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  • Writer's pictureLaurie

Made to Order Whisky

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

Distilleries keep core expressions consistent from batch to batch regardless of what happens in the intervening years before bottling. The Master Blender replicates flavor, color, and viscosity with each bottling. Reliability being key for Bartenders when sourcing spirits for cocktails. Creating custom Bourbon is counter intuitive to this process. Today though, consumers value personalized products and services tailored to their preferences. While it may seem simple to expand offerings and maintain core expressions. It can be challenging. A single run for larger producers starts in the tens of thousands of bottles compared to smaller producers in the hundreds of bottles. Making agility difficult for large producers and cost prohibitive for smaller producers. All while negotiating a competitive whiskey market. This has producers looking for innovative ways to engage drinkers. Enter barrel programs.

Barrel programs afford distilleries opportunities to work with bars and spirits retailers on a personal level to explore flavor profiles. Last Monday I spoke with Dave Kearns, Maker’s Mark Pacific Northwest Bourbon Diplomat regarding Private Select. The Barrel Program at Marker’s Mark. Kearns has the distinct task working with bar and spirits retailers here in the Northwest to create tailor-made whisky. Kearns explains what makes Private Select unique; “Traditional barrel programs you choose between 3-4 barrels, all are different ages, proofs and come from different warehouses. Because barrel to barrel of Maker’s Mark is very consistent in flavor, we had to come up with a different way of giving our best customers an opportunity to create something unique. Creating Maker’s 46 was Bill Samuels, Jr. favorite part of his career, knowing this, we went back to Independent Stave and found four other custom staves that could create different flavors when finishing fully mature Maker’s Mark.”

Private Select uses a finishing process like Maker’s 46. Similarities include beginning with fully matured cask strength Maker’s Mark and maintaining the

temperature of the whisky below 50 degrees once the staves are inserted. Customers select ten staves from five different wood types for immersion in their barrel of whisky. Keeping the whisky at a cool temperature ensures the spice from the French oak does not over power the whisky. Maker’s cellars the barrel for 9 weeks in a custom built limestone warehouse in Loretto, Kentucky. Built specifically for Maker’s 46 and Private Select it holds 2,000 barrels of whisky as well as housing a tasting room space for Private Select customers to craft the flavor profile of their whisky. The stave types they choose from are:

P2- Baked American Pure 2- Sweet Brown Vanilla, Bright Fruit, Brown Spice

CU- Seared French Cuvée- Creamy, Honey, Roasted/Toasted

46- Maker’s Mark 46 finish - Dried fruit, baking spices, caramel.

Mo- Roasted French Mocha -Char, Dried Fruit, and Cacao.

SP- Toasted French Spice- Ripe Fruit, Pipe Tobacco, and Spice

Interested in tasting Private Select for yourself? Or buying a bottle? Below are a few places where it can be found in Puget Sound and a breakdown of their stave selections.

John Howie Steak – Bellevue Esquin Wine and Spirits – Seattle

Barrel #1 2- CU, 3- 46, 2 – MO, 3 – SP 2 – P2, 3 – CU, 3 – 46, 2 – MO

Barrel #2 3 – CU, 3 – 46, 3 – MO, 1 – SP

Lot No. 3 – Bellevue Bevmo! – Multiple Locations

2 – P2, 3 – CU, 3 – 46, 1 – MO, 1 – SP 3 – P2, 1 – CU, 2 – 46, 3 – MO, 1 – SP

Radiator Whiskey – Seattle Total Wine & More – Multiple Locations

1 – CU, 3 – 46, 3 – MO, 3 – SP Barrel #1 1 – P2, 2 – CU, 5 – 46, 2 – SP

Barrel #2 2 – P2, 2 – CU, 4 – 46, 1 – MO, 1 – SP

Kings Hardware and Oddfellows Café & Bar

3 – P2, 3 – CU, 1 – 46, 2 – MO, 1 – SP


2 – CU, 4 – 46, 1 – MO, 3 – SP

#bourbon #MakersMark #whisky #PrivateSelect #DaveKearns #cocktailculture

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