Whisky Advocate

Review: Maker’s Mark “46” Bourbon

May 7th, 2010

Maker’s Mark “46”, 47%, $34
This is original “Red Wax” Maker’s Mark bourbon that received additional aging in barrels containing internal “seared” French Oak staves. The original Maker’s Mark, being a wheated bourbon (instead of rye, which is typically used), is a rather mellow, easy-to-drink bourbon. The French Oak staves in “46” add firm, complex, dry spices (lead by warming cinnamon, followed by nutmeg and clove), herb (a suggestion of Green Chartreuse liqueur, perhaps?), and some polished leather “grip”, which dovetails well with Maker’s trademark layered sweetness (caramel, vanilla, a hint of honey). I’m also picking up some dried fruit in the background.  The seared oak stave influence is somewhat aggressive but never to the point of being excessive. (Note: that this is a pre-release sample with a smaller batch size than the ultimate final bottled product. There could be a slight variation in the flavor profile with the final product. If there is, I will adjust my tasting notes and rating.)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90


WDJK bonus information:

If you’ve been following WDJK for the past few months, you know that I have been in the loop with Master Distiller Kevin Smith since he made this project public. (Follow the my posting history on it here. And there’s a video of Kevin Smith and Bill Samuels talking about it here.) You may also remember that I felt that the first sample he sent me did just cross the line regarding the impact of the oak staves on the whiskey–primarily on the finish.

A week or so ago, I received a new review sample from Kevin, and I (fortunately) like it more than the first one he sent me. I spoke with Kevin at length two days ago, and he explained the possible reason why.

It turns out that the earlier sample he sent me came from just one barrel. The new review sample was a composite of 15 different barrels and is more representative of the final product. Kevin also told me that the eventual final product will be a “dump” of closer to 10x that amount: 150 barrels.

I’ll be getting a sample of the final product too, and I’ll compare it to the “work in progress” samples I already received.

Finally, for those of you who may remember Maker’s Mark “Select”, a black wax-sealed version for the export market which was aged longer and bottled at 95 proof: as much as I like this new “46”, I really liked the “Select” too!

No Responses to “Review: Maker’s Mark “46” Bourbon”

  1. Luke says:

    This looks very interesting, are there plans to sell it in Europe?

    • Kevin says:

      As a HUGE bourbon lover – I’ve been nothing except excited about this since I heard about it. While others may certainly scoff, I think there is a large percentage of the bourbon community that is excited about this. The detractors are just louder.

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    After all the false starts and pessimism, a very good rating. Not sure if I’ll be running out to buy this– But I am looking forward to seeing how the American whiskey lovers, who were hating on the very idea of this stuff, feel after they get a taste.

  3. I enjoyed it at WhiskyFest.

  4. Nabil Mailloux says:


    This is being aged in barrels containing European Oak staves….can they still call it bourbon? I thought it had to be virgin, American white oak…what are your thoughts?

    • Kevin says:

      Other companies have gotten away (for lack of a better term) with it by calling it a “finished” bourbon… bourbon that has been finished in a non-traditional way.

    • Tony says:

      Not a authority here, but it was always my understanding that Jack Daniel’s couldn’t call their whiskey bourbon due to their maple charcoal filtering, which violates the “Neither coloring nor flavoring may be added.” rule.

      Maybe is it a semantics things, since the whiskey is in the barrel and the staves are added to the barrel, they are considered an extension of the barrel?

  5. Nabil Mailloux says:

    Sorry, just checked…regs say “charred, NEW oak barrels”…where they come from is irrelevant.

  6. David K says:

    As I understand it, the barrels are virgin white oak, as required by federal law to call it Bourbon, but there are French oak staves placed inside the barrel strictly to add flavor complexity. Apparently this is permitted.

  7. sam k says:

    John, any idea what the rollout schedule is for this, and when (whether?) we’ll get it here in PA? Also, I can’t find any reviews you may have done in the past for the standard expression…I’m looking for a tasting and rating comparison.

