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Maker's Mark Private Select, Part 1: What is it?

Posted on by Eric Burke

In 1959, Maker's Mark sold its first bottle of bourbon. And they basically just kept doing that for the next 50 years or so. They put out one product for the US market, and that was that. Luckily for them, many people liked that one product, myself included. 

Then in 2010, after much tinkering behind the scenes, Maker's Mark released their follow-up. Created by infusing Maker's Mark with seared French oak staves, Maker's 46 is a spicier take on the traditional Maker's Mark bourbon.* And, as far as I was concerned, it was a good addition to the line-up. I like Maker's Mark, and I also like 46 as an occasional change of pace. 

So after waiting 51 years between bourbons one and two, it was a bit surprising that only four years later product number three came out: Maker's Mark Cask Strength. The cynics wondered how they had enough stock to produce it when only a couple years earlier, they had tried to lower the proof of the flagship product due to a lack of stocks. The rest of us were just happy that Cask Strength was around. It is delicious. 

The next year in 2015, Maker's Mark announced their next new product. This was created just for those stores and bars that like to pick their own barrels. And since Maker's Mark prides itself on their consistency from barrel to barrel, they riffed off of Maker's 46 instead. The story is that when they were creating the recipe for Maker's 46, they tried a number of treatments to the finishing staves— toasting, baking, searing, staves with grooves, staves without, etc.—eventually settling on seared French oak. These they would then use for finishing the new product.  

For Maker's Mark Private Select, they went back to that research and are allowing retailers and bars to create their own custom version of Maker’s Mark in the style of Maker’s 46.* This time at cask strength. There are 5 different stave styles to choose from, each providing a distinct flavor to the finished product. From these, the retailer gets to choose any combination of ten staves.  The Bourbon Review has a great breakdown of each of the different staves, but to summarize: 

  • Baked American Pure 2 is an American oak stave designed to bring oak, vanilla, and sweetness to the finished product.
  • Seared French Cuvee is a grooved French oak stave that was designed to bring butterscotch, caramel, and nuttiness.
  • Maker's 46 is French oak designed to bring spicy vanilla. This is the same stave used for standard Maker's 46.
  • Roasted French Mocha is French oak designed to bring dry, dark chocolate, coffee, and char notes.
  • Toasted French Spice is also French oak and was designed to bring fruity Spice notes. 

Once I finally saw this product on shelves, I made sure to pick up bottles from a couple of different retailers. I made sure to select ones that had a significant difference in their stave choices to see just how big of a difference these finishing staves actually made. 

But, this is long enough as it is. You'll have to come back on Thursday to read the results.

* For clarity, this sentence was changed at the request of Maker's Mark. No facts were incorrect, but the wording could have been misinterpreted. As I state in my Statement of Ethics, I am making a note of this change.


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