Makers 46

Hey Guys

So i’ll start with my usual apology for the delays in posting. I have a few posts to follow up on so expect to be inundated soon with a piece on punch and Courvoisier, the distil exhibition and the march of tequila and a piece on Brockmans gin.

In the meantime, let me tell you a little story about a place called Loretto.

I’ve never been to this wonderful land and i think if i went i would find it hard to return.  The home of Makers Mark, by far my favourite all rounder Bourbon, has been brewing some excitement of late due to the experimental acitvity of one, Kevin Smith, Master Distiller. It has been his charge to make Makers Mark to the best of his ability and to keep the Red Wax Sealed bottles flowing onto shelves across the world.

Kevin is a down to earth guy who seems humbled to be talking about his product. Upstairs at the All Star Lanes in Brick Lane with around 25 die hard Makers fans from the top bars in the industry, Kevin stood, with his wife Gretchen sat close by, and talked about his background in making Bourbon. The man is of good pedigree.

Jim Beam, i made some of that for a while. Heaven Hill, i worked there… (casts his eye across the back bar) I bottled that gold one over there, all the Makers you got right now too.

You get a real sense of Kentucky distillers and their camaraderie. Kevin talked of monthly lunch meetings where they all get together and jibe each other. “Kevin puts caramel in his Whiskey, arf arf arf!”.

Though Kevin wasn’t here to talk about regular Makers, the Star Hill Farm and the charms of living in Kentucky. There was a more pressing issue. You may recall form an earlier blog, mention of a new Whiskey expression called Makers 46


This gathering of Makers lovers was put together by the UK ambassador, Jane Connor and was an invitation to try the Makers 46. Sadly, this product is only available, for the meantime, in the US. Though obviously things may change depending on its success.


The product. Made using regular, fully matured Makers, they take the barrels and re-open the top. Inside, they place ten staves of toasted (not charred) French Oak that has been seasoned for 3 years. This slow process and light burning brings out the more spicey notes in the wood ( a type of oak which is known for its spicy characteristics anyway). The staves are slotted in and fixed with screws before being left for 9 weeks to reinteract with the Bourbon.  Interstingly, this oak finish brought up a valid point. Does the extra finishing affect its Bourbon status….? No, not at all. You can finish Bourbon in ANY new charred oak, not just American, ANY! How about that huh?

Whilst sat listening to Kevin talk about his product, i struggled with the concept and how it would appeal to consumers.  I had interpreted it as a kind of wooden tea bag to give extra flavour and with a necessary increase in price on the product, i felt unsure about its positioning as a higher premium Whiskey. Kevin softly reminded us the whole way through that this project is not about creating an older Makers or better Makers, just a different Makers Understanding it like this, yes, yes it is.

I think i still prefer Makers and i don’t want to give a bad impression of 46 but i found it too spicy for my own taste. I could definitely find a place for it on my back bar. It has that initial softness of Makers, before feeling the gentle heat of the alcohol at the back of the mouth, before coming back to the front where you sense a tingling spice and bitterness which feels strange for a Bourbon. When asked have you ever tasted anything like that before and although my initial response was no, i think i have. It reminded me of early experiments of making bitters, of cardamom and cinnamon infusions where the spice makes your tongue tingle at the front. Of fishermans friends also, that spicy heat.

I think i could sip this after dinner and as an occasional thing. I think it would struggle with bitters added to it in any and would need to be mixed with a soft and expert eye. However, i do like the product and hope that it comes to the UK.

Kevin said that at Makers, they listen to their consumers, and i believe its true. If any of you have had the chance to taste Makers White Dog, their new make spirit before it goes into ageing, WOW! I love that stuff, and i made sure Kevin knew it. Lets hope we get to have a trio of Makers on our back bar, the good juice, the 46 and the White Dog.

Hmmm, manhattan time for me i think.


1 Response to “Makers 46”

  1. May 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Nice piece. Actually, Maker’s Mark Distillery isn’t in Loretto. That’s just where the closest post office is located. The distillery is in Marion County between Loretto and Lebanon (the county seat), about 3 miles outside Loretto, 8 from Lebanon. Lebanon is also home of Kentucky Cooperage, the bourbon barrel-making factory right on Main Street. They give a great free tour, which makes for a nice companion piece for a Bourbon Country experience. This is also where the toasted staves come from that go into Maker’s 46! Hope you can make it down for a great distillery tour and tasting followed by a great cooperage tour. You can even have a meal at The Oak Barrel, also on Main Street. Learn more at http://www.VisitLebanonKy.com.

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