Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Tasting: Maker's Mark. Private Select - By Liquor Barn

Maker's Mark's. Private Select - By Liquor Barn

Distillery: Maker's Mark
Age: NAS
Bottle Proof: 112
Mash Bill: 70% corn, 16% red winter wheat, 14% barley
Average US Price: $70
Release: 2016

Points: 91/100

Maker's Mark's Private Barrel Selection Program is finally here, it was a long time coming, but they made it happen.

The new Maker’s single barrel program allows the participant to come in and create their own flavor profile for their barrel of Maker’s 46.  Standard Maker’s 46 has ten French oak staves in it. With the single barrel program the participant gets to choose from five different types of staves: Baked American Pure 2, Seared French Cuvee, Maker’s 46, Roasted French Mocha, and Toasted French Spice.

The participant starts by trying the Maker’s Mark Cask Strength as a baseline, and then they get to try their five different versions of a private select barrels - so one is Maker’s Cask Strength aged with ten staves of Baked American pure 2, the next is Maker’s Cask Strength aged with ten staves of Seared French Cuvee, and so on and so forth. After all five versions are tried, the participant picks the staves they would like to be added to their barrel. The staves are added and the bourbon aged for nine months before finally being bottled.

The cool thing about this barrel program is that the participant really chooses the own Maker’s 46 flavor. They could choose all ten Baked American or do 5 and 5 or 2 of each.  There are over 1000 different combinations.

Ok, enough of the process and on to the review!

This is my second bottle of Maker's Private Select I have reviewed for SOWC. Check out the first review and compare tasting notes!

I am reviewing a Maker’s Mark private selection picked by the Liquor Barn. This barrel pick comes in at 112 proof, and the oak staves used were 4 Seared French Cuvée, 1 Maker's 46, 3 Roasted French Mocha, and 2 Toasted French Spice.

The color is a darkened amber, and this pick is super thick and rich.

On the nose you get a blast of butterscotch and vanilla pudding up-front, followed by baked apples, coconut, light hints of cinnamon, and big oak.

The palate is killer, just amazing. This pick is sweet and super nutty.  Up-front it is sweet caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch. As the sweetness fades away, you get hit with toasted almonds, sugared pecans, and peanuts - finally, at the end, there is a ton of oak and light tobacco.

The finish is hot and long. Butterscotch, peanuts, and oak - lasting for hours!

Photo & Review By: Aaron Cave

The Adventures Of Whisky Pete - Part #56

Whisky Pete is celebrating a personal accomplishment with the king of Islay. Signed by good ol Simon Brooking.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Training your nose - Can you get bettet at smelling whiskey? - Part Three

If you missed part one or two of this chapter, check it out here: Part one - Part Two

Third step: The Aroma Academy Bourbon Kit

In my method of improvement consisting of three steps: own research, talking to an expert, and using a learning tool–I’ve now checked off step one and two. In part one of this article I read a bunch of Wikipedia articles, hoping to get an overview of what our sense of smell is. Then in part two I spoke with Maria Larsson, professor of perception and psychophysics at the Department of Psychology, hoping that she would affirm that I was starting to understand the subject, and also give me some direction on how to improve my smelling skills.

Maria confirmed that the sense of smell absolutely can be trained and suggested that repetitive exposure with a feedback system would be a good method. I need to smell something, guess what that smell is and then get told if I’m right or wrong, and verbally affirm the smell to commit it to memory. So in step three I want to find a physical learning tool that enables this process.

Using physical objects as educational tools is established in the educational realm, but in my experience something we tend to overlook as we leave the elementary school system.

The Ocean To a Blind Man
I consider myself mainly a kinesthetic learner–needing to experience first hand and physically interact to really register. Skill-retaining is often my main objective in these processes, so hands-on practice is crucial.

So to get physical, my first thought was to identify and inventory the most common aromas in bourbon whiskey myself. Quickly realising the hassle of collecting and storing everything from butter and charred barrels to fresh roses and malted grains–I abandoned the idea and started searching the internet for a commercially available product instead.

The Kit

What I found was the Aroma Academy Bourbon Kit, and it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. The Bourbon Kit is a box consisting of 24 vials, each containing an aroma sample commonly found in bourbon whiskey–from apple to wheat. The Aroma Academy offers specialist aroma and perfume system products, master classes & training programs which include training kits for wine, gin and whisky in general, developed by Dr. George Dodd, aroma scientist, biochemist as well as a master perfumer. Also included in the kit are paper aroma strips to dip in the vials and a booklet with bourbon facts, detailed information about the 24 aromas, and an assortment of other information, tasting guides etc. etc. The kit does just what I want it to–offering isolated aromas to experience, compare and train with.

Waiting for my order to ship, I couldn’t be more excited. After gathering information and then bouncing questions and ideas off of an expert, I was now finally going to practice what I’ve learnt. When it finally arrived–I got straight to it.

Smell ya later

The booklet tells you to pace yourself in shorter sessions but when I looked at a clock after first sitting down with it, over two hours had passed. I was enjoying the hell out of the Bourbon Kit.

The Feedback System
After reading through the booklet and getting myself acquainted with the aromas, I employed a feedback system. Testing myself, Maria had told me, would be the key to improvement.

