Editor’s Note: This article is all about our first ever barrel pick, Maker’s Mark Private Selection, A Reviewer’s Perspective. If you want to skip to the good part now and just grab yourself a bottle while they are available, you can do that here.
In September of last year a small group of The Whiskey Wash reviewers, including me as editor-in-chief, gathered in a private room inside the luxurious Multnomah Whiskey Library in Portland, Oregon. There, led by a member of the Maker’s Mark Private Selection team, we began what became an hours’ long journey, later broken up into a second day, to come up with the barrel pick we are presenting here.
Maker’s Mark Private Selection, A Reviewer’s Perspective is The Whiskey Wash’s first ever private barrel pick. (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)
Over this time our reviewers swirled, tasted, debated, tasted again and repeated as we discussed what would be the right taste profile for this pick. We would come close to making a choice, only to have not enough hands raised on any one possible selection to make a final call. Thus the second day to review our finalists.
In the end we went through seven different possibilities as we narrowed things down. During this time we discovered the Maker’s Mark Private Selection in general to be a fascinating offering in barrel pick programs. First tasting through different Maker’s Mark whiskeys influenced by one of five different stave types, we then collectively played whiskey mad scientists, blending very specific mixings of these various bourbons together. Each one we created, while unique in its own way, could only ultimately lead to one outstanding pick.
Bottles of Maker’s Mark influenced by each of the staves. (image via Melissa Jones/The Whiskey Wash)
2 staves of Baked American Pure (“adds notes of brown sugar, vanilla, caramel and spice” – Maker’s Mark)
1 stave of Seared French Cuvee (“imparts toasty notes of oak and caramel” – Maker’s Mark)
3 staves of Maker’s Mark 46 (“delivers notes of dried fruit, vanilla and spice” – Maker’s Mark)
2 staves of Roasted French Mendiant (“adds pleasant traces of milk chocolate, nuts, and dried dark fruit” – Maker’s Mark)
2 staves of Toasted French Spice (“has a flavor profile of smoke, coumarin and spice” – Maker’s Mark)
With this select mix being our choice out of over 1,001 possible combinations, the team at Maker’s Mark back in Loretto, Kentucky then took cask-strength, fully mature Maker’s Mark and aged it for nine additional weeks in a barrel specially fitted with these 10 wood-finishing staves in their limestone cellar.
Nosing away as we consider Maker’s Mark private barrel possibilities. (image via Melissa Jones/The Whiskey Wash)
As to how it might taste, here are tasting notes from one of the reviewers, Suzanne Bayard: “A balanced pour, this incorporates a near equal portion of all of the different wood treatments offered during the Private Select. There’s leading notes of maple syrup, baked pears, and yeast with a dash of white pepper and subtle allspice, vanilla, and butterscotch on the finish.”
What’s resulted is an amazing bourbon bottled at a hearty 109.1 proof. With just 246 bottles being made available, we’ve partnered with online liquor retailer Quality Liquor Store to have them sell it for us at what we think is a reasonable $79.99 per 750 ml bottle.
The team behind the barrel pick, along with a Maker’s Mark representative. (image via Melissa Jones/The Whiskey Wash)
To learn more about the experience behind our first ever barrel pick, presented below are the collective thoughts from a couple of the reviewers that were on our team:
“The sensory experience of picking this bottle was the most memorable. From the five different whiskey staves, the visual slides, to the physical tokens representing the different stave types, the experience was simply a lot of fun. We were truly able to dissect our preferences with this tasting. We were afforded an opportunity to not only try our ideas, but we could riff off the themes as well. When we enjoyed a certain stave the Maker’s Mark representative was really well suited to help us understand what it would pair nicely with. In the end we put together the best of our collective experiences into this whiskey. The tools provided completed a total sensory experience, and I think that’s what we tried to create with this pick.” – Charles Steele
“The iconic Multnomah Whiskey Library in downtown Portland, Oregon was the perfect setting for the Whiskey Wash team to experience Maker’s Mark Private Select single barrel program. Surrounded as we were by the landmark bar’s extensive collection of spirits, the golden-hued location gave the afternoon a perfect vibe for our task. Unlike traditional barrel select offerings from other distilleries, the Maker’s Mark approach is in a league of its own. Guided by an experienced brand ambassador, we worked through multiple stave combinations by physically mixing, tasting, noting and refining until we (somehow) managed to settle on the multi-stave profile we would end up labeling, ‘A Reviewer’s Perspective’. The meticulous and thorough approach was an experience to remember. I hope our readers enjoy this unique blend.” – Devon Lyon
“Our team took to the challenge and rose to the occasion to curate a special bottle with our readership in mind. You’re gonna like the way we drink, I guarantee it.” – Courtney Kristjana
“I think readers will love this pick for the same reason they refer to our review’s for guidance and recommendation. The varied nature of The Whiskey Wash reviewers and their unique palates provide something for everyone. If you have a favorite reviewer whose tasting notes and ratings resonate, they’ll likely share similar palates and the trust is there when it comes to what one may find enjoyable. The fact that there were a selection of reviewers picking this selection guarantees that there will be something for everyone.” – Jerry Sampson
I, too, personally hope you pick up a bottle of our first ever private barrel pick. One of my goals when I first started this website was to find ways to share a sense of what goes on behind the scenes here, particularly with what our review team experiences as they taste and review whiskey after whiskey. Maker’s Mark Private Selection, A Reviewer’s Perspective is truly, in my opinion, a reflection of their collective palates.
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...