This month I, the Bourboneer, turn 46 and I can’t think of a more appropriate way to celebrate such a grand occasion than by sipping on a delicious glass full of, well, Maker’s Mark 46 (I can think of more than just this one way to celebrate, however for the sake of this article just go with it, please).
Makers’s Mark 46 can be easily identified by it’s hand-dipped red melted plastic top (just like the original). I love the robust bottle and spartan-like, less is more, approach to the label. To me, it truly stands out on the shelf. In 2010, Maker’s 46 was first released. It is the only variation of any kind to the Maker’s brand since the company’s beginnings in the late 1950’s. So you know it’s something special and well thought out. I started drinking 46 in 2014 when I seriously began my Bourboneer journey. I had enjoyed the original Maker’s KSBW numerous times, but when I saw 46 in my local spirit store, I had to bring it home. Again, the successful marketing of the distinct red melted plastic and bold simplicity of the label went a long way in my decision. But it was my affinity for Maker’s Mark to begin with that whetted my thirst for their newest offering.
Maker’s 46, like the original Maker’s KSBW, is a “wheated” bourbon. This means the mash bill, after the required amount of 51% corn (at least), has a higher wheat content (%) than it has rye or barely. A higher wheat content offers a smoother, sweeter taste than traditional bourbon , such as Jim Bean and of course than the “high-rye” bourbons like Bulleit. As with the original Maker’s KSBW, 46 shares no age statement, however, it doesn’t have to. Bourbon aged over 4 years in new charred oak barrels (american oak for the most part), as regulated by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), is not required to have an age statement on it’s label. The difference with 46 in comparison to the original Maker’s is that it’s been aged an additional 6-10 weeks with the incorporation of “seared” French Oak staves placed in the barrel.
So what does the 46 mean? According to Maker’s Mark, experiment number #46-10 in which the level of char (#46) and number of seared French Oak staves (10) were selected for use in each barrel to give 46 it’s characteristic taste. The “marination” of these staves in the barrel gives 46 a thicker oak presence balanced nicely with the standard bourbon flavors. Personally for me and my neophyte yet ever diversifying palate, significant notes of vanilla and caramel are certainly evident. But the dominant “wood” quality, high-lighted by what reminds me of buttered cinnamon toast makes each complex and bold sip wonderfully original and satisfying. Maybe I should consider 46 with my breakfast every morning:).
So when you next visit your favorite bourbon establishment or retailer, give the shelves a brief once over. I promise you if they carry Maker’s Mark 46, you will notice it rather quickly. Then be sure to ask for a shot, drink or buy a bottle and taste the newest derivation of the Maker’s Mark excellence for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. And don’t hesitate to grab a bottle for me as a birthday present. I’d be very appreciative.
Definitions: Mash Bill – the list of grains used in the production of the bourbon. KSBW – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisk(e)y.
Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Maker,s Mark 46 KBW, 47% ABV or 94 proof (no age statement) Loretto, KY.
References: http://www.makersmark.com, American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye, Clay Risen, Maker’s 46 review, 2013 New York, NY. The Kentucky Bourbon Experience, Leon Howlett, Maker’s Mark-Region, 2012 Morely, Mo.