House Made Podcast

Episode #04 - Maker's Mark Barrel Program (Should We Do It?)

April 07, 2021 House Made Season 1 Episode 4
House Made Podcast
Episode #04 - Maker's Mark Barrel Program (Should We Do It?)
House Made Podcast
Episode #04 - Maker's Mark Barrel Program (Should We Do It?)
Apr 07, 2021 Season 1 Episode 4
House Made

We are interested in buying a barrel of whiskey through the Maker's Mark Barrel Program so in this episode we discuss the details of the meeting/ tasting we did, what we learned and the flavors we found along the way. 

Spoiler alert: This is NOT your average barrel program.

Show Notes Transcript

We are interested in buying a barrel of whiskey through the Maker's Mark Barrel Program so in this episode we discuss the details of the meeting/ tasting we did, what we learned and the flavors we found along the way. 

Spoiler alert: This is NOT your average barrel program.

Nick Boban (00:01):
This is the House Made Podcast. We're your hosts Nick Boban and John Vieira. We're here to cover your questions about home bartending. Let's get into it.

Nick Boban (00:22):
Today I... We kind of want to unpack what we just did. So we got the privilege to sit down with Southern Wine and Spirits, specifically with the Beam-Suntory brand Maker's Mark and we're kind of exploring their barrel program. So just to give everybody like an oversight of what we wanted to do, we very much this year want to buy a barrel from a distillery. And what that means is that we would commit to purchasing every bottle that the barrel of whiskey produces. And so that's essentially right around 240 bottles worth of whiskey. And so we've been kind of shopping around and seeing what we can do. The Maker's Mark program, because, uh, because of coronavirus is one of the only programs that we can actually do.

John Vieira (01:22):
Yeah. I mean, obviously a big part of what we want to do is actually go to Kentucky and have the full experience, um, you know, go into the barrel house and talk with these people that know what's going on. They're there day in and day out. And, I mean, it'd still be cool to buy a barrel, but if, because of coronavirus, if we can't go there, it's really not nearly as interesting.

Nick Boban (01:51):
It's been proving super difficult because not only is everything shut down because of coronavirus also because of coronavirus, most distilleries have actually outsold their actual production allocations. So being aged three, four, five, six years, in some cases, nine to 12 years, they've sold in like nine months, what they usually sell in like four years.

John Vieira (02:20):
Yeah. Which is crazy. I mean, a lot of these brands have just out sold their numbers this year and it's been nuts. We were trying to buy Hennessy a while back and it was just like nobody had it. Yeah. So, so let's unpack this a little bit. Let's jump into what this barrel program specifically, because they're all a little bit different, but what we learned today, cause I especially didn't know pretty much any of this going into it. We had a chance to meet with Chuck. What's Chuck's last name?

Nick Boban (02:50):
No idea. Love the guy to death, but...

John Vieira (02:53):
He looks like a Chuck. Like if somebody just introduced him as Chuck. Yes. He looks like Chuck. Um, but basically he sat down with us today for several hours.

Nick Boban (03:03):
And the hard 40 minutes was our barrel tasting.

John Vieira (03:06):
So he let us, he gave us the chance to taste a bunch of the components and then put some things together, which we'll get to in a second here. So I'm going to let you explain the way they use the staves to, I guess kind of create unique flavors.

Nick Boban (03:27):
Yeah. So I think before that, I should tell you that a traditional barrel program from most distilleries is that you show up pretty much to the rickhouse and you get to pick like this barrel, this barrel, this barrel and sample them. And then that is just kind of what you go off of. Chuck Abbott is his name.

John Vieira (03:52):
I knew that. I saw his, uh, I saw his pamphlet earlier when I was looking through and it had his name on it. Okay. Chuck Abbott. Anyway...

Nick Boban (04:03):
Love that guy. So I don't know, on a regular barrel program, you show up to the distillery, you walk through the rickhouse, you just kind of point and choose at what barrels you want to try, because just depending on where they are in the stack of barrels and which side of the warehouse they are and the like atmospheric condition that they're actually under, they'll be different. They'll taste considerably different. Maker's Mark, apparently, according to Chuck what they do is they rotate their barrels very consistently. So they take the bottom ones, put them on the top to take ones on the left, put them on the right and they rotate them. So that their barrels that are aging actually come out very consistent.

John Vieira (04:46):
Well, think about the amount of product they're putting out too. So it's like you have to be consistent. You can't put out that many bottles across the entire world and not be consistant. Yeah.

