Maker’s Mark Background
Marker’s Mark is a wheated Bourbon, meaning it uses wheat as a secondary grain instead of rye. Swapping out the rye with wheat makes the whiskey generally sweeter and easier drinking and that was the goal here with Maker’s Mark.
The Samuels family has been distilling in Kentucky since the 1780’s. T.W. Samuels, Bill Samuels Sr father, set out to restart whiskey making after prohibition and they were basically starting over from scratch. Bill Sr. suggested they rework the recipe to make the whiskey more drinkable for modern pallets, but his dad didn’t want to change a thing so they restarted operations using the old family recipe.
Before World War II Bill Sr sold the family company and after the war he purchased the failing Burks Spring Distillery for $35,000. He and his wife developed the current recipe through baking bread with combinations of wheat and rye. They settled on flavors made with red winter wheat. There is also a Stitzel-Weller connection as Pappy Van Winkle provided help with his recipes. Stizel-Weller produced wheated Bourbons of their own with the Pappy, Weller, and Old Fitzgerald lines. The story goes that after Bill Sr got the recipe he wanted, he burned the old family recipe. In 1953 Bill Sr launched what is today Marker’s Mark, which was a premium Bourbon designed to be full flavored and easy drinking. In1975 Bill Samuels Jr. took over operations when his dad retired and now his son Rob Samuels is president. The company is owned by Suntory.
Currently the company is undergoing expansion with a third still, which will increase distilling capacity by 50%. The expansion seeks to replicate their existing setup to maintain Maker’s Mark’s character and quality. Maker’s Mark did a similar replication expansion to two stills in 2002.
Bottled at 45%. No age statement, but claimed to be age about six years. Mash bill is 70% corn, 16% red winter wheat, 14% barley. Paid $30 (state minimum).
Caramel, toffee, corn, charred wood. Smells sweet.
Sweet up front. Caramel, maple syrup, corn. Rich. Some warming on the finish and a touch of astringency. Nice char comes through. Definitely balanced to the sweet and caramel. A little water brings out more sweetness and cools it down a bit, but thins it out too much, I think.
No real surprise why Maker’s Mark is a popular mainstream whiskey. Easy drinking and sweet for a whiskey. I enjoy the barrel char that comes through. I’m not sure if it’s particularly pronounced here or if there just isn’t much else standing in the way. The rich sweetness and char reminds me of BBQ. A simple pour, but hits its notes well.
I’m a fan, but Maker’s Mark won’t be an everyday thing. Usually I find this pretty sweet and not in the mood. When I drink this it’s usually at a bar when it’s the best pour available. I actually bought a smaller 375-ml bottle to save a few bucks, but this grew on me and I ended up buying a regular 750-ml bottle.
When I think Maker’s Mark, I think Sam Adams. Sam Adams is well marketed quality beer with mass appeal that sort of gets looked over by enthusiasts. Maker’s Mark has a great story and a fine product that deserves some love, despite mass appeal, brand awareness, and ubiquitous availability. Like I said, it’s a little sweet for my preference and it doesn’t exactly wow me, but it’s a classic that I’ll keep around. Price is a little high I think compared to the competition, especially similar Weller wheaters. If you can find it for the same price range as Old Weller Antique or Weller 12, I’d say keep it stocked.
Maker’s Mark Recommendation
Buy a Bottle – 3/5 Rating
(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)