Worth Its Wait, In Red Wax
Posted: May 17, 2010 9:27am ET
Ever since I discovered the Bourbon with the distinctive red-wax seal 20 odd years ago, I’ve heard rumors of some super duper Maker’s Mark that they were keeping for themselves or selling overseas. Whenever I explained that there wasn’t one, the response was a plaint that there should be because every other Bourbon has its "really good stuff.”
Well, I always thought that Maker’s Mark, which turned the Bourbon world on its ear in 1958 by breaking through the superpremium ceiling, was the really good stuff. But it’s human nature to want to move onto the next big thing and so the market clamored for a new release from the company that hadn’t changed what it does for a half century. (Yes, I know they flirted with the stuff that came in the gold seal bottle, but that was fleeting and it was essentially just a higher proof and not a different taste.)
Now the distiller introduces Maker’s 46, and I have to say it was worth the wait. The whiskey manages to embody the essential character of Maker’s Mark (smoothness matched with big flavors of vanilla, caramel and maple), while revealing a spicy side that it never showed before.
Bill Samuels Jr., president of Maker’s Mark and son of its founder, came by the office recently to introduce me to his new baby and explain its creation. Watch this video to learn about the nightmare that drove him to make it.
While the plan was hatched recently for this new Maker’s, it wasn’t that the company had never experimented with ways to improve the whiskey. One obvious avenue would be to age it longer, but that didn’t seem to work. I’ve had samples of Maker’s Mark that were more than 10 years old, but they were far too woody. The mashbill of Maker’s, which includes corn and barley, but replaces the typical rye component with winter wheat, seems to take the tannins out of the barrel too quickly for it to stand up to long aging.
Master distiller Kevin Smith finally turned to Brad Boswell, owner of Independent Stave, the company’s barrel makers, for assistance. He came up with the way to make the new product—on the 46th try, hence the name. Essentially Maker's 46 is made through putting what would be regular Maker’s Mark through an extra finishing process. They dip 10 French oak staves, which have been quickly seared at high temperature, into a barrel (American oak) of Maker’s Mark for about 11 weeks.
The result is tantalizing, but they’ve only made two barrels so far and the new bottles aren’t yet ready for the market. So unless Bill Samuels comes by to give you a taste, you’re still going have to put off buying it until late summer. You’ve waited this long. You can hang in there.
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