Tasting Video #18


I had such a good time tasting Bottle #1: Maker’s Mark with Neal Bodenheimer! We compared old and new, and found lots to like about them both, but mostly marveled at how VERY different they are. We theorized about why that might be, talked about the unfortunate end of Neal’s mini bottle collection, and more.

Prefer to read than watch? Check out the transcript under the video.



Neal: I have a theory before…

Tammy: Excellent

Neal: That I think that that we’re going to be tasting much more robust whiskey even though it’s wheated.

After Opening

Tammy: Hello and welcome to my tiny bottles the project I’m exploring my grandmother’s legacy of miniature liquor bottles one tiny bottle at a time. I’m your host Tammy Coxen, and I’m in New Orleans with Neil Bodenheimer.

Tammy: Neil thank you for hosting us today, first of all, and why don’t you introduce yourself.

Neal: Thanks Tammy. Well first of all I’m really excited to sit down and do this. And thanks to you for thinking about me to come through and taste a few exciting drams here.

Tammy: My pleasure, let me tell you.

Neal: So my name is Neal Bodenheimer and I’m the found of CureCo. CureCo is a bar and restaurant group that started in 2009 with Cure, where we’re sort of sitting above Cure here in the offices. And then we also have Cane & Table and Peychaud’s, which is part of the Celestine which is a new hotel that just opened. And then we also have VALS down the street just about a block away, and then I’m also a partner in a restaurant in DC called Dauphines, it’s a new Orleans restaurant, it’s a wonderful place.

Tammy: Awesome

Neal: And then I serve as the co-chair of the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation.

Tammy: Which is an amazing resume, and Tales of the Cocktail Foundation is doing amazing work.

Neal: Yeah, yeah, we’re really excited about 2024 and whats to come.

Tammy: I have never been to a Tales, it’s been on my radar to do for a while. Have not done it, although I did do the virtual one during the pandemic and that was great. It was, you know, a really good opportunity for somebody

Neal (pointing at tiny bottle): You’ve got great reasons to come

Tammy: Yeah, and that is my plan, right, to come and taste some bottles with folks! So, speaking of tasting bottles, I hear you have a tiny bottle story of your own.

Neal: Yes, so I used to have a really great tiny bottle collection.

Tammy: Okay

Neal: So, my parents had it and they gave it to me when I was a kid because the bottles were so beautiful. It sat up on top of a big bookshelf.

Tammy: Oh no…

Neal: And then when I turned 13, my brother decided that it would be a good idea for me to get drunk all those tiny bottles

Tammy: Oh no!

Neal: So I no longer have a tiny bottle collection, but I have a really great first buzz/very drunk story.

Tammy; So what decades were their bottles?

Neal: Well, I think a lot of it was probably 1970s and 80s, but I do think there was some stuff from the 60s. I mean not that I knew at 13, it was a means to an end.

Tammy: And this is very much a part of my childhood too, because we would travel, and anywhere you went you would pick up a bottle for grandma, right? And so we would stop at the duty free and try to remember what she had and pick out something. And I remember, I don’t know if I’ve just made this up, but I remember a tequila that had a hat on the top. And so that’s the one I remember picking out for her and I haven’t found it yet.

Neal: And it’s so interesting because as I remember these little bottles as a kid, and not that I cared what was in them…

Tammy: Not at all!

Neal: I just thought they were really cool.

Tammy: Yep. And that’s me too. And then after my grandma died a couple years ago, I was like, what happened to grandma’s minis? Because now I teach cocktail classes and I learn all about the history and the stories behind these bottles. And I was like “She must have some amazing things in there.” And indeed

Neal: Sure enough, sure enough, grandma did.

Tammy: So, I don’t know that this is the most amazing thing that she has, but it Bottle #1 that I did on the show so far. And so it felt like it was time to taste it. And you were like, dealer’s choice, just give me whatever. So I brought you Maker’s Mark.

Tammy (looking at bottom of bottle): Handy thing with American bottles we have the date of manufacture on the bottom, so the bottle itself was made in 1994, so we can assume that the whiskey itself was probably put into within a year of that. Which doesn’t sound like very long ago until you do the math and realize it’s 30-year-old bourbon.

Neal: Yeah. I think I may have been drinking Maker’s Mark in 1995.

Tammy: So were you still a child then, was it on the top shelf?

