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Friday, October 25, 2019

I Can't Wait: Maker's Mark RC6

I have a table full of whiskey samples waiting to be tasted. I'm working through them. But every now and then...something shows up that I find exciting, and I just have to try it ASAP. That's what happened when I brought home a box that turned out to contain the new Maker's Mark RC6.

RC6 is the 'code-name' of the type of stave used for extra-aging the whisky. Maker's Mark has been working with Independent Stave Co. on a series of staves that can be hung (on special structures of food-grade plastic and stainless steel) in barrels of aged whisky. The staves have been heat-treated in a number of different ways: toasted, charred, infra-red, slow broils. RC6 is a selection by Maker's wood master, Jane Bowie: ten virgin toasted American oak staves.

But what interested me (in the context of having just written Whiskey Master Class) was a note from my Maker's Mark contact that "Jane Bowie spent years perfecting the finishing proof, and it's really special." Proofing, the act of deciding what proof the whiskey should be cut to before entering the bottle and then executing that decision. Here's what I said in the upcoming book:
Adding water changes the alcohol level, which changes the aromas that come forward. More alcohol will carry oak tones; lower the alcohol and the oak backs down, allowing the richer vanilla notes to come out. Distillers will proof whiskeys to different levels to find the optimum aroma profile or to find the level that brings out the particular flavor they’re looking for.
Adding water doesn’t change what flavor components are in a whiskey, nor does it take them away or add them. Adding water changes how whiskey presents itself to your senses, shifts what you sense first or more intensely.
It’s like a person changing her wardrobe. The person is the same, but your perception of them is different.
Jane decided that this whisky, finished with 9 weeks of cold-conditioned RC6 character, was best-dressed at 108.2° proof. Let's find out.

The heat's there, packed full of Juicy-Fruit gum, nutmeg, light clove, and dry cocoa. I drew in a big snoot-full, and got stung by the fire; beware. Light and frisky on the tongue: more spice, sweet pastry dough, and brighter fruits. The alcohol fire is there too, and I wonder...let's add some water. Call me a philistine, but that's lush with the water, more spready on the tongue. To me, it is...yummy, to use Bill Samuels's target phrase.

These limited offerings will be coming out once a year. Should be an interesting class in oak innovation.

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