K&L Maker's Mark Barrel is BACK
Our first three barrels of Maker's Private Select blew up in a big way. We still have people coming back looking for those special bottles. Luckily, we were able to secure another at the end of last year. It's just arrived and is as delicious as expected!
While selecting single barrels is good fun, it can also bit nerve racking. You open a cask and stick your nose in the glass and often have to make a decision relatively quickly on the quality of the juice. After 10 years tasting I'm pretty confident in my palate, but there's still a feeling that each barrel is a bit of a referendum on my palate. Of course, I don't make the whiskey that we sell, I just buy it! That's what makes these Maker's Mark Private Selects so interesting. This is the first time, outside of blending in Scotland, that I've truly had a hand at whiskey creation. I took my time with it.
The whole operation is kind of outrageous. Maker's Mark has even built a custom warehouse into the side of the hill behind the distillery. They had actually planned to build out the warehouse underground, but an esoteric Kentucky law prohibits the aging of bourbon below ground. So instead this massive warehouse is build against the hill, the coolest -in temperature and style- I've ever experienced. Right in the center of this heavily traffic tourist attraction is a private tasting area enclosed in glass. There they've got samples of the five stave types aged and ready to be blended along with expressions of EVERY barrel bottled to date. You sit down in this extremely well appointed room at the Maker's Distillery in Loretto and sip as tourists gawk behind thick glass walls. It's all a bit over the top, these random people examining you as you blend the various flavors. That of course didn't detract from the exciting task at hand.
The key to building a great whiskey in this program is to influence and enhance without masking the inherent deliciousness of the Maker's itself. I tried every possibility, equal parts of each expression? Nope, it felt muddled and unbalanced. Tiny bits of each with a high level of American. Definitely not, even the smallest addition of the Mocha stave and you start to get a bitter note that is very UN-maker's in my opinion. In an effort to be innovative and not rehash recipes we'd already proven (Thank you Mr. Driscoll), I started to toy with different proportions of the three staves that I felt actually enhanced the whiskey drinking experience. The Baked American Pure #2, The Seared French Cuvee and the classic Maker's 46, each offered a subtle, but distinct addition to the potpourri of delicious sweet flavors that make Maker's one of the world's best bourbons. I ultimately settled on something that I felt was going to retain the balance and sweetness of Maker's, but enhance and add additional complexity.
We waited nearly 6 months to find out how the experiment developed. On first nosing, I was astonished by how prominently the woodsy staves appeared. I honestly thought I'd missed the mark completely. But I set my glass down and returned in 15 minutes to a totally different whiskey. The nose is a constantly morphing beast, bold and full of spice, but tempered with gorgeous sweet peach tea, caramel and fresh vanilla. I knew this whiskey would be rich, but it's absolutely thick on the palate. Creamy and sweet up front with a big bold spice on the back. The finish is all vanilla, roasted coffee beans, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and dark wood. This CERTAINLY is not how I imagined this whiskey to be, but it IS absolutely delicious. Warming rich and overtly pleasurable with tons of nuance and depth. The scariest thing is how good the glass smells when you've finished your pour -that always means I end up pouring another. Dangerous...