Neal: No, so I had my first bar job at 18, and it used to be 18 to drink in New Orleans. So, not that I was… I mean Maker’s Mark was the good stuff.

Tammy: It was! And you know that was their whole marketing strategy, right, like you know “It tastes expensive, because it is.” They went all in on that. And that’s what I talk about in the episode about this bottle, they really were trying to take bourbon, which the reputation have fallen so much in the 60s, and try to make it good again. So it really was the good bourbon for a long time.

Neal: Well and it worked and it still is really good bourbon, but it was, like, the fanciest bourbon back then.

Tammy: Yeah, yeah, they did a great job with their marketing.

Tammy (beginning to open bottle): All right, well, I’ve had many bottles that are very hard to get into, but so far this one is performing as we would expect Makers to do with a nice pull tab here. Nice high shoulder level, I think this one should be pretty good. No evaporation to speak of.

Neal: Color looks good.

Tammy: Smells like makers.

Neal: It really does. A little softer on the nose, a little softer on the nose than modern. I mean going from memory, right?

Tammy: Well, what proof is this? (looks) So this is 45% alcohol.

Neal: Yeah, so 90 proof, same as today.

Tammy (smelling): Caramel-y.

Neal: I always get his eggnog thing with Makers. I get it constantly.

Tammy: So do you think it’s a nutmeg thing?

Neal: I think it could be.

Tammy: Because what smell do we associate with eggnog?

Neal: It’s like creaminess. It’s nutmeg. And it’s, and, and I also like associate eggnog with Bourbon too. So it’s like, they kind of like reinforce each other.

Tammy: Right.

Tammy: It smells good.

(they taste and ponder)

Tammy: It’s a perfectly tasty bourbon, I gotta say.

Tammy: I’m a rye girl. So I mean, a wheated bourbon is like, my least interesting bourbon, generally speaking.

Neal: I’d be curious to taste it with the new stuff, because I feel in some ways I feel this is even thinner than what’s being produced today.

Tammy: Right and that kind of makes sense for the ‘90s, right? Cause bourbon’s just really starting to come back again.

Neal: Exactly. Yeah

Tammy: And their still maybe speaking to a palette that got accustomed to blended whiskey

Neal: Blended whiskey, and look I mean vodka was king in the 90.

Tammy: That’s true right, if you’re trying to fight with vodka you don’t want it…

Neal: Exactly and i just think that the American palate today is much more robust and is drawn to more robust flavors. So it’s gonna be interesting. I have theory before…

Tammy: Excellent

Neal: that I think that that we’re going to be tasting a much more robust whiskey even though it’s wheated.

Tammy: So I got to meet Dave Pickerell before he died and he talked about how Makers keeps a library and they really do go back and taste against the older bottles to try to make the style consistent through the years so that’s what makes it particularly interesting.

Neal: It’s a hard to job to keep consistency through the years.

Tammy: Well, you said you wanted to taste this against a modern bottle. But then I asked you “Do you happen to have any Maker’s at the bar” and you did not. But then there’s this (pointing to full size bottle of Maker’s on table). So what is this?

Neal: Yeah, I do have one bottle of Makers at the bar. And I do love Maker’s Mark we just don’t have it right now.

Tammy: Sure, that happens!

Neal: So this was a bottle from 2013, and this is when Maker’s Mark cut the proof and then pulled everything back, pulled all the stock back…

Tammy: Indeed, this one says 42% alcohol by volume

Neal: 84 proof Maker’s Mark and we got it and it was right as they recalled all those bottles and re-release the 90 proof, as they realized that people were not gonna have a proof-cut in their Maker’s Mark. And so we wanted to keep this bottle and we put it away put it in the case. But I feel like it’s fitting to have it out for our tasting.

Tammy: Absolutely! Well luckily for us I did bring a modern sample of Maker’s Mark. In true New Orleans-style I went to my hotel bar and I asked for a go cup.

Tammy holds up a disposable coffee cup and starts pouring bourbon from it

Neal: You are living it.

Tammy: And they gave us a lot, so we have a lot of Maker’s to go through here.

Neal: That’s the other New Orleans style, a to-go and then a heavy pour.

Neal (picking up glasses): Yeah, you can see it in the color too. Slight variation

Tammy (picking up her glasses) Slight variation.

Neal: Yeah, a little darker on the new one.

