The demand for ‘unique’ whiskeys is steadily growing. Distillers like Buffalo Trace have capitalized on this with their ‘Experimental Collection’ which features small batches of whiskey each with their own distinct taste profile. It’s not hard to find limited runs of whiskey, but the consumer is still restricted to what the distillers themselves choose to experiment with. Maker’s Mark is looking to change that by offering whiskeys that will be customizable by the consumer. This means that, for a price, you can meet with a skilled distiller and essentially design your own whiskey.
Most of whiskey’s flavor comes from the spirit’s chemical interaction with wood during the aging process. After the first step in aging, some distillers will move the whiskey into a second barrel for further aging (this is called ‘cask finishing’). With the new customization from Maker’s Mark, the buyer will be able to choose what type of wood they want used for the cask finishing. Maker’s Mark offers five distinct staves comprising different types of wood with varying levels of char; the buyer can include up to ten staves in their barrel of whiskey, which means there are currently more than 1,000 permutations of whiskey that can be produced in this way. The distillery has yet to test them all out.
Customized whiskey, however, is something of a commitment. A single barrel will produce hundreds of bottles, so a ‘build-your-own-whiskey’ workshop is most likely to appeal to bars and restaurants that want to be able to offer a signature spirit.