Samuels Jr. said. "It's not like it's Maker's with a couple of more years age on it."
To create the product, master distiller Kevin Smith started with Maker's and dabbled for more than a year before hitting on the recipe.
Whiskey barrels storing Maker's are emptied so workers can insert oak planks inside each. The barrels are refilled and aged two to three months longer than traditional Maker's, which ages six to seven years. As Maker's 46 mingles with the wood, it takes on stronger hints of caramel, spice and vanilla, Smith said.
The new whiskey sprung up from consumer demand, Smith said. When Maker's executives met with customers or bartenders, the question invariably arose: When was Maker's going to offer a new whiskey?
The product's name is a tip of the cap to the brand's barrel maker and one of its top executives, who came up with the unique idea of using seared French oak planks inside the barrel to draw out more flavors. The product's name reflects the profile number attached to the process.
The new product is 94 proof, slightly higher than traditional Maker's.
Plans are to produce 25,000 9-liter cases of Maker's 46 this year for U.S. distribution, Smith said. That's a drop in the bucket for the distiller, where overall production this year could surpass 1 million cases for the first time. Maker's 46 will run about $10 more per bottle than traditional Maker's, which generally costs $23 to $25 per 750ml bottle.
The new bourbon comes at a time when the market for top-shelf spirits is shrinking, stung by the recession and its aftermath. Sales of liquor brands in Maker's 46 price range tumbled 5.1 percent in 2009, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
Maker's Mark is part of Deerfield, Ill.-based Fortune Brands Inc., whose brands also include Jim Beam.
Chuck Cowdery, an American whiskey writer and author of "Bourbon, Straight," said Maker's 46 is "really terrific" and predicted it will be well-received.
"They resisted doing this for a long time because they've always told consumers, 'This is the best bourbon,'" he said. "They always thought it would be confusing to the brand image if they brought out something else. But it was that consumer that started telling them, 'Try something a little different now and then.'"