The liquid was developed through Maker’s Mark’s Private Select programme, in which participants choose 10 custom staves for a finishing barrel. The barrel is then filled with cask-strength, fully matured bourbon and aged for a further nine weeks to impart the desired flavours and aromas.
To create Balthazar’s expression, bar manager Massimiliano Favaretto and general manager Dominik Powroznik travelled to the Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky with the brand’s ambassador, Amanda Humphrey, to select the finishing staves. After sampling distillates finished using each of the five options, they selected the staves that best fit their goal for the liquid.
'[Balthazar’s cuisine] has a combination of French and American roots, so we wanted to make a whiskey that made sense with that,’ said Favaretto, introducing the expression at a launch dinner at the restaurant.
This vision translated to two 'Baked American Pure’ staves, which give classic new American oak aromas of vanilla and caramel; two staves used in Maker’s Mark 46, lending notes of baking spice, oak and char; two ‘Mocha’ staves, which were deeply charred for aromas of bitter dark chocolate and roasted coffee; and four French oak ‘Cuvée’ staves, with layers of butterscotch, toffee and honey.
'We designed [Balthazar’s bourbon] with two things in mind: to serve in cocktails, and to drink neat,’ Favaretto continued. We think the liquid is excellent for both purposes. On the nose, a soft base note of sweetcorn is layered with vanilla, tobacco, spice and caramel, while the palate intensifies these aromas with flavours of caramel popcorn, vanilla ice cream, sweet spice and leather. The bourbon’s weighty texture balances its signature alcoholic edge, for a spirit we’d happily sip on its own and in an Old Fashioned.
Maker’s Mark’s Private Select programme launched in the US in 2015 and became available to the UK market in October 2018. Balthazar is the second UK venue to participate - nearby Scarfes Bar has also made its own expression.
Balthazar Maker’s Mark Private Select, limited to 250 bottles, is available in the restaurant and will soon be available on the Balthazar website, retailing for £100/75cl