Review: Maker's Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

New Charred Oak
70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Maker's Mark (Loretto, Kentucky)

If you ever make it to Maker’s Mark distillery – an attractive and quite beautiful distillery – they let you dip your own bottles in their signature red wax. It was so with these bottles for me, after a trip down to Kentucky – a bit of a personal touch. However, really the treasure of this bottle has to do with what is inside. This whisky was only released this fall – a surprise, perhaps, for a distillery that has been long known for only having 1 brand (nearly for 50 years, before Maker’s 46 came out in 2010). Initially, it has just been sold in the distillery and in limited quantities elsewhere, but soon it will be a bit more widespread, though, undoubtedly, hard to find. As with other Maker's whiskies, it goes into the barrel at 55%.

The whisky is bottled at cask strength, or 56.7%, so either you’ll get a lot of flavour (in some cases it can be too intense), or you’re looking to add some water to this (not so bad to stretch the bottle out!). This is compared to the 45% that the standard Maker's is bottled at, or the 47% of Maker's 46. Many followers of the distillery are quite happy to see this, as many people find the standard Maker’s bottling a bit light.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: 14-02

  • Bottling Code: L143 221 1951

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Coconut jumps right out of the glass, along with some rich dried corn husks. There’s much more of an elegant feel to this one than to the other Maker’s bottlings – it is rich and very engaging. There are some sweeter fruit notes of pineapple, some rich caramel in the background, and then some apricot jam and marmelade too. Then, there’s also a very nice oaky earthiness which keeps growing – but never takes over. Mint, also is hanging about this one. Brilliant. Though rich and complicated, sometimes there’s a bit of stale bitterness coming up which is too bad.

Taste: Lots of pineapple, and a good kick of dense earthy oak alongside dark chocolate. It is big, but quite controlled and I have no trouble drinking it without any water (though I have had whisky at 86% without the need to add water, so I may not be the typical drinker). Certainly much bigger than the other two Maker’s expressions. There’s some more coconut and a light sweetness to this too – together they remind me a bit of coconut hard candies (which I don’t really like, but I like this here). Just like on the nose, there’s a touch of mint on the end and the sweetness picks up towards the end.

Finish: The oak and earthiness grow, unfolding to some pineapple, vanilla bean (a bit more intense and sweet than the typical vanilla you get), black pekoe tea, caramel, dried corn husks. It has good weight and length. The oak seems to be bordering on too much bitterness but usually doesn’t pass into anything unpleasant. Regardless, the quality is good enough that it doesn’t diminish the finish much.

It is a good whisky, for sure – and a nice take on Maker’s too because it is a much bigger whisky. Though very good, I found it wasn’t quite as balanced and put together as I was hoping. The bitter tang on the finish is unfortunate, but, as you can see from my scores, this really is very nice and, overall, it is an excellent and interesting. Compared to Maker's 46, which I also really like – it is bigger, more tannic, and sweeter. I think my choice between the two is probably mood-dependent over anything – I find 46 to be a bit softer and more elegant than this. Both are very nice, and share some melodies – but both play two very different sorts of music, and at different volumes.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $100/750 ml.