One of my favorite things about Maker’s Mark‘s style of media product tastings is that they give us a chance to really dive into the process. For this release, we had the opportunity to try many of the rejected component whiskeys so we could really go along with the Maker’s Mark team in their process of narrowing down this year’s Wood Finishing Series. It’s not that the whiskeys are ever bad, but rather we have the opportunity to walk through the process of how the Maker’s mark team narrowed down the process to meet their “taste goals.” Welcome to 2021, FAE-01.
FAE, by the way, stands for Fatty Acid Esters. That’s basically what the oils in plants oxidize to create.
In the first sample, the Maker’s Mark was left with ten staves of raw white American oak for three weeks. The result was heavily spicy, sweet, and tannic.
The second sample was aged with raw French oak staves. It was also heavily spicy and tannic but with distinct cocoa and toffee notes. According to Jane Bowie, there is 8.5 times more tannin in French Oak than American white oak. Raw oak flavors come out in force really quickly, so three and a half weeks in the whiskey produces astounding results.
The third sample was the FAE stave for four weeks, but an early iteration that wasn’t the final. This was a four-week experiment that was aged in a walk-in refrigeration unit at 32 degrees. In addition to the heavy spices, there are some distinct notes of citrus.
The fourth sample was that same FAE stave that was aged in Warehouse 7 in the winter for four weeks and subsequently was exposed to the lowest temperatures of all the samples. It was extremely heavy on baking spices and tannins with a lot of fruit notes.
The fifth sample was the FAE stave finished bourbon that was aged in the cellar for four weeks. The spice notes are strong and the wood tannins are at a more medium level compared to the previous sample. There are notes of brown sugar, apples, caramel, vanilla, and all those “yummy” candy notes Maker’s Mark is known for balanced out with complex spices.
Samples three through five used the same type of stave with different aging conditions, but ultimately the fifth sample aged in the cellar won out with a different length of time than the original sample.
The fifth sample ended up being what was bottled after three weeks and four days of the FAE stave sitting in the cellar. The result is a bourbon with a vintage bottle funk, great balance, sweet and spicy notes, leather and tobacco notes, and fruit notes. It’s bottled at 110.6 proof but is an easy sipper.
“For 2021, we leaned into our column stills and non-chill-filtering process, which, simply put, helps us retain the texture and a higher viscosity of the whisky. What we got is an expression that highlights the fruit‑forward taste profile in an unexpected and much-welcomed way. It tastes just like a barrel warehouse smells,” says Jane Bowie, Maker’s Mark Director of Innovation.
Each side of the stave contributes different flavor notes. This FAE stave was infrared seared on one side and left alone on the other side.
According to Jane Bowie, this is one of her favorite whiskeys they have bottled during her tenure at Maker’s Mark. She says it tastes like whiskey that has been in a bottle for a long time, and as someone who has tasted many vintage whiskeys, I have to agree.
The MSRP is $59.99. It should be in stores now nationwide.
Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl