Maker’s Mark Private Select (Maker’s Mark Taste Panel)
Maker’s Mark Distillery
I like Maker’s Mark, it’s one of my go-to bourbons when I’m out getting mixed drinks like Old Fashions or Manhattans. They do one thing and I think they do it well. When I got the chance to visit their distillery, I went in curious to what else they even had to offer. Not too surprising, they didn’t have much more in terms of variety. I did enjoy their Private Select enough to pick up a bottle and take it home with me.
The distillery is very nice though. It is a bit of a drive out from Bardstown where I stayed and has an almost Disneyland feel to it. Even in the dead of winter it was pretty crowded so I imagine it gets packed in the spring and summer time. We waited around in our group to start the tour and met their cat mascot who is pretty derpy. He was smart enough though to warm up on the heater vent while we were all freezing. Once on the tour I learned that the location was important because it’s where the family started distilling and they are very strict about their process – including the land and wood source.
Half way through the tour we stopped at the tasting room (a generally good rule for drinking tours is to get the drinks in as soon as possible). They had all five of their varieties. Starting with Maker’s White, which is Maker’s before aging it in barrels. I like the moonshine versions of bourbons, you can actually taste the corn mash a lot more and understand why it’s a rule to have 51% of it. This one is only sold at the distillery but was too expensive for me to get, I only had so much room in my suit case.
Then you have normal Maker’s which I’ve had many times before. After that is Maker’s 46 which is seemingly the prototype for what I ended up getting. The key difference is they place 10 staves of french oak in the bourbon and age it an additional 9 weeks in their limestone cellar. Following that was the Cask Strength variant of Maker’s 46. It finished with the bottle I got – Maker’s Mark Private Select.
The beauty of the Private Select is that it’s a create your own bourbon for any restaurants or stores. Using the same technique as the Maker’s 46, the dealer can mix and match between several types of wood in a total of 10 staves. They rotate a few for the tasting, I got to try the Taste Panel’s version. To finish the tour, we went inside the unique limestone cellar that all of the Private Selects are aged in. They actually built this thing into the naturally placed limestone rock at the distillery and it was very neat.
Above is the breakdown of the specific staves for the Taster’s Panel version. I like that you can see the breakdown on every bottle. With the 5 staves of French Cuvée, it gives it a vanilla spice forward flavor and a the variety of other wood gives it some complexity on the back end compared to the normal Maker’s 46 which is all french oak.
I admit though I got caught up in the theatrics, exclusivity, and excitement of being at such a well known distillery. Months later as I finished the bottle, it didn’t taste quite as good as I remembered the initial tasting. Maybe it’s because I was already several ounces in when I had it! It was pretty expensive, about 80 dollars. I think it’s still worth trying – or any of the combinations if you can find a local vendor’s version.