Maker's Mark Gold 101 (2014) Review [In Depth]

Maker's Mark Gold 101 (2014)

Alex author
Founder, writer
Maker's Mark Gold 101 1994 header

Maker's Mark Gold 101 Details

Distillery: Maker’s Mark

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky

Alcohol: 50.5%

Composition: 70% Corn, 16% Soft Winter Wheat, 14% Malted Barley

Aged: NAS

Color: 1.5/2.0 on the color scale (auburn, polished mahogany)

Price: No idea, I paid about $150

From the bottle

Maker’s Mark has been praised the world over for its clean, sophisticated taste and amicable character. For those who prefer the distinction of a higher proof whisky, Maker’s Mark distillery has specially aged this 101 proof bourbon. Only a very small portion of our 38 barrels a day capacity is devoted to this whisky.

maker's mark gold 101 overview

Maker’s Mark has a lengthy history that goes as far back as the 1950s. While the regular Maker’s Mark, bottle, label and red wax, hasn’t changed that much over the years, the gold version has gone through a few revisions in label, bottle shape, and ABV. There used to be Maker’s Mark Gold VIP (with a customizable label) with a 45% ABV bourbon with a more square bottle shape and a thin neck. I think Maker’s 101 these days uses the same bottle shape with the thinner neck.
Then in the mid 80’s there was Maker’s Mark Gold with the same bottle shape as regular Maker’s (I reviewed it), but with way more gold color on everything. Then in the 90s (this bottle is probably from 1994) there was this Maker’s Mark Gold 101, with gold and slightly green hues.
To the best of my knowledge, this particular 101 proof Maker’s Mark Gold had the highest ABV until they released the cask strength version as a distillery-only release and then nationally around 2014.
There’s a shocking fact printed on the label: they only filled 38 barrels a day back in 1994. That’s a pretty small operation, probably on par with some of the better known craft distilleries today. Now, I’m pretty sure Maker’s fills 38 barrels in an hour, far from a small operation.
Maker's Mark Gold 101 1994 side 2
Through incredible luck and the ability to speak some Japanese to ask the store to hold it for me for a few hours, I found this bottle for $150 in Japan and jumped at the chance to buy it. And then the waiting game started because I knew I was going to wait to move back to the US before opening it. And within a week of coming back, I opened it. I’d rather find out what it’s like to drink than flip it.
Let’s find out if this old bourbon sets the gold standard for Maker’s Mark in this 1994 Maker’s Mark Gold 101 bourbon review.
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maker's mark gold 101 smell

Well that’s delightful. Maker’s Mark 101 sprints out of the gate with caramel, creamy vanilla, roasted oak, marshmallow, cinnamon, maple syrup, dried cherry and apricot, cocoa and coffee powder. It has a strong s’mores vibe with fruit thrown on top of it, very full and expressive scents that are captivating.
Interestingly, this is more roasty and oaky than I’m accustomed to with old bourbon (but still fruity), a very different personality than the more fruity and less spicy 1994 Wild Turkey 8 Year and 1993 Blanton’s. Even so, it’s not a densely burnt and roasted oakiness and grassiness, nothing like today’s Maker’s Mark.
After swirling and rest, I smell dense caramel candy, buttercream, candied apricot and red apple, orange peel, roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, coffee, dried cherry, and dark chocolate. Ooh boy the scents are beautifully dense and mature, with awesome layers of sweetness, fruit, oak, and spice. It’s especially caramel candy-forward, like a Werther’s.
I also get more dried fruit and sweetness with slightly more subdued oak. Nonetheless, it’s still more roasty than other bourbons from the same era, but still maintains the amazing round and dense sweetness. It’s a smell to behold
Dang Maker’s Mark, you used to make some amazing bourbon.
Maker's Mark Gold 101 1994 side 1

maker's mark gold 101 taste and aftertaste

On my first sip I taste caramel, dried cherry and apricot, roasted oak, vanilla frosting, cinnamon, orange peel, clove, dark chocolate, and coffee. This is flat out delicious.
Maker’s Mark Gold 101 is quite fruity, full, and expressive as these old bourbons tend to be, but there’s a denser roastiness, oakiness, and spiciness that hints at what bourbon will become in the future. This has more of the oakiness of an Anderson Club 15 Year. Who knows, maybe the bourbon in here is 12+ years old.
It tastes extremely well matured. I haven’t even gotten to “chewing” yet and it’s already delicious
After “chewing” Maker’s Mark Gold 101 has awesomely dense caramel candy, vanilla buttercream, dried apricot and red apple, a mix of dark old oak and roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, dark chocolate, and coffee. It has an amazing density that goes heavy on that dark caramel candy drizzled with fruit and charred just the right amount.
The fruit brings its own lively pop at times and there’s this effervescent and bright character towards the back, like a mix of fruit, cinnamon, and clove for some extra zing. The slightly extra oak is present too, but it provides a beautiful backdrop for everything else.
The aftertaste starts with caramel, dried cherry, roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, dark chocolate, and toasted marshmallow, ending with lingering gentle oak, cinnamon, and maple syrup. After”chewing”, it leaves caramel, dried apricot and red apple, vanilla, roasted oak, cinnamon, and coffee, and again ends with lingering caramel, toasted oak, cinnamon, and apricot syrup that’s just superb.
It tastes so developed, balanced, dynamic, vibrant, and densely dark all at the same time with very little heat. This again is Maker’s Mark at its best.
Maker's Mark Gold 101 1994 side 2

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2014 Maker's Mark Gold 101 Rating

Top Shelf +
1994 Maker’s Mark Gold is a masterpiece from a time when Maker’s Mark could age patiently, blend carefully, and produce gorgeously. It is another testament to what once was, and may never be again. $150 is a steal for a bourbon of this caliber.
I have never had a Maker’s Mark quite like this, not even the 1986 Maker’s Gold. If anything, this 1994 Gold is a hybrid of the 1986 Gold and 2014 Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. It still packs wonderful fruitiness and old oak like the 1986, but has a little more caramel and vanilla buttercream sweetness, oak, and spice like the 2014. It’s a gorgeous wheated bourbon.
Unlike the modern versions, there’s no dense grassiness or doughy gumminess to make this smell or taste weird, overly wheaty, or young. Unfortunately, those notes are quite prevalent in today’s Makers Mark and I can’t quite shake the thought that it’s rushed. I’m sure age is part of it, but there’s more to what makes the past and today’s versions so different.
I’ve written this over and over, but I still always wish that more bourbons like this were produced today and were accessible as they probably were in the 80s and 90s.
This brings me to my final point (that I already harped on over and over), old bourbon is generally so much better than what’s made today. 1994 Maker’s Mark Gold 101 is liquid gold.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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