Sampling the Maker's Mark 46

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Last week Robin and I were invited to attend a bourbon tasting event hosted at the Liss Gallery in Toronto by Maker's Mark representative Matt Jones.

Since small batch style bourbon is scarce or just expensive here in Toronto, we leaped at the opportunity to drink some of the pricier bourbons in the Beam portfolio. An added treat was that we'd finally get to sample Maker's 46 we heard about at Whiskey Live 2010  due out in the LCBO in early March. 

We arrived to a narrow gallery space nearly filled with people. Between pours of Knob Creek, Baker's, Basil Hayden and Booker's we learned from Matt that the new edition of Maker's is made by placing the spirit in modified finishing barrels containing 10 charred French Oak staves for an additional five to eleven weeks. 

With most of Maker's Mark's barrels going to Laphroaig, I was curious to know if the modified barrels were also sold to scotch whisky distilleries. According to Matt, "when the Maker's 46 barrels are emptied of bourbon, the French oak staves are removed. The emptied barrels are then shipped along with the regular Maker's barrels to be reconditioned prior to selling them. So, at this point they all have the same identity. The French oak toasted staves are then sold as cooking boards... or some us of take them home." Grilling enthusiasts and gourmands will be disappointed to see that the staves aren't available for sale on the company's website. 

 
Visually, the Maker's 46 has a rich hue of amber in the glass and is slightly more viscous than the original as well. On the nose, we were surprised by the presence of maple syrup! Given its base of the original Maker's spirit, aromas of vanilla, red apple, caramel and baking spice rounded out the traditional profile. The whiskey still has the sweet wheated softness on the palate but it's markedly dry finish displays a punchier hit of oak. A splash of water mellows the oak and brings out cinnamon, citrus, and butterscotch. 
 
The added complexity is a nice variation on the original and at $49.95 in the LCBO it's priced to move. It's a decent sipping bourbon but, judging from the flavour profile, it might work better as the backbone of a classic bourbon-based cocktail like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.

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