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Maker’s 46 Private Selection Process

Maker’s Mark Bourbon is a wildly popular wheated bourbon. We sell a lot of it. A whole lot. Partly because it’s delicious and partly because we always feature it at such a hot price. The same is true of Maker’s 46– a newer version of Maker’s Mark created by taking fully matured Maker’s Mark bourbon and placing it in a barrel with ten charred wooden staves to create more wood influence, more caramel, more… YUM. The whisky is then aged in these modified barrels for an additional three months to maximize the flavor impact of the staves. Taste them side by side and you know that Maker’s 46 is a very different whisky, and again, because it’s so tasty and our hot feature price, we sell a whole lot of Maker’s 46.

During a 2015 visit, the idea of creating a customized expression of Maker’s 46 was presented to us, and of course we were all in. But it took a couple of years before the idea became a reality. In early 2017, the opportunity arose to create our own Maker’s 46 Private Selection, and in the fall we were finally able to jump on it. Here’s how it worked

 

Basically, the folks at Maker’s worked with one of the largest cooperages in the world, Independent Stave, to create a total of five different stave types that would develop different flavor profiles in the whisky when placed in the barrel along with the aging whisky:

Baked American Pure 2 (P2)- American Oak oven cured at low temps lending toasty wood and vanilla flavors but not much finish.
Seared French Cuvee (CU)- French Oak staves are grooved to create more surface area and cooked in an infrared oven. The tops of the ridges become more toasty than the bottoms and the whisky is caramely, round and rich with lots of vanilla notes.
Maker’s 46 (46)- French Oak staves cured under infrared heat. Vanilla, spice, and leather.
Roasted French Mocha (MO)- French Oak staves baked at higher temperatures to a crispier toast. I’m not a coffee drinker and alone, this was my least favorite.
Toasted French Spice (SP)- French Oak cured in a traditional oven at very high temperatures and then seared in the infrared oven. Again, not great on it’s own. Fresh wood, peppermint, tight and sharp.

 

 

 

 

 

Maker’s Mark constructed an entire climate controlled building dedicated to the production of Maker’s 46 and a pimped out room dedicated to the Maker’s 46 Private Selection process. In the predawn hours, we would be taking beakers of whisky samples aged in barrels with exclusively one stave type and blending them together to approximate what a barrel with those staves inserted would produce.

First we’d sample each whisky on it’s own. French Spice was very sharp and tannic, French Cuvee was very rich and round, Maker’s 46 was vanilla and caramel… By calculating the percentages to blend in based on the number of staves of each type, we would go through the process of determining (what I would consider to be) the best stave configuration. It started with a crap shoot.

 

 

 

Pouring Maker's SamplesThe first attempt produced a rich, round, but very flat whisky. The next didn’t offer much improvement. Only through inserting some mocha and spice- flavors which on their own were completely outside of my wheelhouse, did the whisky become balanced and truly memorable. On the fifth iteration, the whisky was finMaker's Mark Private Selection Processally perfect. Rich, vanilla and caramel with just enough mocha and spice to color the highs and the lows.

 

 

Click here for the Maker’s 46 Private Select Ace Spirits (2-P2, 4-CU, 2-46, 1-MO, 1-SP)

 

 

 

 

Then I got to thinking… OK, we got this awesome Private Select chosen, would it be possible to make a barrel using ONLY the Maker’s 46 staves? Since it was to be bottled at barrel proof, this would essentially be Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength Bourbon!!!??? The answer was yes. In fact, if you wanted this bottle you could get it only at Maker’s Mark- a distillery only release made at the direction of Bill Samuels Jr. himself!

 

I’m pleased to offer you, for the first time outside of the distillery, MakeMaker's Mark Cask Strength- Bill Samuels Jr.r’s Mark Cask Strength!

Four Roses Barrel Selection- December 2016

Four Roses Tasting Room

It took nearly a year of coordination to get a barrel selection date at Four Roses. As it turned out, with total time on the ground of just four hours, this would be the very last barrel selection of 2016 to be snuck in just under the wire!

 

Distillery Entrance of Four RosesOur previous barrel selections were based on samples that were sent to us, but the program has since been dramatically revamped due to supply issues. Four Roses barrel selections are now only available to those that have purchased barrels in the past and selections must be made at the distillery. It makes sense when you think about it- sending out samples ties up barrels until decisions are made. When you multiply those decision trees out among those that want barrels, the math becomes apparent. We went back and forth on availability of barrels and trying to find dates that worked, but I finally made the plans to arrive in the wee hours of the final weekday of 2016, rent a car to make the short trek from Louisville, taste some world class bourbon and then reverse course.

