Being a Maker’s Mark fan can sometimes feel like being in a romantic relationship. Most of the time it’s great; they’re there for you when you need them and every so often, they’ll spice things up for good measure. Eventually, however, it gets to a point where things start to irk you in some capacity. With Maker’s, it started with the marketing behind last year’s Wood Finishing Series—FAE-02 more specifically. This manifested in tweets where the brand effectively egged followers on to hunt said release. And don’t even get me started on their subsequent push for NFTs.
Be that as it may, the Loretto distillery still churns out consistent and quality whisky, with their stave-influenced releases being of particular interest to many, including yours truly. My thoughts on 2020’s Wood Finishing Series (SE4xPR5) are known at this point, which made me ecstatic to snag its follow-up. The successor in question, FAE-01, is meant to demonstrate how much flavor can be extracted from a single stave. “By only searing one side, we were able to keep the rich fruitiness in the bourbon while bringing out hints of tobacco and dank woodiness with every sip.”
Yes, I’m holding my tongue.
Nose: Festive apple; Fall in a glass. Squash-like (pumpkin) personality with baking spices. Cocoa and tobacco. Hints of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Apple pie crust. Softer core of caramel and vanilla notes emerge after sipping.
Palate: Above average viscosity. Leads with butterscotch before baking spices, oak, and pepper swell forward from the back palate. Spicy chai tea. Like tasting the smell of apple and pumpkin pie baking simultaneously in an oven.
Finish: Moderate length and strength. Once again, a festive personality takes center stage, this time with more cinnamon and vanilla. Chai tea becomes apparent here. Gingerbread and eggnog.
I could list a multitude of excuses for why it’s taken me this long to review FAE-01, the least of which is how conflicted I’ve felt about it. Following up 2020’s SE4xPR5 was no short order, and I’ve absolutely been judging FAE-01 through the lens of its predecessor. Unfair? Perhaps. However, we’re naturally drawn to comparisons, which whiskey tasting as a hobby damn-near thrives on. I prefer to evaluate something for its own merits first and foremost, so setting my inherent biases aside for FAE-01 took more time than intended.
The main thing I’ll say about FAE-01, if my notes don’t paint the picture already, is that it’s by far the most festive whiskey I’ve tried. Every pour reminds me of the holidays (in a good way), particularly enjoying a little chai tea and gingerbread while two obligatory pies bake in the oven. That experience is an appropriate complement to Maker’s core profile, resulting in a dram that feels well and properly harmonized. They might advertise notes of fruit and tobacco for the flavor profile, but I think a spice cabinet during the holidays is more appropriate.
These associations undoubtedly sound amazing, and I’d be lying if I said the first entry in 2021’s Wood Finishing Series didn’t bring the goods in a way that few drams could ever aspire to. However, FAE-01 is the classic example of a release I appreciate far more than I outright enjoy. The “Fall in a glass” personality at play comes across in a way that’s certainly endearing, but not in a way that I’d feel compelled to reach for as a semi-reliable treat. Understanding the enthusiasm for FAE-01 is hardly difficult; personally sharing that enthusiasm is a slightly different story.