The distillery wood finishing series from Maker's Mark are nearly impossible to find in the wild. Imagine my surprise when I walked into one of my favorite "hole in the wall" liquor stores in the Bluegrass that continues to amaze me with the wide variety of bourbons available and, literally, see cases of this sitting on the floor for the taking. So, today, we take a look at one of 2023's limited releases from this historic distillery - Maker's Mark BEP.
Low Proof, But High on Flavor
BEP marks the next installment of 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. By definition, bourbon needs to be placed in a newly charred oak barrel at a proof no higher than 125. The name "BEP" refers to the low barrel entry proof (BEP, for short) of 110 proof.
This particular release has been produced to amplify the balanced wood sugars, softer tannins and lasting finish achieved with our low 110 BEP. Special finishing staves were used to amplify notes of vanilla and sweet spice. We're told to expect lots of vanilla, brown sugar, and baking spices.
Similar to Maker's 46 other Private Selection releases, once the bourbon has reached maturity, the barrels are moved into a temperature-controlled cave (literally dug into the side of the hill at the distillery). The barrels are dumped, partially disassembled, various types and numbers of wood staves are inserted, the barrels reconstructed, and then refilled to finish their profile in the 50-degree constant temperature of the cave.
BEP is bottled at a cask strength of 110.7 proof. Traditional Maker's Mark has been finished with 10 virgin toasted American oak staves.
Eye: Lovely amber.
Nose: This is an English toffee candy bomb! Rich notes of vanilla and caramel greet you, followed by notes of lightly toasted oak and spice. The wood sugars are definitely front and center in this expression.
Palate: Toffee and caramel drench my entire mouth, followed by sweet oak and spice notes. Not super complex, but the basics are done very well.
Finish: Medium-long in length, and very smooth with toasted oak and baking spices.
Overall: Truth be told, I forgot that I had purchased this earlier in the year and on my last visit to the Bluegrass, I eagerly purchased another - thinking it was my first. Let's just say, I was pleasantly surprised when I was reviewing my cabinet to see not just one of these bottles - but two! I always find the distiller's tasting notes interesting - seeing if I really pick up on them. While not all tasting notes from the distillery deliver on "truth in advertising", this is one that does.
This year's expression hit on some of my favorite notes. I know many purveyors of bourbon aren't always fans of traditional Maker's Mark, but do enjoy the Maker's 46 product. This is one I'll be stretching out just a little longer in my cabinet to share with friends so that they can enjoy a fine bourbon from our friends at Maker's Mark.