Disclaimer: A sample of Maker’s 46 bourbon was provided to by Maker’s Mark for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow Bourbon & Banter to review the bourbon with no strings attached. Thank you.
There has been a push by the big distilleries in the past few years to capitalize on the bourbon boom and increased interested in trying new bottles by introducing specialty versions of their power brands. Maker’s Mark has always had a “why mess with what works” kind of attitude when it comes to their bourbon but eventually they did release a premium version in the form of Maker’s 46. Rather than doing a small batch or older version of Maker’s Mark they decided to go the route of finishing with a different wood to add complexity of character. Here is what they have to say about it:
A collaborative effort between the Maker’s Mark Distillery and Barrel Maker and “Wood Chef” Brad Boswell of Independent Stave Company, Maker’s 46 is a bit stronger and bolder than the original Maker’s Mark, but still soft enough to hold on the tongue, even at 94 proof. Aged longer inside barrels containing seared French oak staves – which create bolder, more complex flavors, while eliminating the bitterness that usually comes with whiskies that are aged longer – 46 delivers a big mouth-watering oaky finish unlike none other.
Using staves instead of aging in a barrel causes a more intense aging process. Because of this it is only aged an additional few months with the staves in the barrel and they make it only in the winter to slow the aging down. So does the French oak make a big difference with this classic American bourbon? Let’s try it and find out.
Bourbon Name: Maker’s 46
Age: 5-7 years
How I Drank It: Neat, in Glencairn whiskey glass.
My Nose Noticed:* Corn | Vanilla | Rose | Toasted Oak
First Sip: Butterscotch | Toasted Oak | Cherry | Chocolate
The Burn:** When I was first getting into bourbon people talked about how wheated bourbons were sweeter and softer than rye. This confused me because the only wheated bourbon I had tried was Maker’s Mark which I still think has one of the most fiery finishes out there and didn’t come across as sweet or soft in any way. Maker’s 46 still has the characteristic Maker’s burn but it is much softer than the original, especially if you let it sit for a few minutes. It is a burn that flares up your sinus and then slides gently down the back of your throat. This really is a sweet bourbon, with a surprising amount of fruit and cream. The burn is what keeps it from being cloying. The Maker’s 46 nose is much stronger than regular Maker’s Mark and it affects the flavor quite a lot.
In the end, I liked Maker’s 46 much better than traditional Maker’s Mark. But as you may have guessed, I don’t really like Maker’s Mark so perhaps a Maker’s lover should weigh-in with their opinion. The Maker’s Mark fans I talked to said it reminded them more of a scotch which makes sense as this type of finishing has traditionally been more common with scotch.
Neat, Splash or Rocks: Neat. Adding water or drinking it over ice took away too much of the burn and left if feeling a bit limp.
Share With: A lot of Maker’s Mark loyalists I know seem to be very hesitant to try anything else. Maybe this will get them to branch out. Also a nice choice for people who like sweeter bourbons.
Worth The Price: At around $35 a bottle this is a fair price. Although, when it comes to a good wheated bourbon there are better values to be had if you can find them, such as Weller Antique.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: If you are a fan of double-barreled or creatively finished bourbons this one is worth having a bottle. Everyone else try it at a bar first.
*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?