Hickory – In April of this year, representatives from Maker’s Mark came to Catawba County to create something special, a Maker’s Mark Private Selection barrel. The taste profile for this barrel was created by local bourbon enthusiasts and is only available by the bottle at ABC stores in Catawba County, and by the drink at local restaurants and bars.
Maker’s Mark, now in its third generation, says that this is a first-of-its-kind barrel program that begins with Maker’s Mark 46, which is aged between six and seven years, then customized by using five different stave types. There are over a thousand possible combinations, with each having its unique flavor, and Maker’s Mark Private Selection is bottled at cask strength, which ranges from 107-114 proof.
Jeremy Phillips and Chad Hefner, who orders spirits for the Olde Hickory Tap Room, were chosen to create the profile for the Catawba County Private Selection barrel this year.
Jeremy is a locally known bourbon aficionado, and Chad has probably handled over 150,000 bottles of liquor at the Olde Hickory Tap Room. Chad said, “In the last 15 years I’ve probably been involved in purchasing over a million dollars in spirits. I’ve also traveled to Kentucky and done several bourbon tours and tastings, including Four Roses, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Buffalo Trace. I’ve also been a Maker’s Mark fan since I was old enough to purchase alcohol legally. It started with the image of the candle wax top, then became a taste and monetary decision. It wasn’t cheap, and it’s been one of my go-to preferences in my bourbon career.”
Chad and Jeremy spent an afternoon with the Maker’s Mark representatives to create the profile for the Catawba County barrel. They began with tasting Maker’s Mark 46, then the five individual stave characters. Chad said, “Jeremy and I tasted each one and began putting a profile together. They used a graduated beaker to add the different combinations. We tried several, and think it was on the fourth or fifth try that we came up with this profile. When they plugged it into the computer, they said this was the first time anyone has created this particular profile.”
This Private Selection is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky barrel finished with 10 selected oak staves. It has to be named a bourbon whisky because the staves are considered additives, and each one gives the barrel a different flavor. Chad said, “If you ever go to bourbon country in Kentucky, every bourbon tour you attend will tell you there is a law that determines what you can call bourbon because back in the ’30s and ‘40s people were calling stuff that was junk, bourbon. In Lyndon Johnson’s era, they enacted a law that states it has to be 51% corn, has to be aged in new charred white oak barrels, and once you dump it to bottle it you can’t add anything except water to bring it to the proof you want.”
Chad Hefner said both he and Jeremy were honored to be chosen to create this barrel; “Jeremy is a really nice guy and has a lot of bourbon experience. I enjoyed working with someone else who appreciates a great bourbon, and talking with the reps from Maker’s Mark about their experiences was a lot of fun. Jeremy and I have stayed in touch, and he comes to eat here at the Tap Room.”
When asked if he was happy with the result, Chad said “I was very happy. It is a little warm or hot, it is on the high proof side at 111.7. Most bourbons are between 86 and 90 proof, so when you get up over 100 there is a lot more warmth on your initial palate. First, you get the warmth, and then you gradually get the taste profiles on the back end. Some people love that. I like to add just a little water. I saw on the History channel that when you do tastings of scotch in Scotland they always put a touch of water in it. The water, or a very small ice cube, is supposed to bring out the bouquet and flavors. So I prefer this with just a touch of water in it. It calms down the heat and I think it lets the flavor profile bloom a little more, rather than getting the straight heat. Some people prefer it over rocks. From what I understand, everyone who has tried this one really likes it.”
This is an exclusive one-time bottling of this Maker’s Mark Private Selection, River Valley Single Barrel, and is only available in Catawba County. Only 40 cases, 240 bottles, were produced from the barrel and once they’re gone, it’s gone.
Want to try the River Valley Single Barrel, created by local bourbon aficionados? Visit the Olde Hickory Tap Room to taste this one-of-a-kind bourbon whisky. Say “Hi” to Chad while you’re there! It is also available by the bottle at Catawba County ABC stores for $69.95 plus tax.
Photos: Chad Hefner, at the Olde Hickory Tap Room where they serve Maker’s Mark Private Selection River Valley Single Barrel. And Jeremy Phillips at the ABC store in Viewmont with the special display they created for this one-of-a-kind offering.