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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NOT Single Malt Report: Maker's Mark Bourbon (bottled 2015)

Maker's Mark is a wheated bourbon, which means the producers (Beam Suntory) elect to use wheat instead of rye as the flavoring grain in the mash.  Thus Maker's mashbill is made of corn, wheat, and malted barley.  Maker's, easily recognizable with its angular bottle shape and iconic red wax seal, is very popular from here to Europe to Asia.

I reviewed Maker's 3+ years ago in a humbling blind tasting, finding it to be as unremarkable as I had found it when it was consumed not-blindly.  And by "unremarkable" I mean inoffensive and easy to drink.  This April, while tinkering with cocktail recipes, I bought a 375mL bottle of Maker's, a decision I regretted almost immediately.  Not only was it utterly mediocre (at best) on its own, it was totally flat in cocktails and kinda gross in highballs.  The bottle barely made it to the halfway point before I dumped the remainder down the sink.

I'm giving you this lead-in because if you're a Maker's fan, you may want to avert your eyes and read my other bourbon posts this week.  Or perhaps I can interest you in a single malt?  No?

DistilleryMaker's Mark
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Type: Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon
Region: Loretto, Kentucky
Age: minimum 2 years
Mashbill: 70% corn, 16% soft red winter wheat, and 14% malted barley (source)
Maturation: charred white oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
Bottle code: L5009MMB

The color is orange-tinted light maple syrup.  Corn bread with honey is the first note in the nose, followed by cinnamon and barrel char.  Then it suddenly turns into a 1990's bathroom counter: cucumber melon hand lotion (Bath & Body Works), Barbasol shaving cream, and cheap cologne.  The palate is very sweet and oddly hot for its ABV.  There's unripe honeydew, a hint of lemon, brown sugar, and a lot of bitter oak.  A sickly sweet aspartame thing bear hugs the tongue.  It finishes all sweet and heat.  A crate load (or a pallet if you will) of overripe bananas.  Bitter oak.  Lengthy.

AS A HIGHBALL (1:1 ratio of whisky and club soda)
Even sweeter now, as if it were a cocktail loaded with simple syrup.  Some barrel char around the sides.

As I mentioned, I used to find Maker's Mark to be just fine.  But this was, at times, actively unpleasant.  The nose was kooky and is what saves it from being a total fail.  But on the palate the bitter oak, NutraSweet, and overripe bananas are cringe inducing.

Some things to consider...... I do not have a sweet tooth when it comes to booze, but if you do like sweeties then perhaps you'd find fewer issues with this whisky; though I really can't imagine the aspartame thing appealing to many folks.  Also, I love rye and this has none.  If you're a wheater fan, perhaps you'd find fewer issues with this whisky.

Please keep in mind that I'm reviewing my actual bottle (bottle code: L5009MMB) here rather than just a sample.  More was consumed and more time was spent on this bottle than my average review.  With all of this in mind, I'll never buy Maker's Mark again.

Availability - Everywhere bourbon is sold
Pricing - $20-$40 (for 750mL); $14-$23 (for 375mL)
Rating - 68


  1. Michael, folding "pallet" (not "palette") into a review - genius! So, so close!

    I looked at my records and back in 2011 I had a similar experience: bought a 375ml of MM and could not consume it - I gave it away 3/4 full.

    There is a cure for MM, and that is called MM CS. Extra 8% (plus maybe some cherry picking) makes a world of difference! But hopefully I'm not spoiling the denouement...

    1. Ha. Oops, rookie mistake. I'll change my palate in moment.

      I had a chance to try the first batch of the MMCS last year. I agree that it was better than regular MM, but I wasn't wowed enough to pursue it further. It could be that I'm not the biggest fan of most current wheated whiskies. I do like the Weller/Pappy whiskies better than MM, but I always prefer their noses far more than their flavors. I guess the exception to all of this are the dusty Old Fitzes I've tried which are dynamite. So, nope, you're not spoiling any sort of super denooeymint.

    2. I think you're mistaken. MMCS is the Pappy of wheated bourbons.

  2. I was seriously considering getting a 375 mL for making mint juleps. Instead I think I'll use the Elijah Craig 12 I purchased recently. Sure it's a fancier (and better) bourbon than I would normally use for cocktails but I know the quality of this one.

    1. EC12 is better choice, IMO. Plus if you can still get it for $25ish it's not that much more expensive than the MM.

    2. K&L still has EC12 for 24.99.

    3. Yeah, a number of places up north and south (Beltramo's, some BevMos, Total Wine, Mission Liquor) are selling it for 24.99 - 25.99.