Maker's Mark, the top-selling premium Kentucky bourbon, announced that it will begin letting retailers tailor their own barrels for private bottlings.
Maker's Mark Private Select barrel program will let bar and spirits retailers customize mature bourbon by selecting oak staves to "finish" their barrels. Retailers could sell these custom Maker's Mark bourbons by March 2016, according to a news release. They will be selected from five types of oak staves, each accentuating different flavors, with 1,001 possible stave combinations. No price was given.
Participants will have the opportunity to spend "an immersive and educational day at the historic Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto ... where they will roll up their sleeves and mirror the process used by chairman emeritus Bill Samuels Jr. when he created Maker's 46 in 2010," the news release said.
"This innovative process of creating a personal expression of Maker's Mark allows the customer to create a bourbon that wanders in some intriguing ways from our traditional taste profile, while still being distinctively Maker's Mark," Rob Samuels, Maker's Mark chief operating officer, said in a statement.
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After aging for nine weeks with the participants' custom stave combination, the Maker's Mark Private Select bourbon will be bottled, corked and dipped at cask strength, with details about proof and stave combinations handwritten on the label.
The program will be available to Kentucky and Illinois-based retailers in its first year and will be expanded to additional markets next year.
According to Shanken's Impact Databank figures, Maker's Mark from Beam Suntory is the top super-premium bourbon in the U.S. market, selling 1.34 million cases in 2014, up more than 7 percent from the previous year.
Unlike many brands, Maker's Mark doesn't have special releases, but it does change the appearance of the bottles. The ultra-premium whiskey market has exploded in popularity, and letting retailers select barrels or fashion their own blends has been increasingly popular for other distilleries.