Stop me if this sounds familiar: For its latest entry into its Wood Finishing Series, Maker’s Mark is analyzing the impact of barrel entry proof — aka BEP. Maker’s is famous for entering the barrel at a low 110 proof instead of the more typical 125, which was legalized in 1962. (It’s the only major distillery to go into barrel at that level.) The oddity here is that rather than changing the entry proof, Maker’s is instead “celebrating” it: This is still a 110 proof barrel entry, which sort of makes the name puzzling. The only real twist here — aside from bottling at cask strength — is that ten virgin toasted American oak staves are used in the barrel as finishing elements, intended to amplify the impact of the 110 BEP.
In other words, this whiskey is designed to be “more Maker’s than Maker’s,” essentially doubling down on the most iconic elements of its production process.
The results are absolutely worthwhile, and I ultimately feel that if you like Maker’s Mark — which is certainly easy to do — you’ll probably like this even more. The nose is clearly denser and woodier than rack Maker’s Mark, richer with caramel and chocolate notes, heavy with vanilla, all laced elegantly with wood. There’s just “more” here all around: The palate has more body (courtesy of a higher abv), more sweetness, more spice… more everything. Citrus notes pop toward the finish, where a touch of mint plays nicely with elements of peanut brittle. All told, it drinks like a very rich, well-made bourbon, though that classic Maker’s “softness” is never far out of mind.
Adding water to bring this down to a more typical proof does dull the experience a bit, so be lighthanded with H2O — but do try it both with and without water to experience the journey. Overall, as with the FAE_02 2021 release, this is a real beauty that demands attention. It isn’t as exotic as many of the other whiskeys in the Wood Finishing Series, but there’s something to be said for doubling down on what you’re already doing right.
A- / $70 / makersmark.com