Maker’s Mark files for an age-stated bourbon that has us thinking “Is this an April Fool’s Joke?”
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Big news this past week from the @comingwhiskey Instagram account and the TTB Website: Maker’s Mark has filed for a new expression that showcases age statements that have never been seen on a product of theirs before.
The label indicates that this new bottle, which wears a tag that says “Cellar Aged,” is a blend of 11-year-old and 12-year-old bourbon.
Aging of Modern Maker’s Mark Products
For comparison, modern Maker’s Mark products see aging anywhere from 4 to 7 years. Maker’s also moves its barrels around the warehouse to achieve a more balanced system of maturation.
All of this additional labor is supposed to result in a uniform product at the time of blending.
If you’ve ever taken a tour of the facility in Loretto, the guides will let you taste some of their bourbon that has been aged 10 to 12 years.
The strange thing about this tasting is that it almost comes off as propaganda when they tell you “now here’s a sample of some over-oaked bourbon.”
Quite a few enthusiasts I know have perked up during the tasting and said that the supposed “over-oaked bourbon” is quite good, but the guides dismiss their opinion.
I don’t know what is going on over at Maker’s Mark in regards to a steady stream of new products lately, but it seems as if there is a bit of a back-and-forth conflict with their overlords at Beam Suntory.
There was a rumor that 2021’s surprise Maker’s DNA release was a result of Beam Suntory bean counters telling Maker’s Mark that they needed to increase their barrel entry proof in order to increase profits.
Maker’s Mark Continues to Deny Change
Maker’s has ferociously denied change throughout their entire existence and this was no different. They conducted the experiment and concluded that they were sticking with 110 proof because it was the best.
The experiment resulted in the Maker’s Mark DNA Series which saw Maker’s release a limited number of bottles with the four barrel entry proofs they experimented with. I did a review on them here.
While I generally agree that the 110 proof bottle was one of the best, I know a lot of people (including myself) found the 125 proof to be a worthy competitor… perhaps even superior in some aspects.
The point of that story is that I think Maker’s is finding out is that there is a lot more money to be made by expanding their portfolio.
The stave-finishing they’ve been doing for years now is good, but it only goes so far. Most of my enthusiast friends will scoop up the special releases each year, but they’re all very similar to each other (I said what I said!). Maker’s Mark needs a release that will become desirable through hype.
Maker’s Is Leaving Money on the Table
That’s not just me spouting an opinion, that’s the entire whiskey industry realizing that they’re leaving money on the table by not bottling more rare and limited releases.
The next step Maker’s needs to take is either a true single barrel program, a program that barrels only high-proofed barrels or a product with a very high age statement. With the announcement of this “Cellar Aged” series, they’ve taken a step in the right direction for at least one of those.
This future release promises to be a competitor to Weller 12 Year and will also ensure they don’t fall behind in the wheated bourbon scene.
After all, Heaven Hill has been gunning for a bigger portion of the wheated bourbon scene with the 2018 release of the Old Fitzgerald Decanter line and the expansion of Larceny to a Barrel Proof offering. Even MPG is poised to release 10-year-old barrels of their wheated bourbon this year that is already showing promise as the next best thing to Pappy.
The only thing that remains to be seen is how the term “Cellar Aged” applies to this bourbon. We all know that their Private Selections are aged for an additional amount of time in a limestone cave (you can see it on the tour) but that’s only done for 4-6 weeks.
The cave idea came about because the people at Maker’s believed that high heat fluctuations were bad for the stave finishing process. That’s why they elected to keep it in an environment where the temperatures were lower – so that there wasn’t any more wood notes being extracted than are absolutely necessary.
The only thing I am cautious on is just how much of a difference this “Cellar Aged” process will make on the barrels of bourbon.
I’m going to have to taste it for myself to see if the barrels show their age or not. I’m just happy that Maker’s didn’t decide to go a different route and do something crazy like this April Fool’s joke that’s been circulating for a few years now!
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