A trip to the zoo can allow you to see and experience animals that are often unseen in the wild. The same can be said of distilleries and limited releases of bourbon. As I completed my Maker's Mark Ambassador Tour, I spied this 2022 Wood Finishing Series Limited Release - Maker's Mark BRT-02. After dipping a few bottles of traditional Maker's Mark for myself and family, I added this to our distillery haul.
Tasting Your Way through the Rickhouse
BRT-02 is the fourth edition of the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series and allows the consumer to taste their way through the rickhouse. Recall that Maker's Mark is one of the few (if only) major distillers to rotate their barrels through the rickhouse. Barrels of traditional Maker's Mark distillate (70% corn, 15% wheat, and 14% malted barley) begin on the higher floors of the warehouse. After a few years, the 500-pound-plus barrels are man-handled to the lower floors to finish their aging. The name "BRT" refers to this hand-barrel-rotation and the effect that temperature plays on the finished product.
While the BRT-01 plays on the "hotter" tasting notes found on bourbons aged on higher floors, BRT-02 is inspired by tasting notes found on the "cooler" lower floors. Similar to other Private Selection releases, once the whisky (Maker's leans on its Scottish heritage to omit the "e") has matured, the barrels are moved to a temperature-controlled cave carved into the side of a hill overlooking the distillery. There, barrels are dumped and partially deconstructed, removing the top and several of the barrel rings. Once opened, a variety of wood staves can be inserted, the barrel re-assembled, and the whisky re-added to finish aging at a cool and constant 50 degrees. BRT-02 adds ten virgin oak staves to finish the maturation process.
BRT-02 is bottled at a cask-strength 109.4 proof. From the description on the Maker's website, we're told to expect notes of seasoned oak, molasses, dark fruit, chocolate, and baking spices.
Eye: Deep amber. Evenly spaced slender legs grace the inside of my glass.
Nose: A plate of peaches lightly dusted with cinnamon and caramel fruit dip. There is freshly-sawed oak, along with pecan pie (think of the pecan-buttery filling), without any ethanol notes from this higher-proof pour.
Palate: An immediate burst of cinnamon red hots, nutmeg, and clove, followed by dark chocolate and charred oak. There is a ton of spice in this particular bottle.
Finish: Long and oaky, with sweet notes of molasses, vanilla, and cinnamon for a huge Kentucky hug.
Overall: I'm glad I was able to score this at the Maker's Mark Distillery, as these limited releases are not often found in the wild. While other Private Selections I've enjoyed have been more fruit-forward, this one definitely pays homage to the rick house and its impact on the finished spirit.