Maker’s Mark may have been late to the special whiskey release game, but the distillery is finally kicking out the jams and making limited edition bourbons an annual thing. It started with last year’s Maker’s Mark RC6, and it continues in 2020 with what is formally called Maker’s Mark 2020 Limited Release. I guess the next thing Maker’s really needs to work on is a compelling naming convention.
Maker’s 2020 is another member of the Wood Finishing Series and is honoring the 10th anniversary of Maker’s 46, the brand’s first real line extension. What’s in the bottle?
This year’s limited offering differs from its 2019 predecessor by utilizing two stave styles – one drawing on vanilla, the other on caramel – that when married together yield a rich Maker’s Mark reminiscent of butter pecan. The multi-stave approach was the result of more than twelve months of experimentation with Maker’s Mark barrel producer Independent Stave Company. The first stave in the 2020 Limited Release, SE4, is made from Virgin French Oak, convection cooked at medium heat with a short toast period and responsible for much of the caramel flavor. The second stave, PR5, is made from Virgin American Oak and convection cooked at low heat very slowly over time to bring out vanilla.
Like existing Wood Finishing Series offerings Maker’s Mark 46 and Maker’s Mark Private Selection, the 2020 Limited Release was purposefully crafted by finishing fully-matured, cask strength Maker’s Mark in secondary barrels containing the proprietary wood staves. The barrels were then rested in the Maker’s Mark limestone bourbon cellar where the cask strength bourbon interacts with the staves, before being mingled together to develop the expression’s unique flavor.
OK, let’s give it a whirl.
The French oak immediately makes an impression on the nose, imparting a subtle spice to the aromatics, taking a vanilla/caramel note and propping it up with cinnamon, allspice, and a hint of cardamom. There’s some charred wood in the mix, but it’s far from overdone, coming across as delightfully balanced.
That spice positively attacks the palate immediately, rushing through the bazaar with a cinnamon stick in one hand and a sprig of dill in the other. Notes of butterscotch, dark chocolate, and brownie batter give the whiskey its backbone, with a touch of mint peeking through as the finish evolves.
While it’s perhaps less complex than RC6 or some of the Private Selection releases we’ve tried, it’s a delightful bourbon from start to finish, and it never feels overblown, even at full strength. Maker’s Mark is already known for its easy approachability; this 2020 rendition may take that one step further.