Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Maker’s Mark. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Maker’s Mark recently launched their first 2021 limited release in their Wood Finishing Series, and their third overall (they started this particular endeavor back in 2020). This year, they’ll be issuing two releases: FAE-01 this spring, and another in the fall.
The vaguely robotic name of this release refers to the stave used to finish the bourbon. It’s an American Oak stave that is seared on one side, and left raw on the other. The cooked side allows for wood elements, while the raw side is supposed to eke out fruitier flavors.
FAE could also be the acronym for the fatty acid esters (FAEs) that according to Maker’s Mark, contribute to the bourbon’s creamy mouthfeel and help preserve and elevate its fruit notes. Also, Drinkhacker shares an interesting tidbit that reminds us that the FAE isn’t a barrel stave; instead it’s a finishing stave that’s immersed in the barrel after primary aging.
And Maker’s Mark explains it a little further: It starts with 10 wood staves of varying types and combinations being affixed inside a barrel of fully matured Maker’s Mark at cask strength. The barrel is then stored in their limestone cellar for additional aging.
Maker’s Mark 2021 Limited Release: FAE-01 (image via Maker’s Mark)
Appearance: Light gold, though not pale gold. Granola that is not overbaked. Slightly sepia-toned.
Nose: Nose! A nice nose. I delight in this nose. It really does smell like how I imagine walking through a rickhouse might be. They got all the smells down. Also like an old library, not musty, but secret and mysterious, like the lower floors that stay cool in the heat of the day. Finally: tobacco like an old-timey store, and black cherry.
Palate: This is, quite frankly, delicious. I wasn’t sure if it would taste young or unfinished or weird. Like not ready for prime time, or somehow muddled, but it is not. Not at all. More fruit comes out on the finish, more cherries and also papaya, as weird as it sounds. But it’s not tropical because I get blackberries, too. All with a wash of brown sugar. It does feel a little hot on the finish, so if that bothers you, add a small ice cube to your glass. I also like that this is lighter than a lot of whiskies. I can see this as a summer drink, like I would totally sit on the porch and sip this. I think a lot of whiskey can sometimes get the reputation that it’s only for winter, stormy conditions, in front of a fire. This is lovely enough to not need that. I mean, sure, you could and why not, but you don’t have to shelve this when you bring out the seersucker and the white pants, you know?
This takes all the things I like about whiskey and makes them even yummier.
A decade ago, I traded a 5th floor walkup in Hoboken, NJ for a house in SE Portland and remain grateful for the swap. Portland’s a great whiskey town: It fits the weather and my general mood (even improves it sometimes). I enjoy exploring the many shades of brown liquor...