I’d been to Four Roses before, but never to the Cox Creek facility where my appointment was. The barrel selection room is in a nondescript building nestled between a neighborhood of Four Roses’ signature single story rickhouses. These warehouses are tiny compared to some of the monster, six to ten story rickhouses normally used in the area. The diminutive warehouses were built to ensure a more even temperature from top to bottom and therefore a more consistent aging process.

 

Four Roses Bourbon Recipes for Single Barrel

Four Roses makes their bourbon using two different mashbills and five different yeast strains which provides ten different recipe variants.  For some detail about the recipes, check out the Four Roses’ Infographic.  The recipes are noted on the label and there is quite a difference from one variant to the next.  As you become familiar with the distillery you establish preferences, but also an appreciation for the entire lineup.

With barrel selections I’ve made in the past, several of the recipes were unavailable. I was ecstatic to open the door and see nine barrels waiting there for me! The only missing recipe, OBSO, is the whiskey that goes into the 100 Proof Single Barrel product that is widely available. I was told that the resulting shortage of this recipe means no more single barrel selections of OBSO for another two years. Oh well, nine will do! I asked my host if it was possible to assemble a nearly complete set of nine for our shop, but allocations wouldn’t allow me to be greedy- I’d have to narrow the field. We proceeded by drawing barrel samples with a thief, setting up all nine glasses, and getting down to business!

 

 

Glasses of Four Roses Bourbon

 

As with all tastings, I spend some time nosing all of the whiskey we will be tasting. Nine different samples is a lot for one session and it takes a bit of time to get your head around what makes them each special. I asked to blind taste the samples- I didn’t want to know the ages or the recipes until after so as not to be influenced by anything other than the bourbon itself.

Candidates for the Barrel Selection program are hand culled from the general population by distiller Brent Elliott. He focuses on exceptional barrels that best represent each recipe. This ensures the store picks will be a grade above the rest. While there wasn’t a bad barrel in this bunch (I have had what I considered sub-par barrels before), I definitely have my preferences with Four Roses and could pick out the two SQ variants immediately. When choosing store picks, I tend to work backwards and eliminate my least favorite, so these two were on the hit list.

 

 

 

Four Roses Single Barrels of BourbonTasting this many cask strength bourbons straight from the barrel takes a bit of time.  Go too fast and your palate is thrashed too much to appreciate the differences. Slow, small sips with palate cleansers do the trick and reviewing the field a couple of times helps solidify the decision. We tasted, we talked, and narrowed the field down to two. I again implored my host just to release nine barrels to us so we didn’t have to choose, but I’d only get one.

As it turns out, the two the field were narrowed down to were the OBSK and the OBSF, and I was torn between the two.  Both were off the charts tasty with explosive blasts of flavor- vanilla, caramel and the things you’d expect from bourbon.  But the OBSK had a more impressive finish and a bit more cinnamon spice.  It turns out, our OBSK bottling saw 9 years and three months in oak before being bottled at 57.1% ABV and sent to us.  This fine bottle is now available for purchase online while supplies last.

Buy our Four Roses Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon OBSK Store Pick Here.

 

Four Roses Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon OBSK- Ace Spirits Single Barrel Selection Glasses of Four Roses Bourbon Four Roses Private Barrel Selection House

Evan Williams “Cursed Cask”
Single Barrel Bourbon

After successful runs with some Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon for Ace Spiritsof our own Evan Williams Bourbon barrels, we were informed last year that they just couldn’t keep up.  Evan Williams had discontinued their barrel program.  We were pretty dang pleased when our supplier came to us with news of an unclaimed barrel they discovered in their warehouse!  Evan Williams Single Barrel#1075 Bourbon was bottled on 11/9/13 for the ill fated Mustang Tavern, but before they could take delivery, the tavern shuttered.

 

Finding a way to unload such an item- emblazoEvan Williams Single Barrel for Ace Spiritsned with the logo of the defunct saloon wouldn’t be such an easy task, but we figured we’d give it a go.  We sampled the whiskey and while it didn’t knock our socks off, it was adequate if we could negotiate an attractive discount that could be passed on to the guest.

 

This single barrel of Evan Williams Bourbon has a nose that is a bit harsh.  The body is a bit sweeter than the other Evan Williams barrels we’ve had and lacks the long finish we enjoyed with our selections.  Nonetheless, it’s a fine bourbon for the price and sometimes that’s all you need.  Long story short- you’ve got a 10 year old, single barrel bourbon for just $20 and that’s hard to beat.
Buy this at acespirits.com