I set up a system as easy as I could make it: I prepared six aroma strips at a time, without knowing what they were, but labeling them so I could refer to a key. I then smelled each strip, trying to name the aroma, and also explaining to myself why I thought the way I thought, adding adjectives to the aroma. I then checked the key to see whether I was right or not. If wrong, I smelled the strip again, trying to reason why I got it wrong. If right, I smelled the strip once again, naming the aroma then moved on to the next.

The Proof
Marias observation in her training program was that achieving improvement happened quite fast, and soon after my introduction to the Bourbon Kit I was eager to see if just a couple of evenings with it would yield results.

Gathering a few of the bourbons I’ve had the most experience with I wanted to see if I could pick up the individual notes I’d been training with. As a benchmark, I went through the five reviews I’d written for Son of Winston Churchill so far, and in total I had used fifteen different words to describe aromas.

Referring between whiskeys, the Bourbon Kit and my previous notes I found I was never far off but also that my aroma vocabulary had increased. Notes that I got before but weren’t able to put words to were now obvious!

I also noticed that I had become both more secure and faster in picking out the classic bourbon notes: vanilla, toffee, burnt sugar, charred oak etc, as if I’d gotten a more complete “vision” of those notes in my mind.

These early results gave me confidence in my improvement, which in turn worked as a reward system for putting in more time and focus with the Bourbon Kit, a process I find to be great fun!

Sum of all smells

My mission in all this was to see if any of these steps on their own would suffice as a method of improvement. Could I isolate a single factor in a process, maybe as a shortcut to quick advancement?

Sure all three steps gave me knowledge that made me “better”, but what became clear is that they are different approaches, and the really cool stuff happens when you combine all three:

The first step serves as an introduction, giving a context and a general idea of the subject, and often gives the first hints to what areas are keys to understanding and improvement. An important part of this is that it is supposed to be free. I’ve started this step with many different subjects, only to realise that they were about something else, and not what I was interested in. Nothing is lost in the first step.

The second step could be seen as a test: you should try to distill your new-found knowledge and explain your findings to the expert. Your somewhat understandable reasoning is something the expert can give quick feedback on, and that’s a great exercise in improvement. What makes the expert the expert is doing what you’ve been doing, but far more thoroughly and for a much longer time. Any questions you might have, they’ve probably already answered.

The third step is the main one. Without a few exceptions maybe, I doubt that true improvement can happen without actual work. If your goal is to get better at swimming, you need time in the water. The theoretical knowledge gives you answers to the why’s, which no doubt is important, but in my quest to get better at nosing and my greatest improvement happened when I got to use a tool to practice exactly that.

As with other previous undertakings this has absolutely been a journey, and one that I am just starting. I do now know some things. I’ve gotten to know a lot more of what I don’t know yet. My understanding of whiskey has improved deconstructing its parts, and in the process of it–my enjoyment of it even more!

Written By: Erik Hasselgärde 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tasting: Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery: Maker’s Mark Distillery
Age: NAS
Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45%.
Mash bill: 70% corn, 16% wheat, 14% malted barley
Average Swedish price: 399SEK/51USD
Release: Ongoing

Points: 82/100

(The bottle reviewed is a 1.0L export bottle)

Deep gold/copper.

Sweet, with a lot of corn, some charred wood, tar and gasoline.

Sweet corn, grain/grass, a bit of charred wood and licorice with just a touch of a round bitterness I get in many wheated bourbons. Sweet and short finish.

Mouth feel:
Medium to thin viscosity, medium alcohol burn and a bit dry.

Maker’s Mark is produced at Star Hill Farm in Loretto, Kentucky–just south of Louisville. Whiskey has been made at this location since the early 19th century. Bill Samuels Sr. bought the distillery in 1953 and founded Maker’s Mark. The first bottle was sold in 1958, and the regular expression of Maker’s Mark was the only product they made all the way up to 2010.

Maker’s Mark is what is known as a wheated bourbon. Bourbon is most often made of multiple grain types, and apart from the mandatory majority of corn, rye is commonly used as a secondary, flavoring grain. In wheated bourbons, the rye is replaced by wheat–often making the bourbon a bit rounder and sweeter, with the wheat giving more room for the corn aroma and flavor not having to compete with the fragrant and spicy rye.

In my opinion bourbon made with wheat isn’t better or worse than ones made with rye. Wheated bourbon often share characteristics, but vary just as much as bourbon in general, in terms of quality. Maker’s Mark is in my opinion very well made and an excellent introduction to wheated bourbon, and bourbon in general. The taste profile is sweet and at 45% ABV it is right in my personal sweet spot of 45-50% where it’s got enough alcohol to carry the body of the whiskey, but at the same time not overpowering and hiding the flavor.

Sometimes spectacular packaging is used to direct the spotlight away from an inferior product, but this is absolutely not the case with Maker’s Mark. The distinct square, long-necked bottle with its trademarked red wax top tells me a story of a maker obsessed with every aspect of an experience. Maker’s Mark is to me walking the line admirably, being conservative and bold at the same time.

Photo & Review By: Erik Hasselgärde