Review: Maker’s Mark Bourbon
Ask me to name a bourbon and the first product that will likely come into my head is Maker’s Mark. Maker’s, as it is commonly referred to, was one of the first premium spirits I discovered and to this day it remains one of my favourites. No matter how many new and exciting products I discover, somehow a bottle of Maker’s is always on my spirit shelf. I have probably peeled the red wax off more Maker’s Bottles than I have opened any other single spirit. Here’s why.
Maker’s Mark was founded in 1954, with the first bottle being filled in 1958 bearing the now iconic red wax seal. Four years is actually a relatively short period of time compared with the average 6-7yrs that is claimed now. During ageing (in charred new oak casks), the barrels are rotated around the warehouse to even out the differences caused by temperature variations at different heights. Perhaps most distinctive in the production of Maker’s is the fact that the mash contains no rye, and instead red winter wheat is used alongside malted barley and yellow corn (the majority constituent). This creates a very distinctive taste that is the hallmark of this bourbon.
I would be misleading you if I were to claim that Maker’s is my favourite bourbon on neat tasting alone. Certainly it is very enjoyable, but for me it really stands out as a mixing spirit. Some years ago I might have thought that such a statement was a criticism, it’s not. Maker’s occupies a fantastic place in that is delicious, easily available, keenly priced, and mixes excellently with a range of other flavours. In my book, this makes it an essential constituent on any home bar.
Nose: Creme brûlée, corn, custard and orange all strike me pretty much right away on the nose, and it’s a very appealing combination. There are also spicier and oaky notes together with honeyed fruit adding to the mix.
Palate: Maker’s is a whole lot more spicy on the palate than the absence of rye in the mash might lead you to suspect. In fact the spice hits you first before mellowing out to reveal the sweeter and more mellow flavours. There is an intense vanilla flavour which, combined with the sweet corn, creates the ‘creme brûlée’ flavour that is so often touted. Dried apricots, ginger and a touch of cacao are also hinted at before the medium length and relatively warm finish.
I customarily feature tasting notes on several cocktails here, but actually I find the contribution of this bourbon to be very similar in the vast majority. I liken Maker’s to a good cooking stock in that it is extremely versatile and supports the other ingredients rather than fighting for superiority. Perhaps the best example of this is in the old fashioned, where I will regularly use Maker’s to test out new bitters. It sets a benchmark and mixes well with almost anything. It is also pretty forgiving; the fullness of flavour means it can take a little over-dilution, the spiciness helps if you have over sweetened, and the corn and wheat ensure that things remain nice and mellow whatever happens! Maker’s is my benchmark bourbon that I use to test out many new recipes or own creations. Here’s a couple of good examples to get you started, but incidentally the Maker’s Mark website itself is worth checking out for a whole range of cocktail recipes (no, they didn’t pay me say that!) For a go to bourbon to mix with at home, this is very good option indeed.
Signature Cocktail – Mint Julep
2oz Maker’s Mark
0.75oz sugar syrup
3-4 dash bitters of your choosing
10-12 mint leaves
Lightly muddle mint leaves in base of shaker. Add rest of ingredients and shake with ice. Strain over crushed ice into a julep glass, churn and add more crushed ice.
Makers Mark is a fantastic bourbon for cocktails. Its sweet vanilla creme brûlée flavour stands out from the crowd and makes it a must-have spirit for any home bar.
Maker’s Mark is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.