GSN Review: Maker’s Mark Private Select & Cask Strength

Bill Samuels, Sr.’s quest to create Maker’s Mark began with his only copy of the family’s trusted, 170-year-old recipe. The one the sixth-generation distiller promptly set on fire, of course.

After accidentally burning a set of drapes in the process, Bill experimented with different flavoring grains, searching for a mash bill all his own. To save years of aging time, Bill baked several loaves of bread with various grain combinations instead of distilling them. His quick thinking not only saved time but also led him to swap out the traditional rye grain that is commonly used in bourbon’s, for soft, red winter wheat. This replaced the hot bite of rye with the delicate sweetness that Maker’s is known for today.

Maker’s Mark Private Select offers a new take on the Maker’s 46 process (see our previous review here). It begins with cask-strength Maker’s Mark and is aged for nine additional weeks in barrels specially fitted with 10 wood finishing staves in our limestone cellar. Where Private Select separates itself from Maker’s 46, is that the barrel can be customized using 5 different stave types. This results in over 1,001 different possible combinations. As a single barrel program, all expressions of Maker’s Mark Private Select are bottled at cask strength – which ranges from 108-114 proof.

After being screen filtered to remove wood pieces and char, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength goes straight to the bottle at a range of 108 to 114 proof. While it may seem like a recent addition to the Maker’s family, in truth Cask Strength has always been at the core of every bourbon they produce. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength served as the base of the original Maker’s Mark. It’s also the foundation for the bourbons in our wood-finishing series – Maker’s 46 and Maker’s Mark Private Select.

Maker’s Mark Private Select (108-114 proof)
(Our sample was Maker’s Mark Taste Panel, 111 proof)
Visual: Bright copper.
Nose: Loads of sweet corn, caramel, toffee and mild spice.
Taste: Hearty bourbon with a fair amount of oak char. Elegantly appointed sweetness and smooth middle tones. An almost brûlée after taste or caramelized cane sugar.
Finish: Long, with drier oak notes leading the finish.
Overall: This is a fantastic bourbon that serves well neat, on the rocks or in a bourbon forward cocktail. Just make sure to adjust the proportions as the higher proof will cut through any sweeteners or juices.
GSN Rating: A+

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength (108-114 proof)
(Our sample was 112.2 proof)
Visual: Dark amber-brown.
Nose: Strong and aggressive distillate tempered by an equally intense barrel tannin and char. This ramps up the usually mild character of Maker’s to 11.
Taste: Well-rounded and sweet with that peculiar baked wheat bread flavor that makes it go down so easy. Lots of sugary notes that are balanced and toothsome.
Finish: Long and with a lasting sweet character that is more forward than the proof and oak would seem.
Overall: If you love cask strength whiskies, this one will not disappoint. Excellent.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Maker’s Mark

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