photo credit: MakersMark.com
MAKER’S MARK 46 BOURBON
Age: 5-7 years
Who Owns Maker’s Mark 46: Beam Suntory, Loretto, KY
Master Distiller: Greg Davis
Ahhh Makers Mark…nothing reminds me of fall and winter like that whiskey bottle with red wax! The Makers Mark bottle is by far one of the most recognizable in the bourbon world. Makers Mark holds a patent on the signature wax seal that has made Makers such an icon. Every bottle is also marked with an SIV – an abbreviation for Samuels, 4th Generation. Back in the day, T. William “Bill” Samuels Sr bought the distillery that would become known as Makers Mark and produced the first bottles in 1954.
As a relative newcomer to the bourbon game, Samuels got a little help from Pappy Van Winkle – owner of the Stitzel-Weller distillery. Since he was heavily influenced by the wheated mash bill that Stitzel-weller bourbons are known for, his new bourbon was wheated as well. Where he went his own way was in using absolutely no rye in Makers Mark bourbon, but used malted barley instead.
Again, being a newcomer to the bourbon world, Samuels didn’t have the luxury of waiting for his experimental barrels to age before trying them out and settling on the best ones. Instead, he came up with his mash bills, baked them as loaves of bread, and chose the best tasting mash bill as his foundation.
Today, Makers Mark (and Maker’s Mark 46) are made with a mash bill that is 80% corn, 16% red winter wheat, and 14% malted barley.
WHAT IS MAKER’S 46 BOURBON?
Maker’s Mark 46 is one of three variations of Makers Mark bourbon – the other two are the Makers Mark that you know, and Makers Mark Cask Strength. Back in 2008, there was a Maker’s Mark Black Wax that many of you have forgotten about, but that line is extinct today. If you see an old, dusty bottle with black wax, snatch that sucker up! One of those bottles sold for 6 figures in an auction!
We have gotten a few questions concerning whether Maker’s Mark 46 is a bourbon…It is. Adding toasted staves is the main difference between Makers 46 and the other variations. And adding French oak staves to a barrel does not alter the whiskey such that it cannot be called straight bourbon.
WHY IS MAKER’S 46 CALLED ’46’?
The French oak staves used in Makers 46 bourbon gives the whisky its name.
There is this strange rumor that Maker’s Mark 46 gets its name from the number of times they tried a recipe before landing on recipe no. 46.
According to the Maker’s Mark 46 website, the whisky gets its name from those things shown above – the French oak staves that are thrown into the barrel while Maker’s ages. After Makers Mark ages for its standard 5 – 7 years, the bourbon is removed from the barrel, French oak staves are thrown in, and the bourbon is added and aged a little longer.
Back in 2010, then Master Distiller Kevin Smith sought out a stave maker – Brad Boswell – to develop the finish of Maker’s Mark. Boswell seared French oak staves on all sides just enough to release the caramel and vanilla flavors that a barrel char delivers, but because these were French oak staves (bourbon barrels are made with American oak), the finish and flavor profile was altered dramatically. Boswell and Smith called their char #46 – hence the name.
The end result is a bourbon of a higher proof and more of that oak flavor that bourbon lovers look for.
MAKER’S MARK 46 BOURBON TASTING NOTES
There are a few things that set Makers 46 apart from Maker’s Mark besides the french oak staves. Maker’s Mark 46 is 94 proof, while Maker’s Mark is only 90. 46 is also aged longer than Maker’s. The pour is also noticeably darker than Maker’s Mark if you are tasting this neat.
It took me a few sniffs to tell the difference between this pour and Maker’s Mark, but the first giveaway was the wood.
There is so much wood on the nose I thought I was in a furniture store. There is also a floral aroma that reminds me of a cognac – tulips, white flowers, and potpourri. I was also able to smell some buttered toast after letting the bourbon air out.
The first sip and you will definitely know you are not drinking Maker’s Mark. Bold and heavier than the original, Maker’s 46 is medium to full bodied with the flavor you get from Makers Original, but with a strong and musky oak flavor.
Maker’s 46 has the same sweetness and softness as the original as well, but there are some well balanced spices that come through. I get cinnamon and pepper, but both of those are balanced by the dryness and sweetness of the bourbon.
Despite a number of redeeming qualities, I didn’t care for Maker’s 46 neat. I tried it in a glencairn glass and again in a rocks glass with a splash of water to bring out some flavors. Still wasn’t impressed. Its flavor profile reminded me of a dull cognac instead of a good bourbon. I give Maker’s 46 a C.
Learn our process for grading bourbons.
The Bevmo Makers 46 price is somewhere around $35 as of this writing. At that price, you can get a much better wheated bourbon with Old Weller. Try this at the bar before you commit to a full bottle.
But in a Manhattan? Maker’s Mark 46 made the perfect Manhattan cocktail! Maybe its my bartender, or maybe its the floral flavor that interacts with the vermouth in the cocktail. Either way, as a sipper Maker’s 46 falls short. But as a cocktail, it has its place!