  8. Neil Fusillo says:

    John, is this a new addition to their catalogue, as it were, or will this be a one time release and then they’ll move on to other experiments?

    I’m eager to see how the finished product compares to the smaller batches he’s been asking you to taste-test. I’m also pleased to see the innovation going on. It’s nice to see bourbon makers pushing the envelope now and again, and involving you in the process was a great idea. Who better to give an opinion of your efforts than someone whose tastes are widely known and familiar and upon whom you can count to give an absolute honest opinion as to whether or not you’re going in the right direction.

  9. James LaBouliere says:

    I’ve had the Glenlivet aged in French Oak, and it was outstanding. I still like my original Glen’s better; the exotic aspect of a different aging process was certainly something I wouldn’t have missed. In the same manner, I’m excited to try 46 to see what kind of transformation takes place with my true love, Maker’s Mark. I’ll, doubtless, still love my classic Maker’s more than life itself, but there’s only so much time on this earth that can be spent sampling whisky. Better to try as many as possible while grounded even if it does just get chalked up to experience. With any luck, it might be another avenue to convert friends and family to the Maker’s Cult.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      “the Maker’s Cult”? Let me guess– you have to sacrifice your sobriety to join– or can’t you talk about it to nonbelievers 😉

  10. DeanSheen says:

    Makers Cult reminds me of a recent conversation where a friend described MM as “the beanie baby of bourbons” as in same juice, different wax.

    I had some 46 at the sampler but it was my second pour after an EC18 so I couldn’t really tell much in the way of tasting notes and didn’t do the legwork to cleanse my palette. I’ll try again when a friend buys a bottle or I see it in a bar.

  11. Vince says:

    I am a HUGE bourbon drinker but I am not a big Makers fan. As mentioned in previous posts here it is like “Bourbon lite” to me. Having said that, I went to the Distillery 3 weeks ago and Kevin Smith was there talking about the new “46” and providing a tasting of both the original and the 46. I liked the 46!! It has a little more bite and IMHO a little more complexity (and its a higher proof). I was able to purchase a bottle at the distillery, however, the bottle is not in the packaging that we see here. It was basically a bottle with a generic label on it. I actually think its pretty cool. I will definitely save the bottle.

  12. OGOLD says:

    The judges at the 2010 International Whisky Competition really enjoyed the Maker’s 46. It won the Silver Medal in the North America Category! Check it out on

  13. […] reaction to Maker’s 46 has been positive. John Hansell notes in his Malt Advocate review, “The French Oak staves in ‘46’ add firm, complex, dry spices (lead by warming cinnamon, […]

  14. […] are very good whiskeys, hovering around the 90 rating. I already reviewed the Maker’s here. You’ll see the new Four Roses and WhistlePig reviews here very […]

  15. mike says:

    I see that the new makers does not include the term ‘straight’ on the label. Someone on one of your blogs told me that the recharring of the bgarrel staves did not violate the rule of adding something to change flavors, and therefore would not prohibit them from using the term straight. so is this just a marketing ploy, or indeed is the new manufacturing process a violation of one of thje rules

    • Dutch says:

      Straight whiskeys are “whisky produced at not exceeding 160° proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125° proof in charred new oak containers” or in the case of corn “used or uncharred new oak containers and not subjected in any manner to treatment with charred wood” that has been aged in the barrels for a minimum of 2 years, many of the ryes and bourbons are straight but chose not to call themselves that for whatever reason. The same with “sour mash”, almost all bourbons are done with the sour mash method, but chose not to call themselves “sour mash” on the label.

  16. Dutch says:

    John, I finally had a chance to try 46, I like it much better than the regular MM. My scotch buddies were so-so on it, seems scotch and bourbon really divide whiskey drinkers around here.

  17. Jackson says:

    I find that out drinking with buddies and drinking a few shots is a Makers Mark thing. Scotch is a different animal. It is for a different slower kind of drinking.

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