The Fire & Vine Hospitality spirits syndicate is always looking for something truly special to bring to our guests. In 2016, the team traveled to Kentucky as part of the Makers Mark Select program to create a custom barrel for our collection of restaurants. After selling through the previous barrel, the Makers Mark team created a new one for us and we are proud to announce that the limited edition release of the Makers Mark Private Select El Gaucho Revelers Club blend has arrived. Only 250 bottles exist so enjoy it while it’s here!
We talked with David Kearns, Makers Mark’s Pacific Northwest Diplomat, about the program and what makes it special.
How does the Makers Mark Private Select program work?
The Maker’s Mark Private Select program allows our best restaurant, bar and retail partners the opportunity to come to the Maker’s Mark Distillery and create their own unique version of Maker’s Mark, just like Bill Samuels, Jr. did when he created Maker’s 46 back in 2010. Because each single barrel of Maker’s Mark is so close in taste and proof, we wanted to come up with a way for them to customize fully mature Maker’s Mark with a choice from five unique wood staves that each react differently inside of the barrel. With five staves, there are 1001 different stave combinations possible. The program is three years old and so far we have done more than 1000 barrels globally. We are expanding in 2019 and hope to do about 850 barrels in that year alone.
Can you describe the process and what makes it unique?
This program is really special because it is the only barrel program in Kentucky where our clients get to determine what the whisky that comes out of the barrel tastes like and have it pair perfectly with their style of cocktail and menu. It is very personal to the people who attend the creation of the barrel.
After a tour and a little talk about history, the Fire & Vine Hospitality team went through a tasting of six whiskies. They began with the baseline of fully mature Maker’s Mark cask-strength whisky. The next five whiskies are finished with 10 of each one of the flavor staves.
- Pure 2 – cooked in a convection oven for a long time at low heat, it is a sweet vanilla and caramel boosting stave that has a hint of lemon peel on the finish.
- French Cuvee – which is a French oak stave that has been infrared seared with flavors of apricot, rich butter and spice on the finish.
- Maker’s 46 – which is French oak also infrared seared, with flavors of caramel, vanilla and baking spices like clove, nutmeg and cinnamon.
- Mocha – French oaks stave cooked in a convection oven at high heat for a long time, it is dark rich and astringent, with tastes of coffee and chocolate.
- French Spice – French oak cooked in a convection oven with bright spice flavors or pink & green peppercorn and Thai chili.
After the tasting, we have a discussion about flavor and what the team wants from their barrel. It’s a wide open flavor canvas but there are three rules which must be followed. They must use cask strength whisky, it must be finished for 9 weeks in the cellar and there must be 10 staves used in the barrel. For each stave, we blend 10mls of whisky into a decanter, once all 100mls have been blended, we taste and adjust the stave combo as needed until we come to the final stave profile.
Can you describe the flavor profile of the barrel that Lonnie and the team selected?
Lonnie and the team came to Kentucky two years ago and selected a big spicy barrel finish in order for the whisky to be used in cocktails. After working with 7 or 8 different stave profiles, we decided to try one last one that was completely opposite of the direction we were heading. Lonnie had an idea for a stave profile of six French Spice, two Mocha and two Pure 2 staves. The result is a big spicy long-finishing whisky with some nice sweetness.
It is the second time we have used this stave profile for Fire & Vine Hospitality and the second barrel, but the proof is different so it has some subtle flavor differences. There are only about 250 bottles of this whisky in existence and it is delicious. Once the whisky is gone, it is gone.
Each Fire & Vine Hospitality location will serve this custom blend while it is available. Please join us to try it neat, on the rocks or in one of our specialty cocktails.