Tammy: You think a little darker on the new? I was going to say a little lighter on the newer. I’m going to try doing it against a white wall.

Tammy: Yeah, a little darker on the new one. I’m with you. I’m with you on that now.

They smell the new sample

Tammy: I get banana!

Neal: Yeah.

Tammy: Immediately.

Neal: 100% tropical fruit.

Tammy (smelling up old sample to compare): Oh, and this is all caramel. It smells great. The old one smells so good.

Neal: Yeah, it does. It’s really changed.

Tammy: They do, you know, the little bottles, they change so much.

Neal: Yeah, just as they get, they get air.

Tammy: Like finally some air after 30 years.

Tammy: Right. (Smelling new sample) Definitely need air in this.

Neal: The good news is that your coffee cup had a nice opening at the top to get plenty of aeration.

Tammy: Yeah, it’s had plenty of aeration. It’s been in there for a little while. It might be down to 84 proof by now.

Neal: Little sweeter, little rounder.

Tammy: Little rounder. I’m with you on more full-flavored, right? Like there’s definitely just more flavor in general. Feels hotter.

Neal: It does, it does drink hotter.

Tammy: Yeah. Despite it having aerated this cup for a couple hours.

Neal: It does have like a pretty pronounced like grainy, like little bit of spice on the finish too.

Tammy: Definitely spice, yeah. And I’m not sure, I don’t remember any spice on the old one.

Tammy: That’s interesting because I was talking about how I like rye, what I like about rye is the spiciness of rye, right? And this brings me a little bit of that.

Neal: Mmm-hmmm.

Tammy: I’m going to go back to the old one.

Neal: Yeah, really interesting. There very, very different.

Tammy: Really really soft.

Neal: The finish has like very little spice on it. No tropical fruit.

Tammy: Nope. None. Is that a yeast change?

Neal: I don’t know, I mean it certainly could be. Right?

Tammy: And also when I tasted Jack Daniels with Sother, it was like a 1980s Jack Daniels. And one of the things he said is the grains we use today are just different. Right? The corn then, 30 years ago, was different than the corn we’re using now.

Neal: Yeah, absolutely and the wheat. I’m sure someone who’s closer to Maker’s Mark and is into Beam-Suntory could tell you if their other grain supplies are the same. Are they sourcing them from the same place?

Tammy: But 30 years you know? Like climate change, right? Everything’s just changed and just yields right I’m sure they’re optimizing for yield on corn now. This is where you get the small distillers who are going back trying to use those heirloom varieties. I mean, they might be using corns that are closer to what were used 30 years ago, when there wasn’t nearly so much demand for bourbon.

Neal: Yeah, really different, really cool to see the difference.

Tammy: Really interesting. I just, what I love about this going back to the old one is just that caramel nose. It’s so caramel-y!

Neal: I mean, I think the general thesis is I would happily drink both of them.

Tammy: Yep, 100%. And that’s what I like about Maker’ss. It’s easy and you know what you’re going to get. Unless, of course, you have a 30 year old bottle, and then yeah, it’s a little different. But generally you know what you’re going to get. It’s reliable, it mixes well with lots of different ingredients, and you don’t have to mix it.

Tammy: My dear friend Ken, who I think watches, he, you know, if we’re in a dodgy bar and he’s not sure. he’ll order Maker’s on the rocks. Totally reliable.

Neal: Yeah, absolutely. You know, you want consistent quality products and Maker’ss has done that for a long, long time.

Tammy: I like that modern pepper and the classic smooth and caramel.

Tammy: Well, that was fun.

Neal: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing your 1995?

Tammy: I like to say 1994 because we’re in 2024 and so 30 years.

Neal: That works for me.

Tammy: Great! Cheers.

Neal: Cheers!

Tammy: And I always forget, and I cheers because I’m excited in the middle of the conversation, and I forget to say, so Neal, where can people find you online?

Neal: You can find me at @nealbodie on Instagram and then @curnola. Cane and Table is @caneandtable. And at @valsnola and at @dauphinesdc. And at @peychaudsbar

Tammy And of course you can find me at mytinybottles.com or @mytinybottles on all your social media. Do follow, like, subscribe, do all those things. Leave a comment – we’d love to hear your experiences. Did you drink a bunch of minis when you were a kid? Share your story and come back and watch another episode. Thanks again, Neal.

Neal: Thank you.



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