Maker’s 46, which was the company’s first addition to its regular lineup, is basically Maker’s Mark (wheated bourbon aged 6 to 6.5 years) with an additional 10 weeks of aging with 10 “seared” French Oak barrel staves inserted into the casks, and bottled at an extra 2% ABV (at 47%). The process is done during the winter in the coolest parts of the warehouse, to minimize the movement of whiskey through the wood. This treatment (the 46th attempt at creating a successful recipe, hence the name) is supposed to intensify the vanilla and caramel notes of the bourbon without adding additional bitterness from barrel tannin. Maker’s 46 is bottled at 47% ABV (a missed marketing opportunity, that) and sold at a very reasonable $30 to $35 a bottle, a modest increase over the standard Maker’s Mark at $25 (or so).
Nose: Strong corn character with aprioct, cherrywood smoke, vanilla, and marzipan. Very oaky.
Palate: Thin body. Hot-ish. Maple extract, with a heavy wood (oak) flavor. Sweet almonds and burnt caramel, but very dry. Charcoal.
Finish: Medium-long. Bitter barrel char. Dry and astringent. Some nice caramelized crème brûlée notes on the tail end, and while there is a sense of bitterness from oak tannin, it’s not overt.
With Water: Water softens the palate, and adds some nice peach notes on the tongue. This plays well with a splash of water.
Overall: It’s okay, I guess? A bit dry, but without much complexity to offset that leanness. A ton of oak, if you’re into that sort of thing. It actually reminds me of the effect that oak “sticks” had when left in the bottle for too long. Maker’s 46 isn’t going to replace anything in my liquor cabinet. Still, if you’re a Maker’s fan, it’s worth the extra 10 ducats to experience what an extra period of aging with French Oak staves does to the base bourbon.
I don’t think you are correct about the 46th “attempt” thing. Or at very least it is (if I am right) misleading. From what I remember reading, they produced a very large number of experimental batches more or less simultaneously (a number larger than 46) and at the end of the process the one numbered 46 was the one they thought turned out the best. I am not going to swear to that, just because I can’t remember where I read that so can’t verify if I am getting the details right, so you’ll have to decide if you want to trust my memory.:)
According to the Maker’s website, they had many (hundreds?) of failures, before they brought in their master cooper, who suggested the use of French Oak staves. Of those trials, #46 was the winner. Perhaps, semantically, 46 attempts is not the same thing as 46 trials. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide. 🙂
After my bottle set a week, the rough and astringent character softened and rounded out with a full flavor profile. I cannot help but pick up a tremendous amount of dark natural cherry flavor along with vanilla and oak. This has become one of my favorite bourbons as of late and I recently purchased a 2nd bottle. The nose is incredible, and I find myself partial to the palette (although I despise regular Maker’s), but the finish needs a little work.
On the one hand I also had an overall meh reaction, but on the other hand I didn’t find this quite as “woody” as you suggest and see it as a definite leg-up on regular Maker’s (sort of a compass box rescue mission). Try a splash of this with a young rough Highland scotch…
my bourbons I like strong and flavorful…why bother buying something “aged” expensive that it loses it’s character. it’s like johnnie walker, the more expensive, the “smoother” it is supposed to be, but lacking in character. it’s whiskey not iced tea, it is supposed to bite. makers 46 is fine by me…there are better but this is good enough.
I’m a follower of yours and agree with almost all your tastings except on this one. This is my go to daily drinker – I find people either really like this one or they hate it, for me I love it and I usually like higher rye mash bourbons. For me the oak wood palate taste with a spicy kick is great, along with the medium finish is just the thing after work. Mine you I’d prefer a peaty scotch like Laphroaig or Ardbeg, but for an everyday little drink this is right up my alley. I do not like regular Makers which is flat, but 46 is excellent for the price here’s why: nice smell of caramel and wood, taste is woodsy kitchen spices and there’s a nice finish that sticks around. Overall for the price what is better? I like Wild Turkey 101 too, but there’s something about 46 that keeps be grabbing it. Just saying…
Thanks for the notes! I think it’s always better to find something that you like instead of relying on reviewers. Cheers!