Marked Up

A venerable bourbon's sophomore success

In the whiskey world, the business model of the last decade has been line extension: limited-release this, single-barrel that. But not at Maker's Mark.

For 52 years, the Kentucky distillery has boasted endlessly about making one thing and one thing only–its popular wheated bourbon with the distinctive red-wax seal.

Come early July, however, Maker's devotees will get something they've never had before: choice. Maker's 46 will hit the shelves with a higher alcohol content than its brother (46 ABV), a higher price ($35) and a spicier, zippier flavor profile more akin to rye than bourbon. This last attribute makes it a happier partner in our Manhattans–and other rye-based cocktails–than the juleps and whiskey sours that we make with the sweet, smooth original.

It's the same whiskey, with one important finishing distinction. At the end of the aging process, the liquor spends an additional two to four months in the barrel in the company of 12 seared staves of French Limousin oak, which is commonly used to age Cognacs. This component is also responsible for the new spirit's name–'46' refers to the recipe by which the wood is seared.

The results have led bartenders across the country to line up their orders. Try it soon at spots like Char No. 4 in New York, Anvil in Houston and Alembic in San Francisco.