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Maker’s 46 Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

Maker’s 46  Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey  (89/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 11, 2011

This review is based upon a small sample provided to me from the personal collection of J. L. Wheelock, who is part of the Beam Global team here in Alberta. The sample was smaller than my normal 200 ml minimum sample size, and the reader should be cautioned that I was not able to give the sample my normal rigorous tasting regimen. Instead I completed two tasting sessions of the sample and did no cocktail explorations.


Maker’s 46 Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey begins where Maker’s Mark Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey ends. Bill Samuels, Sr. is credited with creating the first version of Maker’s Mark in 1954. After a few years of practice the folks at the Maker’s Mark Distillery have been producing this whiskey the same way since 1958. The process begins with pure limestone fed spring-water; follows with yellow corn, red winter wheat, and natural malted barley; continues with a unique milling, cooking, and fermentation process; and ends in a small batch distillation and moving (eg; rotating) barrel aging process. Of course the final result is tested and tasted to make sure it is just right.

In a recent display of innovation, Master Distiller Kevin Smith, began a sort of ‘trial and error’ series of experiments to come up with a new twist on the Maker’s Mark. In December 2009, Maker’s 46 was born. (click on the link to get the full story right from the Maker’s Mark Website)

In a nutshell, fully aged Maker’s Mark is removed from its barrel, ten seared wooden staves are then placed inside of that barrel. (The staves are seared to caramelize the sugars in the wood.) These wooden staves are basically flat wooden panels each about 4 inches wide and 12 to 18 inches long. The aged Maker’s Mark is then put back into the barrel and aged several more months. When the proper taste profile is achieved, Maker’s 46 is removed from the barrel, bottled, corked and dipped.

I admit that after reading a little bit about Maker’s 46, I was eager to give my small sample a few tasting sessions and write down my impressions, and without further adieu, here they are:

In the Bottle   5/5

Although I was not given a full bottle of Maker’s 46 to review, I did manage to find a nice photo of the bottle on the Maker’s Mark Website. Permission to use  this photo was provided by the above mentioned J. L. Wheelock.

As you can see the bottle design is a is a softer, rounder, more contemporary take on the traditional Maker’s Mark bottle. I like the design, I like the wax dipped cork, and I like how the wax dipping process makes each bottle just a little different from every other bottle.

In the Glass   9/10

The whiskey in the glass displays a rich bronze colouration which displays orange highlights. After I tilt my glass, slow stubborn legs have formed which seem to hang and droop without ever crawling down the side of the glass. As Maker’s 46 Bourbon is bottled at 47 per cent alcohol by volume, I expect the aroma to be assertive. The higher alcohol strength should give the spirit a stronger, more intense nose and flavour as there is less water added to dilute the whiskey. The higher alcohol content should also bring the scents out of the glass just a little more forcefully.

My expectations are confirmed, and I imagine that oak and cedar planks are being split in the background as I nose the glass. The firm scent of wood grains and fresh tannins have filled the breezes. Allowing the glass to decant, I find the aroma begins to settle down as honeycomb and caramel start to build into a deep toffee which is enriched with hints of cinnamon and cloves, as well as a firm vanilla. There are burnt sugars in the air as well giving me the impression of treacle.

In the Mouth  53/60

Maker’s 46 is surprisingly soft as it enters the palate, and I want to call this creamy in spite of the rush of wooden timbers and heavy toffee that quickly builds. Things are not as sweet as the nose would have implied however, and impressions of drier fruit, tobacco and cocoa seem to take hold at mid palate with the oak spiciness expressing itself as cloves and cinnamon. However as the whiskey settles in the mouth the sweetness of honeycomb and baking spices is finally realized and everything comes together harmoniously. The woody bourbon notes are more assertive on second tasting and my sense is that there is much more complexity in this bourbon than I first realized.

In the Throat  13/15

At 94 proof, I am very surprised at the lack of burn on my palate and in my throat. The exit from the palate is full of oak timbers and spice, but if you take the care to look for it, a beautiful chocolate fade follows. If we had a tad more sweetness this would be divine.

The Afterburn  9/10

I am quite pleased with the Maker’s 46.  At times the oak timbers take over and dominate just a tad more than I personally like which stops me from grading the whiskey in the stratosphere, but the chocolate fade finish and the building complexity have me yearning for a larger sample.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


7 Responses to “Maker’s 46 Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey”

  1. Mark Hedges said

    If I want a whetted bourbon I usually reach for Old Weller. Have you ever tried it?

  2. Barlee said

    I recently tried Maker’s 46 and liked it a lot. There are few bourbons that I do enjoy neat, but this was a nice surprise. Here in Fla., I picked up a 750 for $32.00 and feel it’s a good deal. I do feel that quality/value is important.

  3. Doug Ford said

    I think I’m the only person in my family who enjoys wheated bourbons, which is sad, because I like them a lot, but I don’t stock them much anymore. I really like the 46, but I do think it’s a bit overpriced. Thanks for the review!

    • The unfortunate part of receiving samples is that the whole value versus price equation becomes a little lost. I think I am a little guilty of not paying enough attention to that aspect of my reviews. However, I am glad that you liked the review!


      • chrism76 said

        I think it’s better that the price isn’t mentionned or that you put a number to it, as it distorts the true end value of the mark you give of the product.

        When I read your reviews I personally don’t really care if the bottle looks great or not, that the nose is repulsive or apealing. I compare your reviews with your (In the Mouth, In the Throat and the Aftertaste.) review and mark you gave it, to me those are the most important marks for me. Keep up the great work!

        • I think your comment regarding price is how I feel overall as well. I want to tell people how good I think the spirit is. Price irrelevant to that objective.

          I also appreciate that you screen out the information about the bottle presentation and the nose as being irrelevant to you. That is, I believe, the proper way to read my reviews. Take what is meaningful and weigh it appropriately to how you enjoy the spirit.

          Thanks Chrism

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