Saturday, July 3, 2010

Exam-o-dram – Makers 46

I purposely set my expectations low because I really didn't have any prior experience with Makers Mark other than the normal red wax offering. Normal Makers Mark is a fairly uneventful bourbon. I'm not saying it's bad but for me, I like a little more pop to my bourbon. Enter Makers 46.

I had checked the Virginia ABC website and they listed it but the stores were a little slow in getting it on the shelves. About 2 weeks ago I walked into an ABC store and thankfully, they had just put it on display that morning priced at $34 a 750ml. Because this bourbon is finished with French oak staves as a flavoring component, it cannot be called Straight Bourbon Whiskey, just Bourbon Whiskey. Like all Makers Mark bourbon, this one is a wheated bourbon also.

The packaging is very attractive with a new shaped bottle for this release but of course, the red wax dripping down the side is still present. Overall, a good choice of bottle

The color is of moderate amber with shades of orange when held up to the light

The nose is quite a bit better than normal MM with loads of caramel and wood notes. There's a sweetness that comes through on the nose that's reminiscent of candy apple.

The entry was surprising with a pop of spice on the tongue. The spice isn't a rye type spice but more like a baking spice; cloves and cinnamon which I suspect comes from the oak staves but I can't say with any degree of certainty. Mid palate the bourbon takes on a nice candied sweetness and then begins to diminish a little too soon and finishes up slightly dry.

For a new product from Makers Mark, this is really great start. I'm not sure I'll keep this as a regular open bar item but that's only because of the price which I think is a little steep. I really hope this product sells well so it encourages Makers Mark to continue experimentation on different bourbon offerings. If you like a regular Makers or wheated bourbons in general, you should like this one as well.


  1. Greg:

    Does it say how long it is aged? I'd also be interested to know about the oak staves. Were they in the barrel the whole time during aging, or were they placed in strategically? Were they inserted with some sort of holding mechanism that allowed the bourbon to encircle them 360 degrees or did they just lay on the bottom of the barrel? Were these barrels rotated like the regular MM or were they in a sweet spot in the rickhouse. So many questions...

  2. Don - here's my understanding. Makers ages their bourbon for about 7 years. After that, the bourbon was poured out of the barrel, and I think 10 or so 1 inch charred staves were placed vertically in the barrel and the bourbon poured back in. It was then aged an additional 9-12 weeks.

  3. Thanks for the review! I think I've changed my mind on the 46 and will purchase a bottle when the supply arrives in Atlanta (late July/early August, I hear). I'm a fan of wheaters, but also a traditionalist and the 46 process sounded kind of gimmicky. But people whose taste I trust have given this positive reviews and are enthusiastic about the wood used.

  4. Tucker - I hear what you're saying as I tend to be a bit of a purist also with my bourbon but the other side of me likes the creativity that distillers have exhibited in recent years. I was skeptical when I first heard about this but the number of wheated bourbons in the market is pretty limited so I say bravo to MM for taking the risk; it paid off.

  5. I was fortunate enough to have a taste of 46 at the Bourbon Sampler in April, and liked it quite a bit. I was also a little leary since I really had no way of knowing for sure that it was truly what the guy said it was. Well, 46 finally made it to my town today and I bought a couple of bottles at $31 each. Just opened one up, and after a few sips, it's what I remember. I agree with your review for the most part, but think I like it a little more than you. For a 94 proofer, it has good flavor.

  6. GV - I certainly don't dislike it; I think it's a step above the regular MM bourbon and I like the fact that MM branched out and tried something unique. My problem is this. I have such a wide variety of bourbons that not only span decades but also include numerous one off bottlings by certain Liquor Stores and private bottlings that It's almost bourbon overload. If I had a small bar selection of say 12 or so bourbons and Makers 46 was one of them, I'd probably think it was one of my better bottles. The truth is, as good as it may be, it just won't be in my rotation on a regular basis because of the variety I have access to. I believe that this is to my detriment at times as I will overlook bottles because of the overload factor. I have bourbon I opened 3 years ago that still sit in the rotation, waiting to be consumed. I just need more friends that drink bourbon.

  7. I like the Makers 46 first of all. Joe was kind enough to bring a bottle during his visit this past weekend and we got to sample it. We all agreed it was better than the normal expression.

    I think the normal Makers is a good quality bourbon with no flavor. There's nothing offensive in it to me, it just doesn't have the bang that I want. In a wheated bourbon I want some punch. WLW and Pappy 15 are my favorite wheated bourbons in rotation. If I want a lower proof wheater, I go to Old Fitz prime or some older SW lower proof stuff sitting around. I feel it has more flavor for the low proof than original Makers.

    I felt like the 46 was makers, with more flavor. I don't think the wood felt entirely natural though. For me anyways, the wood and additional flavors did taste tacked on a bit. Not to say this was bad at all, just different. It's defiantly a bourbon with wood, instead of a woody bourbon.

  8. Hey Greg,
    Great Blog. I thought I would let you know about

    It's my new site that I am trying to spread the word about. Link it here if you like.


    Matt Colglazier

  9. Matt - thanks for stopping by. I checked out your site and look forward to future reviews.

  10. Makers, to me, is the marijuana of the bourbon industry. I don't mean that negatively, just that it's the gateway bourbon. Thus, after it broke me in, I grew tired of it and moved on. It's just too sweet for my liking. That said, I was mega skeptical of 46. I was in Vegas dining at Bouchon at the Venetian and noticed they had 46 on the shelf. The bartender said they'd got it in that day and no one had ordered so naturally I did. I thought it was a very good bourbon, very woody. I liked how it went from the dry spice you described to a little sweet to a woody dry finish. It reminded me a lot of Basil Hayden but a little better. BH neat is usually my "everyday" bourbon but I think 46 may have taken the title away after I bought 2 bottles @ $29.99 at Total Wine & Spirits.

    It's definitely not the spicy bourbon that I love to drink but more of a subtle cruiser to sip when I get home from work. I think they did a good job and the story is interesting too. Always good to see new ideas in the world of bourbon.

  11. I'd never criticize a distillery from experimentation. In fact BT now has a small distillery dedicated just to that; experimental bourbons. While the first try may not be very good (e.g. 1986 Evan Williams Single Barrel), the creativity involved can really produce some interesting results and take a distillery down a path of a whole new product line.