Maker's Mark Private Select Bill Samuels Jr.
At Maker's Mark, our wood-finishing series was created to explore new, unique expressions of our signature whisky. Beginning as fully matured Maker's Mark® at cask strength, Private Select is created by adding 10 custom wood finishing staves to each barrel. It's then aged in our limestone cellar to extract a unique, flavorful taste profile. Participants in this special barrel program get their say in the selection of these wooden staves. The finishing staves can be any combination of five flavor profiles chosen especially for this program. With 1,001 possible stave combinations, each expression of Private Select has a customized finish and taste profile that is unique, yet undeniably Maker's®. Maker's Mark Private Select® is available in select markets and also at our distillery.
Okay, before I get into the actual review of this, I have to say that Maker’s Mark Master Distiller Bill Samuels Jr. came up with an ingenious idea here. The ability to provide a distinct and different flavor profile by varying the finishing process using staves rather than barrels allows for numerous product lines. However, what the consumer pulls off the shelf is not a Maker’s Mark finished product (except Maker’s 46). To date, Maker’s Mark has only constructed 4 of their own Private Select varieties and those (so I was told on the tour this past December) can only be purchased in the distillery gift shop. All of the Maker’s Mark Private Select you see in liquor stores are constructed by clients that Maker’s Mark invite to attempt their own personalized stave combination (i.e. Liquor Barn, Total Wine, etc.). Once the client identifies their stave combination, Maker’s Mark completes the finishing process, bottles, and ships their product to them. The distillery only keeps one bottle to hold in their library of various products. So if you buy one of these bottles from a liquor store and it tastes awful, take solace in knowing it wasn’t a master distiller that determine the finish profile. However, for a company that prides itself in strength of brand (i.e. the title Maker’s Mark itself), it’s a bit reckless to allow amateur clients to determine the flavor profile that is sold to customers using the MM brand.
Finishing stave combination: 10 - Maker’s 46
Nose - A very mellow aroma…just a hint of fume and a cool, subtle hint of citrus and licquer with a very minor bit of vanilla. The nose isn’t like that of most bourbons…it has more of a dessert smell to it. It is unique and refreshing.
Taste - First flavor was a good warming taste with a nice spicy profile. It coated the tongue and lips and entire mouth following the finish. The 2nd and 3rd sip presented the cool vanilla flavors that were discovered with the nose. Each sip provides a reemergence of the spice from the first sip. It is refreshing…not overpowering and certainly unique.
Is it worth the ? - The Private Select bottles were $80 each. This particular bottle is the Maker’s 46 (finished with 10 Maker’s 46 staves) at barrel strength. It is a nice find for collectors but does not differ enough from Maker’s 46 to justify spending twice the price.