Maker's Mark has been successful basing its production around its core product. They've branched out a bit with Maker's 46. Maker's 46 is different from the company's flagship bourbon in one significant way, which creates a whole new taste profile. Maker's Mark debuted 46 in only limited quantities, and with any luck, 46 will be popular enough to warrant further bottlings.
So, what makes 46 different? Here's the process: when Maker's is fully matured, the bourbon is temporarily dumped from the barrel while ten seared, French oak staves are placed inside. The whiskey is then put back into the barrel, and mingles with the added staves for another few months until it "tastes exactly right." It's then bottled with its signature red wax dip, in a less boxy bottle. It clocks in at 94 proof, which is slightly higher than the original's 90 proof.
Maker's 46 has a rusty, orange copper color. The nose is velvety vanilla, and a lot of it. Surrounding the vanilla center is a citrus flair and a grainy, spicy ethanol heat coming from the high proof. 46's aroma is a prelude to it's departure from its older brother.
Mouthfeel is warm and syrupy thick. The taste is primarily caramel and black pepper with floral notes hidden somewhere in the background. You are certainly made aware of the seared French oak addition. There is also a candied citrus that comes through right when you swallow. Maker's 46 finishes with peppery heat that fills your mouth like smoke and then centers itself on the front of the tongue. But it is not harsh - along with the heat comes a smooth vanilla ribbon. After a few seconds you're left with a slight, pleasant burn and a soft, almost creamy, sweetness at the back of your throat.
Maker's 46 is certainly of a different character than the company's flagship. It is at once spicier and sweeter than we're used to from the distillery. 46's enduring qualities are its ability to match strong spice with heavy caramel, and have them work together is such admirable sync. It is a combination of softness and brashness that toghether hit all the right notes. I should hope that Maker's Mark will make its recent expression a main stay.