Cigars and Libation Evaluation: Maker’s 46

To my total delight, Maker’s 46, the first new whisky from Maker’s in over 50 years was recently introduced and I, at long last, got my hands on a bottle (thanks Missy!) and spent an entire weekend on my back deck drinking and smoking to be able to give y’all the best pairings of drink and smoke (I know – cigar research is a tough gig, but someone’s got to do it).

Let’s first discuss how “46” is different (and superior, IMHO) to “red-wax” Maker’s. Now, I’m no bourbon reviewer so I have to speak in terms probably less technically correct than a bona fide critic, but 46 is definitely more complex on the palate though clearly related to “red wax” Maker’s. Like its older brother, 46 contains no rye whatsoever (unlike most bourbons) but rather red winter wheat.  46 begins with a base of mature “red wax” Maker’s that is removed from its barrel, so that ten wooden seared staves can be affixed to the inner paneling. Searing the staves caramelizes the sugars in the wood, adding a unique flavor that finishes on the front of the tongue. The fully matured Maker’s Mark is then put back in the barrel and aged several more months.

To my palate, 46 has much more prevalent aspects of cinnamon and vanilla than does “red wax” Maker’s and a longer, sweeter finish. One review I read states: “The nose is infinitely more complex with notes of butterscotch, vanilla bean, baked apple, bran cereal and huge maple syrup.” While I’m not sophisticated enough to nail down the nose of 46 with that degree of specificity, the description indicates that 46 is indeed more complex (and coincidentally, a little higher proof – 94 versus 90) than its older sibling. In simple terms, 46 is damned good stuff and definitely worth the slightly-higher price tag.

So now that your hand is wrapped around a glass of 46, what cigars should you pair with this outstanding drink? The Rev’s general rule is “the more flavorful the drink, the more flavorful the cigar.” (Notice I didn’t say “more stronger-bodied.” I generally gravitate to full-bodied cigars, but I wouldn’t dismiss pairing a mild-medium cigar with 46 IF it was a FLAVORFUL stick such as CAO Gold or Gispert.)

There are many great sticks I would pair with 46. During my weekend research I enjoyed particularly the combination of 46 with La Flor Dominica Double Ligero (5.25 x 52) (which is about the strongest-bodied cigar I’d suggest), the Nicaraguan Habano Epicure (6 x 50 – a stick that is a STEAL and well worth a try), Don Pepin Garcia Blue Toro 6 x 50 and Padron Londres  (5.5 x 42).

When I sought suggestions for other pairings to my NOLA Church of Smokes congregation, I got several great alternatives. Brother Blooz in Dallas (but a Saints fan) has tried the Padron 1964 Maduro and loves the combo. Gregory C. in Sacramento likes  the Drew Estate La Vieja Habana Brazilian Maduro with his glass of 46. Salabim in Seattle and Ade’ in New York both like their 46 with a Diamond Crown Maximus. Cedric, an ardent cigar and pipe smoker, recommends a little black Cavendish with a hint of vanilla. Mark in Boston (but from New Orleans) likes his 46 with an Arturo Fuente King B. Pete J. in Los Angeles recommends any Tatuaje “brown label” or La Riqueza.

If you have any suggestions on pairings, email The Rev and I’ll be happy to hear about your experiences with 46.