Maker’s Mark’s FAE-01 release, which arrived this spring, was always envisioned as the first of a two-part series. Now FAE-02 is here to complete the duo.
Note that FAE-02 is a somewhat different animal than its forebear because, while it’s made with same “fatty acid esters” enhancement process, the staves used are made from French oak instead of American oak. I’ll let Maker’s explain:
2021 Limited Release: FAE-02 is produced using double-heat-treated virgin French oak barrel staves that undergo an infrared exposure prior to a flame toast finish. The process yields a Maker’s Mark bourbon that exhibits a distinctly luscious mouthfeel. Unlike FAE-01, which used American oak staves to amplify notes of dark leathery tobacco and barrel-aged fruit, FAE-02 is characterized by a gentler, mouthcoating palate of light caramel and deep oak.
If you don’t recall how the system worked, it revolves around using 10 extra oak finishing staves dropped into the barrel — much like Maker’s Private Selection system — which are seared on one side and raw on the other.
We received a sample of FAE-02 to review, and although I don’t have any FAE-01 left to compare it to, my memory (and prior notes) say that these are wildly different spirits, and, spoiler alert, FAE-02 is the far better option.
While FAE-01 is indeed a leathery, overly woody monster, the shift to French oak in FAE-02 makes for a much softer, more expressive whiskey, despite the appearance of raw wood in the mix. Immediately likeable, the nose is rich with fresh caramel notes, a touch of apple fruit, and some of that cardamom spice I found in the original bottling. It’s definitely a fall-friendly whiskey, and it makes sense why this one was saved for the cooler months.
The palate follows in line, a rich caramel character laced with vanilla, more fresh fruit, and a lighter spice component. What’s amazing is how creamy and rich the bourbon is, an incredibly lush and seductive whiskey that feels downright mild — despite a near-55% abv. Hints of orange peel and touches of cloves are present on the lasting, balanced finish, immediately demanding the drinker to pour another glass.
I would, but my sample is long since emptied. In the three years since it began, I think this is the best of Maker’s Mark’s annual special releases to date. Buy it.
109.1 proof as reviewed. (Bottles will vary.)