I have been fortunate in that Jane Bowie from Maker’s Mark has included me in her presentations of new barrel stave projects for Maker’s Wood Finishing Series. This year, the bottling is called “FAE”, standing for “Fatty Acids Esters”. These are the flavor aspects and compounds in Maker’s Mark that they wished to emphasize in this barrel stave release.
Jane led a Zoom presentation for about 10 people discussing the process that led to this whiskey. Samples were delivered and Jane led the virtual tasting and I later gave Matt Kohorst, my nephew and protégé, the same presentation from the samples so he would have full understanding of the process that led to this whiskey.
A few years ago, Jane asked what would happen if raw barrel staves were used in the Private Selection Barrel process? They took 10 untreated American oak staves, no toasting or charring with only natural drying of the wood for one year, and 10 untreated French oak staves, and made two barrels of whiskey.
The first two samples provided were whiskey from raw American oak and raw French oak. The American oak was very fruity with dominant apple fruit flavors, but other flavors in the background. It was very brandy-like in flavor. The French oak was less fruity and more tannic. Chocolate notes with some sweet fruit notes hiding behind tannic oak flavor.
Next, the three samples we were to taste were American oak staves that were lightly charred on one side, but the other side uncharred and raw. The first sample was from a barrel stored in a walk-in refrigerator set at 32 degrees. The second was a sample stored in warehouse A last November, with the natural shifts in temperature and humidity. The third sample was stored in the cave.
Each produced different flavor profiles and the final product was made from whiskey aged for three weeks in the cave. I approve of the final choice, but at the same time, I would love to see releases of whiskey aged in warehouse A. I think that storage produced the fruitiest whiskey from the staves and I like a fruity whiskey. The walk-in refrigerator produced more caramel notes and that was good, but not extremely different from normal Maker’s Mark.
Maker’s Mark FAE
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Caramel and chocolate, tart apples, oak and leather.
- Matt: Vanilla, ripe apples, fine leather, oak.
- Mike: Caramel, tart apples and lemon zest with a hint of chocolate and oak. When tasted with a dried cranberry, the caramel and chocolate became richer and a little white pepper spice came out. When tasted with a pecan the vanilla becomes a rich French vanilla and the pepper becomes black pepper.
- Matt: Apples and orange citrus zest, vanilla and a little oak. The dried cranberry brought out a vanilla latte coffee note with oak and a little spice. The pecan brought out roasted hazelnuts, oak and vanilla.
- Mike: Medium long with notes of lemon zest, chocolate and sweet oak. The dried cranberry added a little note of white pepper. The pecan made the finish longer with lots of pepper and oak.
- Matt: Medium long with notes of leather and oak and lingering vanilla bean. The dried cranberry made the finish very leathery with some sweet oak. The pecan lengthened the finish with toasted nuts, vanilla and oak notes.
I would pair this whiskey with a My Father The Judge cigar. This whiskey begs for a cigar rich in caramel and chocolate notes. At the same time, the brandy-like flavor makes me think a Nat Sherman Schrader MMXIII cigar might be good as well, bringing out and enhancing the fruit notes of the whiskey.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller