If Pop Rocks made a “velvet tobacco” flavor, it would taste exactly like FAE-01, the newest release in the Maker’s Mark Wood-Finishing Series. It drinks like a whiskey from 1962 that you found in your grandpa’s attic, but that’s not meant to disparage it. Quite the opposite. It’s earthy, it’s viscous, it’s spicy, it’s balanced, it’s warm and, most of all, it’s accessible.
This is the third release of the Wood-Finishing Series, and the first of 2021. As with the other releases, there was a goal here — and that was to highlight one component of Maker’s Mark, as lead by Maker’s Master of Maturation and Director of Innovation Jane Bowie. For FAE-01, it’s the distilling process, which produces “fatty acid esters” — hence the term FAE — that Maker’s is known for.
In a Zoom call with a handful of Kentucky media Wednesday afternoon, Bowie went through her process step by step to getting to the final mouth-watering product — her favorite so far of the three.
“For 2021, we leaned into our column stills and nonchill-filtering process, which, simply put, helps us retain the texture and a higher viscosity of the whisky,” Bowie said in a previous press release. “What we got is an expression that highlights the fruit‑forward taste profile in an unexpected and much welcomed way. It tastes just like a barrel warehouse smells.”
She reiterated that last statement during the call, and through a series a samples given to us, she led us through her “shelf of shame” experiments. Let’s just say there was no shame in anything we sampled today, and it was quite eye-opening to see what a handful of staves can do to a final product.
Bowie said she started first with an American white oak stave (un-charred) and a French oak stave (un-charred) to compare the two flavors. By doing this, she was able to determine she wanted to go with the American oak for this release.
The next three samples were examples of aging fully matured Maker’s Mark with the FAE stave (American oak, seasoned and toasted on one side) and aging them for a few weeks in different parts of the distillery: a walk-in refrigerator, Warehouse A and the Private Select Cellar (which I like to call the Bourbon Bat Cave).
Here, she figured out she liked it aged in the Cellar the best.
It was a fun and enlightening time tasting through Bowie’s journey to FAE-01, and I am blown away by the finished product, which packs that delightful sweet caramel and vanilla taste but turns the spice and tobacco notes to a 10. This isn’t one you can shoot back after dinner. You’ve gotta swirl it, nose it and tell it it’s pretty. It’ll hang around a lot longer than some of your other favorites.
Take your time with this one, which is bottled at 110.6 proof, and go on your own journey through all its distinct flavors.
FAE-01 should be out on shelves now, so keep an eye out for it. It’ll retail for $59.99. And stay tuned … there’s a second FAE experiment coming in the fall. It’s so good, it couldn’t be kept to just one release.