Nick Boban (04:57):
So with that consistency, the barrel program from Maker's Mark wouldn't 100% makes sense. So what they did is they decided about three or four years ago that they would take a barrel of Maker's Mark cask strength and they would let the purchaser of the barrel put up to 10 staves into the barrel to finish it off. So we take a fully aged barrel. They're going to open it up. They're going to drop 10 hunks of wood into it, close it back up, and then let it sit for six more weeks, then drain it and bottle it.

John Vieira (05:35):
So right there is kind of crazy because I was so skeptical about this. I was like six weeks you're talking about, I mean, how long do you barrel aged spirits in the first place? Especially things like whiskeys?

Nick Boban (05:48):
It's two to four years, mostly. Yeah. Four years is more realistic.

John Vieira (05:52):
So I was like, I was very devil's advocate. I was just kind of like, all right, six weeks, this is stupid. What's it really going to do? This is totally a sales gimmick, but it was really, really interesting to see how much of an impact it does have on the flavor. And like I said, we were able to taste these staves uniquely, you know, it was like a control group essentially for each stave. Yeah. Which also allowed us to mix them in certain proportions to create what we thought was the best combo.

Nick Boban (06:28):
Yeah. So they have five different staves that they offer. Yeah. Um, one's American Oak, the other four are French Oak. The craziest part that I thought about that is that they were actually infrared charred. So they were oven baked. They weren't traditionally fired like all the American Oak is.

John Vieira (06:47):
Right and the other interesting thing was that they weren't all, uh, consistently baked. There was...

Nick Boban (06:56):
Some were seared, some were low roasted, some were...

John Vieira (07:00):
We had samples of these staves in front of us, which was really cool for a visual. So, um, there was one in particular, I can't remember what it was called, but it was actually like a scaloped, um, which technically gives you more surface area. It was the only one that was super wavy and it had a different roast on it than...

Nick Boban (07:18):
Kind of looked like a ruffles potato chip.

John Vieira (07:20):
Kind of did. Yeah. So, and then there was another one that was quite a bit darker than the rest and it was the mocha one actually, which apparently their...

Nick Boban (07:29):
Mondav is their new one that they're calling it. Yeah.

John Vieira (07:31):
Yeah. Cause they're discontinuing the mocha one. It's been around for a long time. It's really good. But, uh, I think they're just looking for more variety. However, we had this... This sample to taste and kind of look at, and so you really get a lot of different characteristics from these, especially with like the kind of perceived hotness or like the proof from it, even though they're all the same. Some taste a lot hotter or lot spicier. And then to take that a step further, some of them play differently on your palate. So some are spicy toward the front of your palate, tip of your tongue and things like that. And some were like super fire in the back of your throat. So it was really cool to kinda Mr. Potato Head these things, which apparently that's not PC to say any more.

Nick Boban (08:20):
It's not PC cause Mr. Potato Head I think is gender neutral now.

John Vieira (08:24):
But they make a male and a female version of it. And with the ability to switch components, you can have anything in between.

Nick Boban (08:31):
Uh, I haven't, I didn't read that article, but I don't think that's a thing anymore.

John Vieira (08:34):
So, but anyway, you can "Mr. Potato Head" these things and really come out with some cool...

Nick Boban (08:47):
It's the only barrel program that I have seen so far that allows you to more or less create your own whiskey. So what Chuck did today was he showed up and he had five different vials of Maker's Mark. That was all cast strength. That was all 100%, one stave and a beaker. And what it was is essentially 10 milliliters of this vile equates to the flavor profile you would get, if you put one stave into the barrel, which was kind of cool. So that way you could literally play around with everything.

John Vieira (09:33):
It's an approximation, but it's relatively accurate.

Nick Boban (09:35):
But it gets you very close to what you're going on. Apparently with 10 staves or with, sorry, with 5 staves and 10 total into the barrel, you'll come up with 1,001 combinations. Total. Yeah. Possible combinations. So all combinations have been done, which is why they switched out one of the staves for a new one this year. So now there's 1,001 new combinations to essentially recreate. And so what we're thinking of is being one of the first barrels to go through that program for this year.

John Vieira (10:10):
Yeah. Which would be cool. The new stave, by the way, that they replaced the mocha with, is not just the same thing. They didn't just like, give it a different name. It's quite a different flavor profile. It had some kind of nuttiness to it. It was kind of back of the palate spice and pretty full bodied.

Nick Boban (10:36):
So the, they call it Mondont, is what I think what he said. And it was targeted after a French kind of like Hershey's and almond candy bar type thing, but it was like a dark chocolate with some kind of tree nut.

