Bourbon

Review: Maker’s Mark Private Select (Maker’s Mark Tasting Panel)

Lots of distilleries offer a single barrel program. Customers either travel to the distillery to choose a barrel or have barrel samples sent to them. Either way, they are usually choosing from a selection of three barrels. Maker’s Mark offers a much more immersive, personalized program, called Private Select.

Instead of just picking a barrel, customers choose how their whisky is finished by selecting a combination of five different oak staves:

  1. Baked American Pure 2 – American Oak toasted low and slow in a convection oven. Yields a light, bright sweet style.
  2. Seared French Cuvee – French Oak that’s been cut with ridges to increase surface area and varying degrees of char. Adds brown sugar subtle spice.
  3. Maker’s 46 – French Oak produced with infrared toasting, this is the stave that’s used to create the Maker’s 46 expression, which was the inspiration for this program.
  4. Roasted French Mocha – French Oak cooked at high heat in a convection oven. Adds a dark coffee richness.
  5. Toasted French Spice – Another French Oak cooked at both high and low levels in a convection oven. As the name suggests, this one adds a spiciness to your bourbon, and beefs up the finish.

Customers taste whiskies finished with each stave, and begin creating a flavor profile by blending these whiskies in different portions. The resulting combination of 10 staves is then added to a barrel of Maker’s Mark whisky and stored in the distillery’s new cellar for about nine weeks.

Bottled at 111.0 proof, this Private Select boasts a rich, fruity nose featuring hints of dark brown sugar, baked apples, and some baking spice.  On the palate, an initial wave of soft spice peppers the tongue but is cushioned by decadent vanilla cream and vibrant orange zest that soon follows.  Cocoa dusted apples and a touch of astringent oak show up on the back of the palate.  The long finish is a tad spicy with a lingering dark roasted coffee note.

After having attended a selection for the New Orleans Bourbon Festival earlier this year (more on that later), I have to say it was one of the most immersive tasting selections I’ve experienced.  That pick, which I tasted recently and will review in full soon, was a completely different whisky than the whisky tasted here.

Speaking of immersive, the brand’s new ad that just launched on Youtube is pretty cool.  Make sure to use your mobile device for the best result.  I don’t know of any other VR ads out there right now.

Back to the whisky, I find the Maker’s Mark soft, sweet profile acts as a strong base in which to showcase the flavors brought about by the unique oak stave finish.  I’ve only tasted two of these whiskies, and both were outstanding.  In this case, the Roasted French Mocha staves add just the right amount of rich, dark notes that play with the caramel notes brought about by the Seared French Cuvee staves.  Nicely done here.  If you haven’t tasted a Maker’s Mark Private Select, you’re really missing out on something special.  8.5/10

Thanks to Maker’s Mark for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Old Ezra Barrel Strength Bourbon

When this bottle of Old Ezra came across my sample table, the idea of a 7-year-old barrel strength bourbon excited me. The fact that it’s available for less than $40 is icing on the cake.

From a value standpoint, Old Ezra Barrel Strength checks off all the boxes on paper. But most important of all – is it any good?

It is, friends. In spades.

The nose is bold and full of rich caramel, spice, and some nuttiness. Taste-wise, Old Ezra Barrel Strength is full-bodied and robust, featuring hints of salted caramel, toasted oak, and black pepper. The finish is warm, with lingering cinnamon and toffee notes.

Luxco has another hit on their hands with this one. I hope Old Ezra Barrel Strength is a whiskey we can easily find on shelves. Luxco hasn’t made any mention of this being a limited release in press materials.

I can’t say it enough – this bourbon is fantastic! It’s on my shortlist as one of my favorite bourbons released in 2018. I know the flavor profiles are different and all, but this gives Booker’s a run for its money. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how huge a Booker’s fan I am.

Highly recommended. 8.5/10

Luxco.com

Thanks to Luxco for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Store Pick Review: Calandro’s Supermarket 1792 Full Proof and Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye

Calandro’s Supermarket in Baton Rouge, Louisiana just released a couple of store picks they thought I’d be interested in trying. Who am I to turn down whiskey? Mark Calandro and his son Taylor taste and choose the barrels for their stores. Let’s get to tasting.

First up is 1792 Full Proof. This goes into the barrel at 125 proof. After maturation, the whiskey is proofed down to that same proof. Because that could just mean a couple of proof points, this is basically barrel proof bourbon. The nose is rich with hints of caramel, red fruit and spice. Taste-wise, we’re talking about layer after layer of decadent caramel upfront. Additionally, hints of graham cracker and red fruits develop alongside some baking spice and leather. The finish is long, with lingering notes of barrel char and sweet oak. Calandro’s 1792 Full Proof is big, rich, and worth every penny of its $49.99 cost. 8.5/10

Next up is their Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye, currently one of the first of these releases in Louisiana AND the supermarket chain’s first rye whiskey picks. Knob Creek Single Barrel Rye is bottled at 115 proof. The nose is a touch muted at first, but becomes a bit livelier with a little airtime. Aromas of rye spice, fruit, vanilla, and lightly roasted coffee abound. On the palate, a sweet brown sugar entry develops hints of toasted rye grain, cherries, and wood spice. The finish is long and warming, with hints of sweet vanilla and spicy rye. $39.99 8/10

Great picks from Calandro’s! I am excited to see what they bring into the store next.

Thanks to Calandro’s for the generous samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.