Distillery: Maker’s Mark
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: 70% Corn, 16% Soft Winter Wheat, 14% Malted Barley
Aged: NAS (rumored ~6 years), aged in virgin American white oak
Price: $3 (50ml bottle), $25-30 (750ml)
From the Heaven Hill website:“Bill Samuels, Sr., simply wanted a whisky he would enjoy drinking. That’s why Maker’s Mark is made with soft red winter wheat, instead of the usual rye, for a full-flavored bourbon that’s never bitter or hot. To ensure consistency, we rotate every barrel by hand and age our bourbon to taste, not time. Each and every bottle of Maker’s is still hand-dipped in signature red wax at our distillery in Loretto, Ky., just like bill would have wanted.” Company Website
Maker’s Mark is Maker’s Mark’s most widely sold and popular product. This is a wheated bourbon, meaning that wheat, instead of rye, is used as the main secondary grain. Wheat creates a sweeter and less spicy flavor that is reminiscent of wheat bread instead of pumpernickel bread. Unlike the cask strength version, which has batch numbers, the regular version is blended using significantly more barrels. It’s not better or worse, just their business practice. The company doesn’t disclose the exact number of barrels.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength and Van Winkle Special Reserve 12, part of the vaunted “Pappy” line of bourbons are other wheated bourbons that have also been reviewed. For a more in-depth comparison between the regular and cask strength versions, click the image below to read more. For now, let’s see how Maker’s Mark is by itself.
As advertised, Maker’s Mark has a nice and mellow smell. The first smell is a light to moderate blend of honey, orange, lemon, and alcohol, akin to sweet tea (plus alcohol). Sniffing more reveals hints of slightly sour corn and wheat, the taste of pre-distillation mash. After swirling the liquid, the alcohol becomes a little more potent, but still reserved. The swirling also seems to release some wood, grass, and floral smells. This lacks the roasted nut smell that the cask-strength version possesses. Maybe it’s due to the small-batch nature of the cask strength offering, or something to do with alcohol proof. When the glass is empty, more floral and sour corn and wheat mash notes appear.
I’m pleasantly surprised by the smell. Even though I had to dig harder to identify the scents, as compared to smelling the cask strength version, I do not have much to complain about. If you want bolder scents, just buy the cask strength version.
Just like the nose, the taste is also mellow and smooth. At first, I primarily taste moderate amounts of honey, with a little bit of wood spice and alcohol that surround the sugars. Agitating the liquid in my mouth produces a stronger malty taste of sour corn and wheat. Underneath that, there are additional flavors of vanilla, lemon tea with honey, and some wood spice.
The aftertaste is very subdued after the first sip. There’s a little bit of lemon, with a slightly bitter finish comparable to drinking black tea. After I swish the liquid in my mouth, there are slightly stronger wood and spice notes. The finish also lasts longer, with lingering bubblegum sweetness, vanilla, and lemon tea. Maker’s Mark overall is a pleasant tasting bourbon that is solid, but not spectacular.
Pairings are the same as with Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. Given the strong notes of sugar and grass, I think Maker’s Mark would pair will with honey glazed ham, chicken, corn bread, dessert breads (banana bread, etc), fruit and/or nut pies, custard, nuts, puddings, pancakes, and baklava.
I don’t think it would pair well with dark and heavy foods such as red meats and desserts with a lot of chocolate, since this bourbon doesn’t have much in terms of burnt wood or chocolate flavors.
I’ve had Maker’s Mark numerous times over the years, but never paid much attention to it before. I’m pleasantly surprised to say that I like this. It’s not outstanding, but it’s still a very solid option if you’re looking for something that’s easier to drink neat. It has a nice combination of sweetness, citrus, malt, wood, and alcohol that are not too intense or challenging.
My issue is that it’s too mellow, but that’s why there is the cask strength version. If you’re like me and want more flavor, buy the cask strength version instead. Regardless, I think a lot of people will like the regular version too.