John Vieira (10:53):
Yeah. You did get a little bit of chocolate from that.

Nick Boban (10:55):
It was still, it was still chocolatey. It wasn't as... It wasn't so chocolatey that you would call it mocha.

John Vieira (11:01):
Sorry I keep clearing my throat. I just jammed like three sushi rolls into my face.

Nick Boban (11:06):
Dude we... I'm the same way. Lots of sushi, a lot of whiskey, a lot of whiskey today. We just wanted to unpack this what we just experienced before. Well, while it was fresh in our brain.

John Vieira (11:19):
Yeah. And so what was the thing that Chuck was telling us about maker's 46? Because that's like a household name. That's like something that everybody knows. And it was like, why is this different? Which I didn't know.

Nick Boban (11:29):
Okay. So, so maker's 46 was the birth of this actual barrel program. So the head distiller there or maybe it was the master Blender. I can't remember exactly what he said. It was somebody important and Maker's Mark decided that they wanted to create their own whiskey. And what they did was they unpacked a barrel of barrel strength, Maker's Mark, and they dropped 10 of these number 46 staves into it and finish it off for six weeks. That became maker's 46. So actually the 46 stave is one of the staves that you can use in this barrel program, as well.

John Vieira (12:07):
Right. And it has its own unique flavor. I can't remember the actual specs on it, like the way it's roasted or anything like that. But...

Nick Boban (12:16):
Yeah, I think I'm pretty sure it was a heavy char, slow roast. And then they actually finished the aging process only in the like December, January, February, only in like the winter months so that it actually absorbs slower.

John Vieira (12:33):
Right. A little bit colder temperature. Okay. Um, and I do have a new appreciation for 46 after tasting it today. I had been a while since I had it. And I think, I think the last time I had it, I kind of just had that mindset where it was like, Oh, this is just another marketing thing where it's like, they're putting the same whiskey in a different bottle. It probably wasn't a controlled situation. I was probably, you know, adding it into other things. Tasting it today, side-by-side other things did give me a new appreciation for it. It is really good whiskey. And that we made one of the many combinations, uh, that we made did not have the 46 staves and it. We left them out on purpose and that combination kind of sucked.

Nick Boban (13:18):
Yeah, no, I actually... The 46 gave it a really nice round bottom. Like it kind of binded everything together.

John Vieira (13:24):
It really... It made a huge difference. And I will say, if I was going to go to the liquor store and buy a Maker's product off the shelf right now, I'd probably go for the 46 over the regular.

Nick Boban (13:36):
Or the Cask strength because that's just come back in now too.

John Vieira (13:40):
Right. Cask strength is good.

Nick Boban (13:42):
But the craziest thing about this barrel program, that I didn't really realize, was that you could literally take one stave and flip-flop it. So you could take like one P2 stave and pull it down to like the Mondont stave and get a 100% different whiskey. Even being the same base, which just like... I was super skeptical about, and then doing it in the like the little test control, you were like, Oh Jesus Christ. That is way different.

John Vieira (14:12):
Massive difference. Cause there was that one that we flipped one stave. Yeah. We just flip-flopped one. And it was like such a crazy difference.

Nick Boban (14:21):
We went from being like a three-star to a five-star.

John Vieira (14:23):
I feel like we should touch on this stave business again. Now a lot of you out there probably understand we're talking about the wood staves from a barrel, right? Barrels made up of all these different staves. So it's literally...

Nick Boban (14:38):
Well, it's like a six inch wide by three foot long piece of wood. Yeah. That's roasted or charred in some way.

John Vieira (14:48):
Right. And when we talk about mixing and matching these staves, you can sort of equate that to... Say you were making like salsa, right? You have your main components, you've got your tomatoes. And then when you're like, what do I want in this salsa? You're like, well, do I want onions? Do I want jalapeno? That's kind of what these staves are doing. Cause we have our base, we have this cask strength... Yeah. Like we have, we have this base that we're working with and it's like, okay, this is great. I like tomato. But then you're like, what kind of flavor profile am I looking for? And so by adding these in different, very delicate ratios, you're able to get these different flavors. Now, obviously this whiskey did not taste like salsa. However, it would probably taste good with salsa and we'll be exploring that soon.

Nick Boban (15:43):
I have... in tasting this whiskey, we actually tasted it with Chef, Dustin Bristol, who's my partner at the bar. I have a very new appreciation for eating bread while you taste whiskey?

John Vieira (15:58):
I did too. That was fantastic.

