September 17, 2020
Weller Special Reserve and Marker’s Mark are both sub $30 wheated bourbons (based on MSRP) from well-known Kentucky distilleries, but the bourbon world treats them very differently. To oversimplify, Weller Special Reserve is desirable enough that it’s either very difficult to find or heavily marked up in most parts of the country, while Maker’s Mark is everywhere. I guess it works in Maker’s Mark’s favor that they keep it simple by using only one mashbill while Buffalo Trace juggles five mashbills (plus experimental ones) across an ever-expanding product line.
You might reasonably think that Weller Special Reserve is so much better than Maker’s Mark to justify its desirability. and that’s exactly why we’re here today. Let’s find out how different these two wheated bourbons are (or aren’t) and whether one comes out as the superior bourbon in this Weller Special Reserve vs Maker’s Mark wheated bourbon comparison.
The below table outlines key facts and figures for each wheated bourbon.
I’ll tear the band-aid off – I prefer Weller Special Reserve to the standard Maker’s Mark. The main reason I didn’t pick Maker’s Mark was because of its overly prominent grassy nuttiness and sourdough funk that overpower the sweetness and fruitiness. I usually don’t mind grassy nuttiness and funk, but it’s so present here that it distracts me from enjoy everything else. Weller Special Reserve is able to keep it mostly together and have some balance between the sweetness, fruitiness, and oak, with a little extra green grape, apple, and pear. For the most part I enjoy it, although it has some black pepper flavor that seems out of place. Weller SR still isn’t great.
In terms of overall personality, Weller Special Reserve is the brighter and less oaky bourbon while Maker’s Mark is more grassy, nutty, dark, and lightly sour. Don’t be mistaken though, both are still decent “Mid Shelf” bourbons that don’t outperform their price, but it’s clear to me that I enjoy Weller Special Reserve more. Looking at a broader range of wheated bourbons, I still prefer Larceny Bourbon (this is certainly a hot take), but it’s very different than Weller Special Reserve. At the end of the day, enjoy what you want, but when I reach for a wheated bourbon, I’m not reaching for either Weller Special Reserve or Maker’s Mark, I’m reaching for Maker’s Mark Cask Strength or a Private Selection.