Tasting Notes: Maker’s Mark Private Select III for Hokus Pokus – Dead Man’s Hand I

Hokus Pokus picked two more barrels of Maker’s Mark Private Select earlier this year, and the first barrel, picked by an all female panel of tasters from Hokus’ Lake Charles and Prairieville stores, finally arrived in Alexandria. Maker’s has stepped up its private selection game. The Hokus tasters sampled five bourbons that were finished with ten each of the five different staves, and then mixed them to come up with a flavor profile for the finishing of their own barrel. According to the little brochure attached to the bottle, there are 1,001 different combinations of staves for finishing Maker’s bourbon. Again, while this is not bourbon in the truest sense, adding wood staves would not seem to adulterate this bourbon, and as I have noted before, adding staves to Maker’s Mark wheated bourbon raises the flavor profile to an entirely different level.

This particular barrel has 3 seared French cuvee (wine) staves, 6 roasted French mocha staves, and 1 toasted French spice stave. The barrel proof is 111.2 proof. I am pretty excited about this as the French mocha staves really add a lot of flavors that I like.

Color on this is a nice solid amber. Swirl has a nice film and legs. On the nose, I feel like I have walked into a french confectionery shop – wonderful bread notes, caramelized sugar, french vanilla, cacao. On the palate, the first thing I notice is the rich mouthfeel, quite possibly the richest mouthfeel I have ever had on Maker’s. Not super thick or syrupy, mind you, but really substantive and definitely a cut above other Maker’s private selects I have had in its richness. It’s not a Van Winkle mouthfeel but damn. The flavors are a wheated bourbon lover’s dream, especially folks seeking out the coveted Van Winkle bourbons – extremely rich creme broulee, vanilla, cherries, a hint of dark chocolate, and rich baking spices, with a nice amount of oak tannin and clove that comes to the fore on the long and lingering finish. One of the things that is fun about wheated bourbons when aged well is that they have spicy notes but they are from the barrel (or, in this case, wood staves) and not rye in the mashbill and this is an entirely different spiciness – cinnamon and clove, as opposed to pepper or herbal spice. Despite the relatively high proof on this one, I feel no need to reach for a chaser after the swallow, even after the flavor fades and even after multiple sips. This is very smooth and I would dare not interrupt what is happening on my palate with water or something else.

Having tried this one, I have modified my dream Maker’s Mark Private Select Barrel – instead of all toasted American and French Mocha, I want four toasted American, five French Mocha, and one spicy. That one spicy stave goes a long way as is shown in this Hokus pick. However, I worry that the French cuvee staves may be the ones that contribute to that wonderful mouthfeel, and excluding them may be a bad idea. One of these days, I want to pick my own barrel of this.

At $72, this is not cheap compared to some other bottles out there, but given what the secondary prices are on wheated bourbons like Weller and Old Fitzgerald, and given the flavor profile and mouthfeel of this pick, this is a bargain. More importantly, Hokus really made an amazing pick here, that outclasses Maker’s own limited release from earlier this year. And, unlike the limited release which was hard to get, this bottle is sitting on the store pick barrel at Hokus in Alexandria for the asking.

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