When Bill Samuels Jr. took over as President of Maker’s Mark Distillery from his father in the mid-70s, his dad told him one thing, “Don’t screw up the whisky.” So for years, the goal of distillation and maturation at Maker’s Mark Distillery was to make every barrel of whisky taste the same as the last. That’s a rule Bill Jr. followed until it came time for his retirement and he decided he wanted to leave a legacy of his own.
After two years, 120 plus experiments and lots of assistance from long-time barrel making partner Independent Stave Company, Bill introduced the world to Maker’s 46. It was made from fully matured Maker’s Mark that had been aged an additional nine weeks during winter months with 10 French Oak staves placed inside the barrel. The cooler winter months keep the temperature below 55° F so the bourbon picks up the flavor from the 10 staves rather than from the bourbon moving in and out of the American Oak barrel.
Private Select – The Maker’s Mark Version of a Single Barrel
Five years later in 2015, Maker’s Mark introduced their Private Select program. The Private Select program took some of the lessons learned from the Maker’s 46 stave experiments and made them available to retailers to make their own custom barrel of Maker’s. The customer spends the good part of a day at the distillery experiencing the flavors of fully matured cask strength Maker’s Mark that has been aged for an additional nine weeks with 10 custom finishing staves to each barrel. The 10 finishing staves can be any combination of five flavor profiles chosen especially for this program. Once they choose the combination they like, they watch a barrel get filled using the staves they chose and then patiently wait nine weeks for the final maturation, bottling and shipping.
The five staves allow for an amazing 1,001 possible combinations that customers could end up with for their own Private Select barrel of Maker’s. A full list of the five staves and their characteristics is included below.
Limited Release: Seared Bu 1-3 – 10 Virgin Seared & Sous-Vide French Oak Staves
One of the tests that stood out but didn’t play nice with the other five staves that made it into the Private Select program is what Maker’s calls Seared Bu 1-3. For a limited time, Maker’s is making this small batch available for sale directly to the public at the distillery and a select group of retailers. The company says, “this exclusive bourbon features amplified notes of butterscotch and honey, derived from finishing fully matured Maker’s Mark with 10 experimental virgin seared and sous-vide French oak staves.” So, while the distillery is not planning on putting this into permanent production, this test batch “was too great-tasting of a whisky to keep to ourselves.” Had they chosen to add this as a sixth stave to the Private Select program it would have taken the combinations from 1,001 to an astonishing 3,003.
The limited edition Maker’s Mark Seared Bu 1-3 will be bottled at cask strength of 110.7 proof. Just over 1,400 bottles will be available at the Maker’s Mark Distillery and limited Kentucky retailers in early May for a suggested retail price of $39.99 per 375ml bottle.
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Maker’s Mark Seared Bu 1-3 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
Makers Mark Private Select Stave Types
Here are the five stave types from the Private Select program.[table “” not found /]
Bottles of Maker’s Mark Private Select can be picked up at a limited number of retailers across the country.