Whiskey Name: Maker’s Mark
Distillery: Maker’s Mark
Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Release Date: General release
Price: Depends on the supermarket. Not more than £30 – usually findable for a fair bit less.
Mashbill: 70% corn, 16% wheat, 14% malted barley.
Introduction/Background: We’ve reviewed a lot of young wheat-recipe bourbon this month, with rather mixed results. But here’s a young wheater which needs absolutely no introduction whatsoever.
According to legend, Bill Samuels came up with the Maker’s Mark recipe after baking a selection of loaves, and picking his favourite. He went on to make his whiskey, sealed the bottle with red, dribbly wax, and the rest is history and ubiquity.
Maker’s is just about the epitome of a distillery looking to maintain consistency. Bill Samuels never branched out from the standard red top (“you don’t see a Château Lafite Reserve”, as he allegedly put it) and there have only been one or two riffs on the original theme since. (One of which is simply a cask strength version of the classic.)
To maintain their profile, Maker’s are constantly moving barrels around the warehouses, aiming for the most even of maturation across their stock. And, contrary to what the Van Winkle Family think, (and, if I’m honest, what I think too) they maintain that wheat-recipe bourbon is best-served youthful. And, obviously, they’d know a lot better than me!
So let’s give this a go.
Appearance: Toffee fudge
Nose: Light and rather floral. Orange blossoms, caramels and vanillas. Clearly not old, but in a fresh way; there’s none of that acetone or bready character that has popped up so much in the last few weeks.
Mouth: Vibrant and lively palate. Apple joins the caramel, and the floral aspects increase. Again it’s showing off bourbon’s lighter side, and when you hold it in your mouth the alcohol prickles a little, but this is clean, sweet, tasty stuff.
Finish: Butterscotch trails off; a touch of unexpected chocolate and oak briefly ripples past.
Value for Money: A good, solid bet.
Summary: Maker’s were definitely right to reverse their decision to lower the ABV a few years back, and not just because they’d have lost a lot of support. This is definitely a light style of bourbon, and they need that extra 5% to add a touch of engine and substance that would otherwise be lacking.
They are, however, one of the exceptions that proves the rule where young wheat is concerned, and I’m left scratching my head over quite how they manage it. I can only conclude that the secret lies in A-grade blending; that the careful layering of barrels promotes caramel and mouthfeel, and irons out any acetone, immaturity or excessive grain.
Don’t get me wrong, my world is not rocked, but it’s far from the worst thing you’ll find on supermarket shelves; there’s a good deal to enjoy here.
Overall Verdict: Light, and not especially challenging, but very well made and plenty enjoyable. A classic for a reason.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim