Beam Suntory launches Maker’s 46, its latest Maker’s Mark liquid, in London’s fashionable Mondrian hotel. The bourbon is extra oaked for an extra smoothness that the company calls a “crescendo of wood”. The Buyer was there to get the lowdown on the thinking that went behind the idea.
Maker’s 46 is the latest premium bourbon after Jim Beam’s Double Oak to get the full on wood treatment
When Beam Suntory launches a new premium bourbon in London it goes over the top with a party in hipster-friendly Shoreditch, right? Well, actually, no. True, that may be how it launched one premium brand a few months back. But it launched Maker’s 46 this August in a far more decorous fashion with a dinner at the Mondrian hotel on the south bank.
All very appropriate given Maker’s Mark is a byword for smoothness.
Targeted squarely at premium on-trade and luxury outlets, Maker’s 46 will be available from September after Harrods has had a short exclusive promotion.
Its distributor describes the new bourbon as bigger and bolder than the original Maker’s Mark, and it is difficult to disagree. Maker’s 46 is even more mellow, boasts more depth of flavour and is noticeably richer in colour. Nothing at all brash. The difference comes from the use of French oak staves, but we will come on to that in a moment.
Getting a few things straight
First let’s tackle the complexities not of the liquid but the brands.
Maker’s Mark is a small batch bourbon distilled in Kentucky. Founded in 1954 it was originally an indie. But it has been variously acquired by big companies including Allied Domecq and then Fortune Brands. When the latter split its drinks business it became Beam Inc and then Beam Suntory that was created in 2014. Maker’s Mark is part of the family.
As if that wasn’t complicated enough, there is also the question of spelling the drink’s name. Bourbons are ‘whiskeys’ and Scotch is ‘whisky’, right? Apparently not. Maker’s Mark labels its product a ‘whisky’.
Enough of that, what makes Maker’s 46 distinctive?
Anyway there is no confusion about the taste. Maker’s 46 is a mellifluous liquid designed not to supersede the original Maker’s Mark product but rather to be a more upmarket cousin. The company wanted a distinctive taste but wrestled unsuccessfully to reconcile various flavour attributes without getting a bitter aftertaste.
Someone then had the idea of asking the cooper to suggest a solution. This the barrel maker duly did. The answer was let the Maker’s Mark original product go through its normal production then place French oak staves in the barrel and allow it to age for several more months. To do their work the staves must be seared first.
Over our dinner on the south bank, the Maker’s Mark team pulls out what looks like an oversized cookie jar to illustrate how it’s done. This is a scaled-down replica of a barrel and the staves sit around the inside wall. Fascinating.
The result is exuberantly described as “a crescendo of wood” and the taste characterised very aptly as “copper tone”. It is created to be sipped neat over ice and the company’s boss says he wanted to create something “yummy”.
The marketers also hope that it will appeal to bartenders who want something versatile for cocktails. The Mint Julep is a particular favourite – in the States Maker’s Mark produces this flavour, apparently, branding it with green wax on the neck of the bottles rather than the familiar signature red.
Maker’s 46 is bottled at 47 per cent ABV, 2 per cent higher than Maker’s Mark and has a RRP of £39.99.