Whisky Advocate

New Maker’s Mark bourbon!

January 20th, 2010

No, it’s not April Fools Day. Kevin Smith, Master Distiller of Maker’s Mark bourbon, just called me. And boy is he excited. (I’m excited too!) There will soon be a new Maker’s Mark on the market.

I have been very vocal about wanting to see something new from Maker’s, and it looks like I’m going to get my wish. In fact, he’s sending me a review sample!

Here’s the scoop on this new whiskey. According to Kevin, their desire is to produce a whiskey that’s still in the Maker’s Mark style, but with more intense flavors. After doing some research on different options, they have settled on enhancing the whiskey’s flavor with toasted oak staves.

Using oak staves is not new to whiskey. Compass Box used toasted oak staves when aging their whiskies for The Spice Tree whisky. (That is, until the Scotch Whisky Association found out about it. Now he’s using toasted oak barrel heads.)

Basically, they are taking Regular Maker’s Mark out of the barrels and into the receiving tank like they would normally do. But instead of sending the whiskey to the bottling line, they insert toasted oak staves into the original barrels and then put the bourbon back into the barrel for several month of additional aging.

The new whiskey hasn’t come out yet. In fact, they don’t even have a name for it. (For the time being, it’s just Maker’s Mark Profile #51.) Will it be a regular item? That’s the plan.  Kevin said he likes the flavor profile of this new whiskey at 94 proof, and that’s probably what the whiskey will be bottled at.

I should have my review sample by Friday at the latest, so stay tuned!

36 Responses to “New Maker’s Mark bourbon!”

  1. Gary says:

    Hmmm…interesting. I look forward to your review.

  2. Vince says:


    This is long overdue. I am not a big fan of Makers Mark. If I am drinking a wheated bourbon I prefer any of the Van Winkle products or Weller Antique 107. However, I will buy a bottle of this and give it a try.

  3. John Hansell says:

    Vince, there are many times when I would like a more “beefed up” version of Maker’s Mark. Sometimes, it’s almost too smooth for me. This new whiskey might be a winner!

  4. butephoto says:

    This is very interesting news indeed. I actually really like the standard Maker’s Mark and find it an excellent and affordable drink when I fancy something different to malts. I’m always interested in hearing about innovations too and if they pull this off it will show up the SWA ruling for being ridiculous.

  5. sam k says:

    Really good to hear about this. I’m also glad that they’ll add a couple degrees of proof to this expression. I’ve always appreciated the fact that Maker’s has maintained 90 proof when many around them have caved-in to the accountants. (Are you listening, Mr. Daniels, whose ads used to read “90 proof by choice”?)

    Sounds like they’ll still be able to keep the “straight bourbon” designation with this move. Congratulations and thanks, Maker’s! Can’t wait for the review.

  6. IrishWhiskeyChaser says:

    One of my favourite US whisk(e)y’s … The red seal is a standard in my cabinette … had a bottle of their black seal a few years and really loved that too.

    Currently have an old bottle from the 70’s open which has a real over ripe orangey side to it.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on this new expression.

  7. Gary says:

    Beefier…yeah that could be a good thing.

  8. Red_Arremer says:

    Hm, more oak on it? I wonder how that will work out considering it’s already aged for years in new oak anyways.

  9. John Hansell says:

    Red, it should work. Wheated bourbons like Maker’s often can use a little extra wood spice to go with the mellow wheat influence.

  10. Very excited. Loved the result in the first edition Spice Tree so interested to see it’s influence on a wheated whiskey.

  11. John,

    I pour a lot of Maker’s Mark “Whisky”; looking forward to offering this new one.

    It’s a fellow who retired from Maker’s Mark that is the master distiller at the new Wyoming Whiskey distillery. It might be a long wait for that one, though.

  12. Kevin says:

    Very excited!! I haven’t had the pleasure if tasting the old/export version of Makers, so it will be nice to try another variation…

  13. Luke Gough says:

    Very interesting! Hopefully the result will be up to the usual (excellent) standard.

    On a subject close to my heart (and IrishWhiskeyChaser’s), will this cask (casks?) make its way across the Atlantic to Laphroaig at some future stage?

    Interesting times indeed.

  14. Monique at the Dell says:

    I’ve never had the pleasure of trying the black seal. I did have the unfortunate experience of trying the green seal. Only because i didn’t know what it was… the minty low proof version!

  15. chef! says:

    Funny, I already conducted a similar experiment on Maker’s Mark and another lesser expensive American whiskey. I purchased a couple tiny charred Oak Staves from a shop at a local winery, tied off a tiny sliver of vanilla bean with butchers twine and let it seep for about a month. Pulled the stave, ran it through a chinois with cheesecloth to grab the bean particles, and into a sterile bottle. It was quite enjoyable.

  16. chef! says:

    Come to think of it I probably got more from the bean but it was a fun experiment anyway. I’ll have to try it with just the stave and in another type.

  17. Kevin Smith - Maker's Mark Distillery says:

    Hi John,
    Wow, folks are really excited about the news…and I love the long overdue comment from Vince. Let me just say Vince, the taste is worth the wait. Also, I want to give everyone another little tidbit to clarify the oak staves we are using… I think it might be better to describe them as seared and blistered. I will let you think about that one and tell you more after you get a chance to experience the taste.
    Kevin Smith Master Distiller MMD

    • Tanguy says:

      Nice to hear about your new expression.
      Will there be a special edition collector’s bottle for its pre release?

