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In the spirit of research, a few of us recently sat down to taste through and compare/contrast all of Maker's Mark's current offerings. Because it honestly seemed like the right thing to do on a Friday afternoon and because Derby Day is rapidly approaching ...and because sometimes inspiration flow is intimately tied to bourbon flow.

Maker's 46, which is aged a bit longer than their original label in barrels containing seared French oak staves, was unanimously adored by all tasters around the table. The flavors are mild, but complex, in this smooth sipping bourbon.

Decidedly, the 46 is a fantastic all-purpose bourbon: perfect for mixing without dominating the drink and completely delicious to enjoy with only an ice cube or two. While original Maker's is a bit sweet for a few of our in-house bourbon fanatics, they found their Cask Strength to be just right. Going straight from barrel to bottle, the oak and caramel-vanilla notes are slightly more prominent in Maker's cask strength than in the other bottles, making it  perfect for serious bourbon drinkers to savor solo or to deploy in cocktails where you want your spirit to truly shine through.

Whether you're partying down for Derby or simply enjoying some sunshine today, try one (or both) of the following mint juleps to get your weekend-spiration flowing!

Ponchatoula Julep

This julep comes from Kimberly Patton-Bragg of Three Muses in New Orleans. Her strawberry-kissed sipper is named for the city of Ponchatoula, Lousiana—the strawberry capital of the world. If you can't find Fraises Des Bois, Chambord will work as a fine substitution. Minty sweet and lightened with a bit of fruity tang, this julep makes the most of the 46's mild flavor and smooth versatility.

1/4 ounce cane syrup
4 fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
1 strawberry, quartered, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 ounces Maker's 46
3/4 ounce Fraises Des Bois liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes aromatic bitters

1.) Add syrup to a julep cup or high ball glass; muddle strawberry and mint leaves in syrup. Add crushed ice to glass. Combine the remaining ingredients in a separate glass, stirring. Pour bourbon mixture over the muddled mixture and ice; stir gently. Garnish with mint leaves and strawberries.

Vallone's Signature Mint Julep

A signature cocktail of Houston, Texas's Vallone's, this julep leans on the deep, oaky nuances of Maker's Cask Strength, accentuating the bourbon's depth with a simple syrup enhanced by dried fruit and walnuts.

Keeping the mint contained to a finishing touch prevents the cocktail from taking on an overly herbaceous flavor, but still allows for taking in the minty fresh aroma as you sip. If the drink is a bit too robust or sweet for your taste, brighten it up with a small squeeze of lemon.

For the spiced simple syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon golden rasins
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon Texas walnuts

For the cocktail:
1 1/2 ounces Maker's Mark Cask Strength
3/4 ounce spiced simple syrup 
fresh mint leaves,
blueberries, and/or cherries for garnish

1.) Make the spiced simple syrup: Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Bring mixture to a boil; strain and cool completely.

2) Make the drink Combine bourbon and syrup in a julep cup or high ball glass, stirring. Add crushed ice to glass. Garnish with fresh mint and fruit.