Nick Boban (15:59):
It was cause it neutralized your palate. So you would taste this whiskey and before moving on to another whiskey, drink some water, eat some bread, and literally your palate was almost like cleansed again to taste the next whiskey.

John Vieira (16:11):
It kind of like pads your gut too. You're just consuming, you know, bread. It helps it just kind of absorb because this was, this was high proof stuff we were drinking too.

Nick Boban (16:21):
And it was in the 56% or something like that. 58 somewhere in that range.

John Vieira (16:26):
Yeah. Oh God. That first bottle we had was in the sixties. I though.

Nick Boban (16:31):
Oh, it might've been. It was all cask strength stuff.

John Vieira (16:33):
Yeah. It was, it was like pretty hot. Which is another thing too is like tasting all these examples and coming up with some of these concoctions, how some of them, the proof is not changing mind you, but some of them go from tasting like, Oh, this is just balanced. Yeah. This is maybe like 90 proof. Like not even a hundred and like punch you in the face. Some of them are like wild. And obviously they still had good flavor at that point and it's everybody's preference. Some people really love that kind of stuff. It was just crazy to see how much difference.

Speaker 4 (17:07):
And I think... I think it's something that we should talk about. Cause we were thinking about doing this. I really want to do a barrel program. Maker's Mark was not my first choice. Nor was it my second or third or like pretty close to my bottom choice to be completely honest.

John Vieira (17:23):
On paper, that is.

Nick Boban (17:24):
On paper. Because the brand is kind of a big mass produced brand. It's not something that I super enjoyed.

John Vieira (17:33):
Yeah. So the biggest thing I think for me that just made it so interesting and stuff was how hands-on it is. And the whole combining the staves. That kind of took it to a different level and I will say that I'm like pretty intrigued by it.

Nick Boban (17:54):
I am too. And also I'm really impressed by the brand's sales arms that you will, cause Chuck, I would say is the lowest on that totem pole of sales arms. Just, just the level of like the passion that he has for it is unbelievable.

John Vieira (18:16):
Right. And so, I mean, that was part of what made the experience, as well, twice as good. I mean he had all the information, he was passionate about showing us all the different things. He wanted to just sit there endlessly and come up with these different conversation or combinations I should say. Um, and it, it just made it, it made it a really enjoyable experience. We like hanging out with Chuck anyway.

Speaker 5 (18:43):
Shut up cat.

John Vieira (18:45):
No, yeah, I was just... I was definitely surprised by it because you know, we've done stuff with Maker's in the past and they're a cool brand. Everyone knows that they have good branding and marketing, but like you said, they're kind of like this big like Goliath company, when you think about like, Oh, I'm, I'm going to go do a barrel program.

Nick Boban (19:04):
Yeah. When you think about like cool niche-y brands, they're not the one that I think of.

John Vieira (19:09):
It's not the first one that comes to mind.

Nick Boban (19:12):
But just seeing this program in particular and the fact that you can actually create your own whiskey is really cool.

John Vieira (19:22):
It is cool. I guess one more thing, before we take off, that we should mention is that if we end up doing a barrel program of any kind, that whiskey will be available to you guys.

Nick Boban (19:38):
Actually to purchase by the bottle from the state.

John Vieira (19:41):
Through the state liquor stores. Now obviously...

Nick Boban (19:43):
They'll be super limited.

John Vieira (19:44):
There'll be limited. It'll be really cool to have, I would recommend buying two, one to drink and one save for your collection. It could be worth money someday. That would be neat.

Nick Boban (19:53):
Yeah. What if we were actually famous one day.

John Vieira (19:56):
But um, obviously if you don't live here locally, you're going to be hard pressed. You have to have somebody buy and illegally mail it to you or something like that.

Nick Boban (20:07):
You can legally mail it, although I wouldn't recommend this, but if you ship it like UPS or FedEx, you can just claim that it's olive oil and they won't ask any questions.

John Vieira (20:18):
Well, there you have it.

Nick Boban (20:18):
I've never done that.

John Vieira (20:19):
We've... Neither of us have ever done that and we don't know what you're talking about.

Nick Boban (20:23):
I don't recommend it Don't ship it USPS because they won't take it. UPS and FedEx both actually ship alcohol, but if you don't want to pay the extra to ship the alcohol, definitely don't...

John Vieira (20:36):
I would go FedEx, honestly, as well. I feel like UPS definitely like breaks more than 50% of the shit they ship.

Nick Boban (20:41):
Yup. Yup. I had not good experiences with UPS.

