In 2015, Maker’s Mark launched one of the most ambitious private barrel programs I’ve encountered to date. The concept starts with a standard Maker’s Mark barrel, but after it’s fully matured, buyers get to drop 10 additional wood staves into the barrel, where they finish the bourbon for an additional nine weeks. Five types of wood can be used for each of these staves: Baked American Pure 2, Seared French Cuvee, Maker’s 46, Roasted French Mocha, and Toasted French Spice. Each of those wood types has a specific origin and a particular method of toasting/charring which I won’t go into in detail, but you get the idea: You go to Maker’s, check out the staves, then pick 10 to put in your barrel. There are 1001 different possible combinations, so every Maker’s Mark Private Select bottle is likely to be different from the next.
Today we’re looking at one such bottle, with a particular provenance: It is sold only at Star Hill Provisions, the restaurant and bar on the Maker’s Mark Distillery grounds. This bottle’s stave profile includes one Baked American Pure 2 stave, four Seared French Cuvee, one Maker’s 46, one Roasted French Mocha, and three Toasted French Spice.
While normally you can only sample this at Star Hill, we were lucky enough to get a sample for review all the way in California. Let’s give it a shot.
The nose is instantly curious, offering notes of chestnuts, licorice, and tanned leather, sprinkled with mixed spices and a hint of mocha. The palate is quite dry, almost leathery at first, with big notes of gunpowder and a subtle, tempering blackberry note. As the finish emerges, dark chocolate becomes heavy, alongside a more traditional vanilla kick.
This is a whiskey that takes its time to show its charms, so let your glass sit a bit before tucking into it. And when it does decide to open up, watch out — the flavors coalesce into a cohesive whole that takes its savory origins and builds quite a little story out of it.
A- / not for sale at retail / makersmark.com