Monday, 3 January 2011

Maker’s 46 - that difficult second album

Musicians have always talked about that difficult second album. After taking as long as needed to create their first record, the pressure is on getting the second one out there. It’s not only rock stars however that have a follow up to worry about.   

It’s about 4 years ago now that I spent a very long, and very enjoyable, night at The Rockwell bar in London with Dave Pickerell, the former Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark. Over the course of the evening we discussed anything and everything bourbon, including future plans for Maker’s Mark releases. Whilst remaining quite tight lipped about what was around the corner, Dave did let me know he had a few casks laid down and was monitoring them to see how they were progressing.

Rewind back to 1953 and Bill Samuels Sr bought the Burk’s Spring Distillery and set about creating his new – bitterness free – bourbon. A family history of distilling going back to the previous century gave Samuels a good idea of what he was doing and in 1959 the first case of Maker’s Mark was sold to Keeneland Racecourse. Maker’s was on its way.

51 years later and Maker’s Mark is stronger than ever. A focus on what they do and doing it to best of their ability has meant a consistent quality in the whisky. Other than a brief foray into a slightly spicier, stronger Bourbon back in the 90’s that only really went to Japan, Maker’s Mark has remained a one whisky distillery. That is until now.

Gradually through 2010 Maker’s has been shipping Maker’s 46 across the US, state by state. The work begun by Dave Pickerell that I was given the very slightest insight into has been carried forward and bought to market by his successor, Kevin Smith. Despite the new expression hardly leaving the USA and Duty Free I have managed to get a bottle and give it a little road test.

The original Maker’s Mark bottle was designed by founder Bill Samuels Sr’s wife, Marjorie and 50 years on and the folks from Loretto have created a perfectly modernised version of the classic design. Clearly Maker’s Mark but distinctively different.

Maker’s Mark has always had a very distinctive nose and Maker’s 46 follows the same pattern – vanilla, toffee, honey and butter. To taste, it is no surprise that Kevin Smith and his team have stuck to the mantra at Maker’s of ‘remove the bitterness’. This bourbon is so smooth it almost feels as though you could spread it on your toast in the morning and the hefty 47% ABV slips by unnoticed. All of those sweet notes from the nose continue on the palate and thoughts of creamy toffees come to mind with the complement of cinnamon. For the finish it becomes sweet joy again with those same caramel and toffee themes. Unlike most bourbon, where rye is used in the mash bill, there is no side-of-the mouth bitterness.

There it is. The first genuine addition to the Maker’s Mark range and it’s a real triumph. For Kevin Smith and Bill Samuels Jr, it is fair to say that their difficult second album is sure to go platinum.

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