John Vieira (20:44):
I could be wrong. If you're out here listening UPS I do apologize. This is not fact-based.

Nick Boban (20:50):
Jane from Rural Haze actually told me the opposite, like right as we were trying to leave the bar today. She was advocating for UPS and has had very bad experiences with FedEx and I've, I am the complete opposite. So...

John Vieira (21:02):
Well, what can Brown do for you? Is that still their slogan? It definitely was for awhile. I feel like, I feel like they definitely got away from that. I don't know about that.

Nick Boban (21:14):
That just, that just, yeah. It makes me think of turds.

John Vieira (21:18):
Yeah. It kind of does. Yeah. Um, okay.

Nick Boban (21:21):
Okay so barrel program. Pretty cool. We're thinking about it. We're looking at other brands, although we're kind of backed into a corner because the only other brands that I know of right now that are allowing barrel programs is Knob Creek. I like Knob Creek, but I also heard a rumor that Knob Creek will be sold out by the end of the year for the foreseeable future, except for knob Creek rye.

John Vieira (21:48):
I also heard that.

Nick Boban (21:50):
Like, okay, like, should we do a barrel?

John Vieira (21:53):
If you guys are Knob Creek drinkers, Stock up apparently.

Nick Boban (21:59):
So yeah. I don't know. Comment. Let us know what you think. If it's something you'd be interested in purchasing. The Idaho state liquor division said that we will be able to, minimum, stick 20% of our barrel in the stores for 30 days so that you guys could buy it. It only equates to like 48 bottles. So we're trying to petition to let us stick 50% of our bottles in the store, which is more like 120 bottles, which I think is more realistic to our brand and what we're doing because everybody buys one to drink and one to keep, I mean, you're still only talking about 60 people. Yeah. It's not actually that much. It's not that much whiskey. No. Which is kind of crazy.

John Vieira (22:48):
It's just, it's, it's a, it's an aggressive price point.

Nick Boban (22:53):
66 bucks a bottle.

John Vieira (22:55):
They're not like mega cheap bottles. Right. We're not talking about like, well liquor or anything like that. So it adds up buying it in one lump sum. However, it's really not that much. So it will be limited if you guys are interested. Like I said, once we have more information.This is all on behalf of Craft Lounge, by the way, if you've been listening and we haven't said that. So we run Craft Lounge. It's sort of a sister company, although it's a completely different than what House Made is, but we piggyback off of eachother. Craft is a sponsor for us and this podcast.

Nick Boban (23:36):
I'd almost say, almost say Craft would be the parent company, if you will.

John Vieira (23:39):
Technically yeah. House Made is a subsidiary. It's under the umbrella. We started House Made to make the syrups that we use for the bar program at Craft.

Nick Boban (23:49):
And to produce them for home bar use.

John Vieira (23:52):
Right. And that, all of that kind of just, it just rolled into...

Nick Boban (23:56):
Just snowballs.

John Vieira (23:57):
Yeah. I mean, it just happened. So, but this is where we're at now. Basically we are in the process of kind of putting all of this information together in a nice, neat package for you in the form of As a landing page. It'll kind of be home base for this podcast. If you enjoy this, um, you know, like, and subscribe and all that kind of stuff. We're starting a YouTube channel that all of the video related content will be on as well, which will also be found on the website Blogs, tutorials, just a whole bunch of stuff that's kind of coming up. We're in this beginning phase where we're just trying to get all of our shit together and figure out exactly what that looks like.

Nick Boban (24:46):
I mean, I will say it's a lot of content. It's a little bit overwhelming, especially to start and I feel like we're just like, let's try this today. Let's try this today. Yeah. It's, it's just like stabbing...

John Vieira (24:59):
It's going to evolve for sure. And it's going to become more streamlined, but that's where you guys come in. So any content that you desire and you're looking for...

Nick Boban (25:08):
What do you want to know? Cause we want to produce it.

John Vieira (25:10):
That's literally why we're doing this. Um, we could just sit...

Nick Boban (25:14):
It's all for free. We don't want to charge anybody.

John Vieira (25:16):
Yeah, we're not here to make money off of it. We just enjoy talking. So, uh, anything you guys need to know or want to know. Just let us know. Comment, uh, direct message, email. I mean, literally anything it's out there. It's on the internet. We're not hiding. So, um, but yeah, I think that kind of sums it up.

Nick Boban (25:38):
Yeah. I think that's it. Thanks for listening. Like John said, like and subscribe, share, comment. Let us know what you want to hear. Uh, and we'll catch you next week. Cheers.