Maker's Mark Private Select Winter 2018



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: 1 - Seared French Cuvee, 5 - Maker’s 46, 3 - Roasted French Mocha, and 1 - Toasted French Spice

Nose - Very similar to the Taste Panel. Easy aroma that is more of a dessert smell than bourbon. The citrus is more prevalent here than the Taste Panel, however, and there is really no astringent fume detected. All of the Private Select varieties win the award for unique and refreshing nose.

Taste - First sip hits the tip of the tongue with a very sweet and the spice is very faint pepper. The flavor has some vanilla and chocolate and the finish is an easy pepper that is non-offensive. The 2nd and 3rd sip, much like the Taste Panel, allows for some of the sweeter flavors to emerge. The longer you drink it, the better it gets…you know, like most drinks!

Is it worth the ? - The Private Select bottles were $80 each. This one is another that has a uniquely balanced spice and vanilla/chocolate blend with relatively no heat. It is worth the $80 for collectors and serious drinkers alike. Those looking for a daily drinker that won’t break the bank, you have cheaper options.

Jonathan Whelan