Maker’s Mark’s newest (and, technically, first) limited-edition whiskey tastes delicious, complex, and is fairly priced. In other words, it’s a total winner you need to buy. The 2019 Limited Release (also known as RC6) is an experiment that has managed to preserve everything great about Maker’s Mark while adding new depth and complexity.
Maker’s Mark has always been a wheated bourbon—a grain recipe using wheat as the “flavoring grain” instead of rye. Imagine the difference between rye bread and wheat and you’ll have a sense of what these grains do to whiskey. The typical criticism of wheated bourbons, or “wheaters” as they’re sometimes referred to, is that they’re often lacking in flavor in comparison to bourbons that use rye (think Jim Beam, or Wild Turkey).
Over the last decade, the brand has gone to great lengths to find new and inventive ways to add depth and create new flavors without creating a second mashbill (grain recipe) for a second whiskey.
The results have been impressive, and Maker’s succeeded in convincing many drinkers. Under what’s now known as the Private Select program, Maker’s Mark has created a custom-finishing whiskey program that has led to a number of amazing bottles, including the initial Maker’s 46 release (which you’ve likely tried), and last year’s delicious but under-produced BU 1-3. Anything marked “Private Select” is also a product of this program.
The whiskeys are “created” by taking a matured barrel of Maker’s Mark bourbon and adding a series of 10 “finishing staves” to the barrel. They’re essentially just planks of oak, toasted, cured, and charred to specifications that deliver notes of fruit, or mocha, or vanilla, or other flavors in combinations designed by Maker’s Mark and its clients. For RC6, they used 10 staves of American oak, seasoned for 18 months by exposure to the elements, and then kiln toasted to, well, perfection.
“We have been experimenting with wood finishing staves and techniques since we first released Maker’s Mark 46 in 2010, and it never ceases to amaze me how much natural flavor we can extract from just ten wood staves interacting with our bourbon over a period of time,” Jane Bowie, Maker’s Mark director of Private Select, said in a press release. “Stave finishes allow us to innovate with an already delicious product in a purposeful fashion, exploring different wood types, seasoning periods, cook times, and heat levels until we achieve the exact flavor vision we have in mind.”
If Maker’s Mark 46 is the T800 terminator, RC6 is the T-1000: a grand, impressive next evolution, and the culmination of this experimental crusade. And at its heart, it’s still Maker’s Mark. This new whiskey’s profile is still crisp and refreshing, and these flavors fit seamlessly into that profile, like long, lost jigsaw puzzle pieces.
The proof, at 108.2, is stellar, allowing for the perfect balance.
And these staves do indeed add fruity depth to Maker’s Mark—a very specific series of fruits, including fresh banana, ripe gooseberry, and granny smith apple after it’s been beautifully made into a pie, with brown sugar and maybe a touch of rich bourbon chess pie on the finish.
There’s nothing but praise to be given for this whiskey, and that includes its price point: At just $60, it’s one of the most affordable, good bottles released this season.
Maker’s Mark only released 255 barrels of the stuff, so there’s not much liquid to go around, but as a nationwide limited release, a lot more people are going to get their hands on it than with previous Maker’s Mark specials. When you do taste it, there’s going to be a lot of pressure to do something as good or better next year. Good luck.