At the end of the distillery tour at Maker’s Mark, Loretto, Ky., a T-shirt in the gift shop reads “Every 50 years or so, we like to shake things up a bit” and bears the logo for Maker’s 46, the distillery’s first new product since it began production in 1953.
Maker’s 46 is a bourbon whiskey made from original Maker’s Mark, which is a brand of Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Deerfield, Ill. The product begins with Maker’s Mark, which has been aged an average of five years and nine months. The bourbon is emptied from barrels and 10 seared French oak staves are affixed to the sides of the barrels. As the bourbon ages for an additional three months, the staves help enhance the natural caramel and vanilla flavors in Maker’s Mark and imparts spiciness in Maker’s 46.
Prior to the release of Maker’s 46, the distillery had been focused solely on production of its original bourbon, says Kevin Smith, master distiller at Maker’s Mark.
“Now 50 years later, Maker’s Mark was still making just one product,” Smith says. “We got ourselves to a point and [Maker’s Mark President] Bill Samuels Jr. was worried that someday his tombstone would read ‘At least he didn’t screw it up.’ So we set out to create something new, and we’ve taken that history and dropped it onto another thing.”
Arriving at the Maker’s 46 recipe took two years and 125 experiments, Smith says. Samuels began the task with the direction that the iteration of Maker’s Mark had to be “yummy, and have no back of the palette or bitter notes,” Smith says.
“Over the years whiskey consumers’ palates have moved toward bigger and bolder flavors,” said Samuels, in a statement. “So I wanted to craft a contemporary interpretation of Maker’s Mark that matched with current tastes, but I didn’t want to mess up what my father had created or disenfranchise any of our loyal fans.”