Maker’s Mark Private Selection Series Roundup

Good morning everyone, t8ke here,

As you may have noticed, I recently spent some real quality time with Maker’s Mark and their Private Selection line of products. 16 different selections later, I feel like I got some valuable time to investigate what they are doing, and a real opportunity to talk a little bit about it. Without further delay, let’s dive in.

The Maker’s Mark Private Selection Stavin’ Me Crazy Roundup

First off, if you happened to miss the series, here are all of the selections that I tested:

Now, Maker’s does something really interesting in how they release these. Their defining factor is a couple of interesting factors:

  • Aged 5.75 years to 7 years
  • Bottled at cask strength (54% ABV – 57% ABV)
  • Finished for 9 weeks in cold conditions
  • Finished for 9 weeks with custom staves

In addition to this, there are 5 types of staves, and you can choose any combination of them that you wish when selecting, adding up to 10 staves total. The five types of staves are:

  • The Maker’s Mark 46 Stave
  • The Baked American Pure Stave
  • The Seared French Cuvee Stave
  • The Roasted French Mocha Stave
  • The Toasted French Spice Stave

So, by now you’ve probably realized that a million combinations out there between age, proof and stave combo. I did my best to try as many as I could in order to get a feel for the effects that the staves had on the bourbon, and I did the vast majority of this series blind, which really helps a bit. Only the Tasting Panel Selection, Tavern Hall Selection and Washington State Selection were not tasted blind.

The Data

Review #SelectionRankProofStaves
964Mexi Cali Mocha655.1% ABV1 - 0 - 0 - 5 - 4
966Total Wine & More455.7% ABV 0 - 3 - 1 - 6 - 0
968Crown Liquor555.0% ABV0 - 2 - 0 - 6 - 2
970Liquor Barn #7655.2% ABV4 - 1 - 3 - 2 - 0
972WW&W 10th Anniv755.7% ABV 1 - 3 - 1 - 1 - 4
974No Mocha No Cry855.2% ABV1 - 5 - 1 - 0 - 3
976Big Red Liquors455.1% ABV0 - 0 - 3 - 4 - 3
978Hi-Time Liquors555.1% ABV0 - 6 - 0 - 1 - 3
980Bill Samuels Jr655.45% ABV 0 - 0 - 10 - 0 - 0
982K&L Wines 455.05% ABV4 - 4 - 2 - 0 - 0
984Bar Myx655.1% ABV3 - 3 - 2 - 2 - 0
986Bill Samuel's Pt.2555.45% ABV 0 - 0 - 10 - 0 - 0
988Mexi Cali Mocha Pt. 2655.1% ABV1 - 0 - 0 - 5 - 4
991Maker's Tasting Panel655.05% ABV1 - 5 - 0 - 3 - 1
994Tavern Hall555.15% ABV0 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 4
996Washington State655.5% ABV1 - 1 - 2 - 4 - 2 

In looking at this data, I was hoping that I would see a clear trend emerge in respect to favored stave combinations but I’m seeing very little. That was sort of a strange disappointment, but with a data set like this, I imagine it would take many, many, more data points to get accurate trend information for a specific stave favoritism to emerge. As a result, I have a little less to say than other wrap ups. Lord knows the data took enough time to clean up and keep straight.

Overall, I have to admit, though, I am very impressed. I’ve always written off Maker’s Mark Private Selections as a silly, super expensive gimmick. I can safely walk back my opinion about the gimmicky nature of the release. I think that may just be to strange marketing. One point still stands, though, and that is definitely the price of these. I haven’t seen any Maker’s Mark Private Selections for under $70, which is sort of a rough price floor to have. Considering that $75-$87 seems to be their general price tags, I think it’s sort of a problem for the product line. In a world where Four Roses Private Selections, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof / Stagg Jr, as well as Russell’s Reserve and Knob Creek single barrels exist at or near barrel proof for much less…this is a rough value proposition. I’ve seen some of these even float near the $90 mark. I think the quality is generally very good, but it’s tough to take a dive on an unknown product at this price point. In a toss up between one of these and two Knob Creek Single Barrel reserve selections from someone I trust, I can’t say that Maker’s Mark is winning that fight for me.

This being said, I think it goes to show that Maker’s is doing something really cool here. It’s certainly unlike anything else that’s really on the market. It’s producing a cool product. Do I really wish that Maker’s would also release a single cask program, that is just a single barrel at cask strength and maybe 5-7 years older? Definitely. I don’t know why they’re not, but they also only have a finite supply. Ideally, they’d kick the gaudy novelty colored wax trend and use that product for an older single barrel release, but I can see why they don’t. In the end, business wins. Custom stave barrels aren’t cheap, but if they could even stand to knock $10 off of bottles, I bet that they would see sales soar. Right now Maker’s Mark Private Selections are incredibly solid bourbon at a really risky price point.

Thanks for reading everyone. As always, I’d love to hear if you have any opinions, or thoughts in the comments.

Now that a wheater series is wrapping up…anyone ready for some rye? I think it’s time for a trip to the farm. Stay tuned.

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