Making Our Mark
Getting to see the tour at Maker's Mark through Julio's eyes has been an absolute blessing. I'm falling in love with Bourbon once more. I see the excitement. I can feel the passion once again. The energy is electric. Julio is stoked to be here. I'm stoked to be here with him.
We were back once again with my buddy Scott from Maker's Mark, along with my Beam-Suntory rep Glen (who—I'm sorry—puts you other industry reps to SHAME). We did the standard distillery tour, dipped our fingers in the mash, tasted the new make, and dug deep into everything wheated. I don't care how jaded you are about big business—Maker's Mark is an outstanding Bourbon. It's so sweet and delicious! I was excited to do the rounds once again to re-envigorate my emotions.
The Maker's 46 custom barrel program is pretty damn cool. Here's how it works: there are four additional seasoned staves alongside the standard Maker's 46 French Oak plank, for a total of five different oak choices. Each barrel of Maker's 46 gets ten planks, which means you can choose your own combination of wooden staves; a total of 1,001 different combinations. You preview the variant choices by blending whiskies aged with only one type of stave to a test run of 100ml, each stave getting 10ml in the blend. If you choose six Maker's 46 staves and four American oak staves, then your blend will consist of 60ml of Maker's 46-only whiskey with 40ml of American stave-only whiskey. The results are incredibly accurate. This system of prognostication is surprisingly succinct. I think we chose quite wisely (and since there were two of us, expect two separate barrels!).
In the middle of our blending exercise, who should walk in but Bill Samuels Jr. himself—the man who invented Maker's 46 and took over the distillery from his founding father before the Beam takeover. As if that wasn't enough, he was joined by a pair of Kentucky (Republican) state senators—Jimmy Higdon and Damon Thayer. Julio and I took a real shine to "Big" Jimmy Higdon from the 14th District. This guy was pure gold; as smooth as they come and a real character. He was larger than life—a storyteller with a big personality and true grit. It was an experience, to say the least!
But we didn't come to Maker's Mark to shake hands or kiss babies. We came to make some dynamite Kentucky Bourbon. After a few test runs, Julio and I came up with a pair of absolute beauties. We linked our seasoned staves to the the ring of fire, coopered our casks with care, and filled them with a few gallons of sweet wheat, cask strength Maker's Mark. Get ready to tempt your taste buds with a bit of Loretto sunshine. These babies should carry the day before too long.