Maker’s 46, born from a bourbon staple, kicks up the spice factor.
By Meaghan Dorman
What took so long?” That’s what Bill Samuels Jr., president of Maker’s Mark Distillery, said about the resurgence of America’s whiskeys. Partly due to the red-hot cocktail scene, and partly because people have finally realized American whiskeys are as worthy as any import, homegrown brown booze is flying off liquor-store shelves. Adding fuel to this fire, the Maker’s Mark folks are adding something new to the market.
The company’s use of red winter wheat (as opposed to rye) in its mash results in the smooth, dis tinct profile that bourbon lovers are fanatic about, but Samuels knew that drinker’s palates have been evolving toward the bold and spicy. Samuels wanted to make a bourbon that would move both the brand and the category forward, without moving too far from the foundation product.
Maker’s 46 is the result of the project, in which master distiller Kevin Smith sought to expand the distillery from its singular mission. The epiphany came in realizing they had the basis of their next innovation already in-house. A decision was made to finish the standard Maker’s Mark bourbon in barrels that would “ramp up the nose and lengthen the finish, but avoid bitterness,” according to Samuels. Enlisting the assistance of their barrel maker, Independent Stave, the perfect result was reached in test barrel No. 46. Ten staves of the original barrels were replaced with seared French oak staves, which adds tannin, along with complex spice, vanilla, and caramel notes.
After maturing in their usual new American oak barrels, a select batch of Maker’s Mark is placed into the No. 46 barrels. The bourbon is aged there several more months, until Smith thinks the batch has reached perfection. He says Maker’s 46 “is spicier and has a more intense aroma than Maker’s Mark. It has rich caramel and vanilla flavors, and even at 94 proof it’s soft enough to hold on the tongue.” The full-bodied bourbon is so smooth that Samuels prefers it with just a couple of ice cubes.
Although Smith and Samuels were confident in their quest for a bourbon breakthrough, they needed the seal of approval from their Maker’s core. Last April, almost 4,000 of their most loyal customers were brought into the Kentucky distillery for a first taste. After an overwhelming thumbs-up, Samuels knew 46 was ready to start the trek across the United States.
But while they already consider Maker’s 46 a success, don’t expect the company to abandon its small batch processes to start churning out new portfolio additions. Samuels is open to expanding the line again, but “in another 52 years—the time it took between my parents’ creation of Maker’s Mark and our first product innovation: Maker’s 46.”
THE PERFECT 46
2 ounces Maker’s 46
1/2 ounce Punta E Mes vermouth
1/2 ounce Dolin dry vermouth
2 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing
glass with ice and stir. Strain into a
rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
Recipe courtesy of Village