New Orleans Bourbon Festival

Review: Maker’s Mark Private Select (New Orleans Bourbon Fest 2019)

With the New Orleans Bourbon Festival right around the corner, now is as good a time as ever to take a look at some of their 2019 single barrel picks in a series of short reviews.  A lot of the whiskies in this series are still available in certain New Orleans retail stores and will be poured at the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival.

Maker’s Mark Private Select is a great way to put your personal touch on a “single barrel” of the bourbon.  You can read more about the process here.  For the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival Private Select, co-founders Barbara & Tracy Napolitano, Martin Wine Cellar’s Jeff Hirtius, and others (including myself) sat through one of the first remote programs for the whisky.  Generally, MMPS is done at the distillery.  Regrettably,  I had to leave before the final oak finishing stave combination was chosen.

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For the 2019 New Orleans Bourbon Festival edition of Maker’s Mark Private Select, the following oak staves were chosen:

  • 3 Baked American Pure 2
  • 1 Seared French Cuvee
  • 3 Roasted French Mocha
  • 3 Toasted French Spice

Thinking back to my memories of tasting each of the stave finishes, I really enjoyed what those last two brought to Maker’s Mark whisky.

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This edition is bottled at 110.1 proof.  The nose features spiced caramel, espresso, kettle corn, and vanilla bean.  Taste-wise, that rich caramel hinted at on the nose kicks things off here.  Vanilla cake follows just as baking spices develop.  Towards the back palate, dark-roasted coffee and some toasted oak darken things a bit.  The medium-length finish continues those rich, sweet, and spicy flavors.

This is kind of like eating coffee cake while drinking some espresso.  It’s quite tasty, and is perfect as an after-dinner pour.  I really like Private Select as a concept.  The different combinations of barrel staves can bring about some fantastic whisky.  That’s certainly true here.  8.5/10

The 2018 New Orleans Bourbon Festival

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New Orleans Bourbon Festival 2017: a chat with Fred Noe and Eddie Russell, moderated by yours truly.  Photo courtesy of New Orleans Bourbon Festival

Back for its second year, the New Orleans Bourbon Festival really didn’t have to change much from its first outing in 2017.  It wasn’t just a successful first year festival.  It was a successful festival, period.  But the festival’s founders aren’t resting on their laurels.

Tracy Napolitano, one of the festival’s founders, is the only full-time employee.  After taking a short breather following last year’s festival, Tracy and fellow founders took all the feedback they received to heart.  Their mission was to improve upon their first outing without losing its spirit.

The festival takes place Thursday, March 8th through Saturday, March 10th.  Festivities kick off with several bourbon dinners at restaurants around New Orleans, each sponsored by a different brand.

Like last year, this year’s festival features two Grand Tasting nights filled with pours from both large and craft brands.  The biggest change is the inclusion of all American whiskey.  The first festival was generally limited to bourbon only.  That means a whole lot of rye whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and more.  More than 100 different whiskies will be poured.  If you happen to see me at one of the Grand Tastings, please say hi.  I’ll be the guy with the glass of whiskey in his hand.

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You can’t drink whiskey and not smile.  Photo courtesy of New Orleans Bourbon Festival

In addition, this year’s VIP ticket holders are getting more attention.  Some really special pours can be expected in the VIP area.  I’ve been told the list confidentially, and yeah… those VIPs should definitely heed the phrase ‘first come, first serve.’  Better yet, “the early bird gets the worm.”  There’s also a special welcome reception for VIPs entitled “Bourbon & Burlesque.”  ‘Nuff said.

Again this year is a whiskey judging by Ultimate VIP ticket holders.  From what I’m told, these tickets sell quickly.  We’re less than three weeks away.  Go get your tickets now.

Seminars have been spread over two days, now taking place the Friday and Saturday of the festival, which gives folks more access to attend more seminars.  This year’s speaker lineup is a doozy, featuring Fred Minnick, Michael Veach, Peggy Noe Stevens, Bernie Lubbers, Maggie Kimberl, Trey Zoeller, and many, many more.

The festival’s theme this year is “Generations,” a theme very important in American whiskey.  I again have the pleasure of moderating not one but two panels related to that theme. On Friday, I’ll chat with Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe and his son, Freddie.  Saturday, you’ll find me moderating Eddie Russell and his son, Bruce.  I simply cannot wait!

Festival proceeds go to Kids Can Nola, a new non-profit benefitting the welfare of children.  It’s a classy touch from the festival founders.

I’m sure this year’s festival will far surpass last year’s wonderful inaugural event.  NOLA and bourbon are made for each other.  If Kentucky is bourbon’s wife, New Orleans is definitely the whiskey’s mistress.

NewOrleansBourbonFestival.com