Whiskey Business

Don’t be looking in stores for a bottle of this bourbon. There’s only one place to find it.

By Meg Hemmerle

Scott Mauldin had a job to do: find the right bar or restaurant to work with to create a unique bourbon for Maker’s Mark Private Select.

The restaurant that immediately came to mind? Reata.

“They’re great people to work with, and I thought it would be nice for the people of Fort Worth to know that this product is out there,” said Mauldin, a Fort Worth native and on-premise manager in North Texas for beverage company Beam Suntory. “It literally is a one-of-a-kind brand that you can’t find at any other restaurant in America.”

Maker’s Mark Private Select Bourbon is a program that Maker’s Mark launched almost a year ago. The brand had never done a single barrel whiskey (it rotates its barrels so they all age the same way) and was trying to figure out a creative way to make the program individual to the bar or restaurant that was selecting it.

Four representatives of Reata flew to the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Kentucky, where they visited the tasting room to sample bourbon aged in different staves, or pieces of wood that make up the barrel.

There are five different types of oak staves to choose from: Baked American Pure 2, Seared French Cuvée, Maker’s 46, Roasted French Mocha and Toasted French Spice. The restaurant picks 10 staves to go into a barrel (over 1,001 different combinations can be done), the barrel is filled with Maker’s Mark Cask Strength bourbon, and it sits for about 12 weeks before being bottled and shipped to the restaurant.

“The combination Reata chose is unique to them. [It’s] the only place in the United States that has that combination of staves,” Mauldin said.

The bourbon was launched at Reata in the fall and is available only on-site at the restaurant for $18 a pour. The bottle also comes with a small book that describes the staves and flavors and how the bourbon was put together.

Mauldin’s favorite way to sip the bourbon is in a Glencairn glass with a single ice cube, but he advises to taste it neat first to see what you prefer before diluting it with ice or water. Be advised though — the bourbon is 110.9 proof.

“Most people are going to drink it neat or on the rocks,” general manager Russell Kirkpatrick says. “Because of that, we wanted a nice balanced expression that wasn’t too sweet or bold and could hit a lot of palates.”

Thompson’s Bookstore, too, plans to introduce its own unique bourbon at the beginning of next year.