  18. John Hansell says:

    Thanks Kevin for joining us.

    Seared and blistered? That describes me, the last time I was on the beach at the Jersey Shore!

    But seriously Kevin. Please do tell more. Any idea on what the bottle will look like yet?

  19. Ruby K says:

    I wonder how the toasted staves compare to the seasoned barrels Brown Forman used for this year’s WRMC. I also would be interested in giving this a try, though like Vince, I tend to prefer other wheaters. Kevin, congrats on the new flavor profile. Any sense of the price point? And since you’re on here, any thoughts on doing a barrel proof?

  20. JWC says:

    i’m not a big fan of mm either (i guess i am in the minority here) – i usually don’t buy bourbon that i have to or want to use as part of a cocktail. i like my bourbon neat or with a wee bit of water. the mm (i only bought a single bottle of the red seal) i have left over i’ve been pouring a bit at a time into my coffee. always wondered why they didn’t come out with a true premium/limited edition like the other distilleries do (with great success i might add – when the product is good). i always figured that they thought that the red seal mm was a premium bourbon. i’ll give the new mm a try when it comes out – i hope i will like it. the bourbon i do like is becoming increasingly difficult to get and expensive.

  21. John Hansell says:

    I got the review sample from Kevin. I’ll offer my thoughts in the near future.

  22. Maker's Man says:

    Hey, you can now take a free tour of Kentucky Cooperage, the bourbon barrel-making factory about 8 miles from Maker’s Mark Distillery in downtown Lebanon, Ky. They give tours Mon.-Fri. at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The charring room is one of the most interesting places and makes for great photos. You also learn a lot about the staves. Learn more at You can even eat at The Oak Barrel, just down the road from the cooperage. The distillery has direction cards in the gift shop. Tour the distillery, taste the product, tour the cooperage then finish off your Bourbon Country experience with supper at The Oak Barrel!

  23. Frank says:

    Sounds awfully similar to the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection that was just released with the seasoned oak finish, don’t you guys think?

  24. […] it’s the new Maker’s Mark bourbon that I blogged about here. After I talked with Master Distiller Kevin Smith, he sent me this sample of it. And he sent me a […]

  25. Kevin Smith - Maker's Mark Distillery says:

    Interesting question Frank….answer is…. not similar, different in several ways! And just like all of you I am looking forward to John’s comments.
    Kevin Smith
    Master Distiller

  26. […] blogged about it here, and showed a picture of a sample of it here. You know I have the new Maker’s Mark bourbon, […]

  27. DennyP says:

    Anything from Maker’s has me excited. I have long held Maker’s as the standard bearer for bourbon. I know what Maker’s is and compare all other to it. I have been in the trade as a retailer and wholesaler (the company from whom I currently work sells distributes Maker’s) for 20 years. Maker’s has never failed me!! I have had better and I have had other that have not measured up to Maker’s. But, because of the iconic nature of Maker’s, it will continue to be my standard bearer. One very cool thing………I have a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon from 1998 that has a blue label and white wax to commemorate the University of Kentucky’s NCAA basketball championship!!!!

  28. […] I posted here and here last week, Maker’s Mark will be introducing a new bourbon, probably around June. […]

  29. Frank…not quite the same concept as the Woodford Reserve Seasoned Oak. That one was aged in barrels made from staves that had been left out to dry for several years at the cooperage. The Maker’s Mark idea is to take regular Maker’s out of the barrel, insert the seasoned staves into the barrel, then put the whiskey back in for a few months.

  30. Ken Goldenberg says:

    I have always loved MM – my “house” bourbon. Like DennyP, it is my homebase of bourbon – always reasonably priced and goes well neat or mixed. I am really looking forward to this expression. Finally a shout-out to Mark Gillespie and his fantastic “Whiskycast” podcasts. If you aren’t listening, you are really missing out! (just Google Whiskycast or do an iTunes search). I only wish he could share his drams with us!

  31. […] out John Hansell’s blog for more information on this new […]

  32. […] out John Hansell’s blog for more information on this new […]

  33. BourbonMan says:

    This is a big waste of effort from the Beam boys. They tried this trick before with ‘Jacob’s Well’ back in the 1990’s and there are still bottles on the shelves(Jacob’s Well 84 proof 7yr $17-19/750ml). I would have thought that they learned from that experience?

    Many others have used the incerted staves and charred pieces before…with very little success. I certainly hope they aren’t trying to charge extra for this experiment.

    If they want more flavor out of the distillate….why don’t they lower the distill proof and lower the barrel proof? I don’t know their exact distill and barrel proof numbers…but, it would be a great start to adding flavor. More overall flavor carries over from the mash with lower distill proofs. The whiskey ages faster at lower proof plus, it takes less water to get the barrel to proof for bottling. Which means you buy less fresh water. They could also try…not filtering and chill filtering

    If they are interested in adding flavor without changing the proofs off the still….they could offer a Bottled in Bond Bourbon(4yr 100proof)….OR, a 101 proof of the regular version….Or, a 8-10 yr version. But, this adding charred pieces isn’t an idea that impresses me or makes me want to pay more than is already asked for the standard bottling.

    Thanks for the update. I always enjoy your site.

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