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

Charred Virgin Oak
70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley
Distiller Maker's Mark (Loretto, Kentucky)

Maker’s Mark is a distillery which has been run by the Samuel’s family since 1780. The present distillery was built in 1953 by Bill Samuels after prohibition. Though his family had been in the business for some time, the whisky which was produced was not very drinkable. Bill Samuel’s wanted a return to making whisky, with a slightly different bourbon – a bit lighter and more premium than before.

The recipe came out to be 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley. Usually, in bourbon, which requires a recipe of at least 51% corn, there is what is called a “secondary” grain which is usually rye which contributes a bold, spicy taste. In this case, wheat is the secondary grain, which brings in sweetness and a bit of a softer style with a very full body. Maker’s Mark also uses a rolling mill to crush their grain rather than a hammer system, because of belief that hammering makes for a more bitter taste. They also put their spirit in the barrels at 110 proof (55%), rather than the more common 125 proof (62.5%), getting a bit different extraction from the wood.

The name itself, “Maker’s Mark”, comes from old English pewter makers who put their mark on their finest pieces. Also , as a side note, they put “whisky” rather than “whiskey” (the Irish and American spelling) on their bottles, because of their Scottish origins. Currently, Maker’s whiskies are very popular that they have had demand issues and they have maxed out water source at distillery, so they can’t expand on current site.

This whiskey is iconic for presentation – the wax is unique, colourful, and is soft enough to open easily enough. The label is also quite nice on it. The family that runs Maker’s (Samuel’s) were known for making pretty horrible whisky, until the brand was re-vamped and one thing that was important in their revamping was a good bottle which Ms. Samuels was quite adamant about – and it does the trick.

Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Code: ~2013

Nose: Caramel, dried corn husks, mint, butterscotch, green grape, and oak, and some sweet vanilla. Berry notes also – raspberry. Wheat is a wonderful second grain – it provides softness and creaminess, and thick body that you can almost feel in the nose. It’s a bit oily, and I even got whiffs of olive oil! I find even as I spend more time with it I can pick out the wheat as well, distinctly in the nose. At times, there’s a bit of stale bitterness that comes through which knocks the score down a point. Generally, though, well constructed and engaging if not a bit simple.

Taste: Corn, unsurprisingly enough – with a good bit of an oak, honey, cherries, and an earthy kick (even some notes of earl grey tea!), with some light oaky tannins and cinnamon to finish off. The body is very nice, and comes in with quite nice feel to it as well.

Finish: Light, and a bit weaker than the nose or the palate. But, what remains is good – dried corn, some nuttiness, plum(tart, a bit like the skin), prunes, and then earthy oak and a bit of a cinnamon spice character, both of which grow with time. There’s an interesting bit of feel to it that is somewhat acidic, which is interesting – but it is fairly dry too, which I generally like.

It’s fairly simple, but it does the job pretty well and I quite enjoy that. It is very enjoyable – I must say – easy to sip, very enjoyable. and consistent across the board.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $47.