maker's mark 46 cask strength review

Maker's Mark 46 Cask Strength Bourbon

Maker's 46 cask strength

Distillery: Maker’s Mark

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 54.8%

Composition: 70% corn 16% wheat 14% barley

Aged: ~NAS, but finished for 9 weeks with French oak staves

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $60

From the Maker’s Mark website:

“The first bourbon in our wood-finishing series, Maker’s Mark 46™ was created by Bill Samuels, Jr., to amplify the flavors he loves in Maker’s Mark. The innovative wood-stave-finishing process starts with fully matured Maker’s Mark® at cask strength. We then insert 10 seared virgin French oak staves into the barrel and finish it for nine weeks in our limestone cellar. The result is Maker’s Mark 46: bolder and more complex, but without the bitterness typical of longer-aged whiskies.”

Company Website

maker's mark 46 cask strength overview

Finally, Maker’s Mark has widely released their own version of Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength (usually a distillery-only release), albeit as a 2020 limited release to celebrate 10 years of Maker’s Mark 46 being in-market. I wonder why they haven’t decided to make it a permanent addition to their lineup. To be fair though, Maker’s 46 Cask Strength has technically been available to the public, as those doing private selections could use the same 10 French oak staves and create it themselves. I believe a few have actually done that.

 

As a refresher, Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength is made by taking Maker’s Mark Cask Strength (yummy bourbon already) and adding 10 French Oak staves into the barrels for 9 weeks to impart additional character. The Maker’s Mark website says that these staves add dried fruit, vanilla and spice. Adding staves is like barrel finishing, but instead of dumping the whiskey into another barrel, you add smaller oak staves to the existing barrel, which changes how the whiskey and finishing wood interact. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is already one of my favorite wheated bourbons out there today, so let’s find out if the extra steps taken make a difference in this Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength review.

maker's mark 46 cask strength smell

Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength initially gives-off piney and grassy maple syrup, milk chocolate, malt milk balls, vanilla, dried orange, ripe apple, cinnamon, clove, toasted oak, and just a little nuttiness. The piney and grassy dark sweetness are signature Maker’s Mark notes. There also are some underlying dried cranberry with a little sourness, but orange and apple are the primary fruits here, making this a sweet and inviting nose. At times, the chocolate and fruit also come together like one of those orange chocolate balls, and the 54.8% ABV smells about right.

 

With swirling, I get densely packed sweetness – brown sugar, caramel syrup, pine, chocolate malt milk balls, vanilla, baked apples, cinnamon, toasted grains, grilled peaches, baked apples, and faint hints of dark fruits. The chocolate malt milk balls remind me a little of the dark, rich, and oaky Old Fitzgerald 15 Year Bottled in Bond, which is an outstanding bourbon. That said, the nose is fragrant and inviting, making me want to sniff it over and over again. 

maker's mark 46 cask strength taste & aftertaste

At first, I taste sweet caramel with cinnamon, chocolate malt balls, apple, cherry, toasted oak, cinnamon, clove, a little bourbon mash, a blade of dried grass, and cocoa powder. I pick up a lightly earthy note, not quite fennel or rosemary, so it may be from grain or staves. So far, the flavors are decently rich and varied, but it lacks much complexity that I can’t quite describe yet.

 

“Chewing” brings out more malty sweetness of caramel, chocolate malt balls, cinnamon, clove, a little dried grass, citrus peel, baked apples, oak, some sour mash, freshly baked raisin bread, and mocha. The 54.8% ABV has some bite, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. As sweet as Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength is, there’s still this equally present dark chocolate, cinnamon and clove bite, dried crackers, and coffee grounds that create an interesting balance. All that said, the flavors are nice but don’t have the same depth and richness as the nose – a bit of a letdown.

 

The finish is sweet and toasted with caramel, dark chocolate, cinnamon, and oak that over time turns into dry citrus peel and something almost a little minty. After “chewing”, the finish is sweet and a little tingly with caramel, vanilla, lingering alcohol, dry oak tannins, coffee, grass, dried citrus, cinnamon, and toasted grains. Over time it becomes more chocolatey and malty again. Chocolate malt ball is a prevalent trait in Maker’s 46 Cask Strength, moreso than in Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and Maker’s Mark BK Miller Private Select.

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Mid shelf+

Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength bourbon overall is good. The nose is especially great at times with quite fragrant and attractive notes. Still, it often leaves me wanting deeper and richer flavors, especially when the nose promises so much fruitiness. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a solid variety of flavors and some complexity, but there isn’t that single attention-grabbing or noteworthy flavor because it’s all generally shallow or too straightforward. The chocolate malt milk ball note, possibly from the French oak staves, is probably the one almost noteworthy trait, but it also comes off too light at times, again leaving me wanting more. The best I can say is, “yeah this is good”.


Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength’s more straightforward flavors make me think that Maker’s Mark is using more younger bourbon than they used to in these blends. I say this because 2015 Maker’s Mark Cask Strength releases were amazingly rich and expressive, possibly because they were using older stock. That’s purely speculation though. I really do think that the base bourbon is holding this back from being great, because I get the sense that the French oak staves did add a lot of toasted vanilla, fruit, and spice; it just couldn’t elevate the base bourbon that much. In the end, Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength is a good limited release, especially for those who love Maker’s Mark and Maker’s 46, but I don’t think it’s a must have.

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