Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Summer vacation.  With the sun high in the blue sky, I, the wife, the kids and luggage loaded into my big black Ford and headed south, crossed the border into the US, continued south on the I-95, took exit 187 and a quick left put me on the Hogan Road.   Another left at a Honda dealership put me on the road to the Hilton Garden Inn, Bangor, Maine. 

After day spent spent entertaining the children in the pool, a science museum and supper, I found myself at about 8pm in the lobby while my wonderful spouse put the children to bed in the hotel room upstairs.  What's a fella to do for a while?

The well-appointed lobby has the burnished, dark wood walls, leather couchs and wing-back chairs, and most importantly a bar.  I pay a visit, scan the bottles along the mirrored wall and thought since I am in America, I should enjoy one of the great fruits of American industry, namely bourbon.  Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon to be precise. 

Once ensconced comfortably in a leather chair facing an LCD TV, I am in fine form.

Nose (undiluted)
Vanilla.  I am not able to discern much else. 

Palate (undiluted)
As lawless and unruly as Woodford Reserve can be, Maker's Mark is not.  Woodford Reserve can be fiery on first sip.  Maker's Mark is balanced, refined and even elegant.  This bourbon starts out sweet, a corn sweetness, followed by powerful oak.  The body of this spirit is rounded.  The flavors are soft.  Black cherry makes an appearance.  Oak re-enters with charcoal and makes for a cleansing of the palate in a very fresh fashion.

Finish (undiluted)
Nice and long.  I am impressed!  Oak and a little brown sugar/charcoal remain and zing for quite while.  There is no ugly burn in the throat.  Just warmth.

General Impressions
How does this rank in comparison with other bourbons?  Well, at it's price point, the small batch premium bourbon competition would include:  Woodford Reserve and Knob Creek.   While Woodford Reserve can at times be more complex, it can also be wilder and more alcohol infused. 

Knob Creek is more complex and more interesting when one seeks a real toure-de-force of flavors.  Nevertheless, Maker's Mark is a bourbon I will pick up from time to time when I am seeking a bourbon that is not offensive, refined, and a flavor profile that's a crowd pleaser.  A certain pick if I am having a party.

This is more interesting than Basil Hayden's, another small batch bourbon.

Value for Money?
Maker's Mark is not cheap.  I think the price is fair, but it is no bargain.  If you want a bargain bourbon, try Jim Beam Black.  Maybe a little simpler flavor profile but a lot easier on the pocket book.

What No Age Statement?
As mentioned above, Maker's Mark is a premium small batch bourbon with a high price to boot.  You would expect an age statement on every bottle.  Not so.  Competition in the same price range make age statements.  Knob Creek is 9 years old.  Eagle Rare is 10 years old.  Baker's Bourbon 7 years, and so on.  Maker's Mark has no fixed age.  Age is dependent on taste.  A panel of tasters determine when the barrels of bourbon are ready to be bottled as Maker's Mark.  No bottling of Maker's Mark that is less than six years, nor more than seven and a half years has taken place.

Age statements are not necessarily indicative of superior quality when it comes to whisky of any kind.  They mostly function as a tool of marketing to reel the likes of you and I in.  To believe that older whisky is better than younger is to be terribly mistaken.

Bottom Line
I like Maker's Mark.  I have been drinking it for years and have always found it to be reliable and pleasant like an old friend.  Highly recommended!


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved except for photographs: (1) Maker's Mark in hand taken by Flickr member: Adie Reed.  Check out her great site for more photos: She has graciously granted a Creative Commons license which permits its reproduction on this blog.  (2) Photograph of line of Maker's Mark bottles taken off web but I could not find any credit for it.  If you are the photographer, please contact me so I can credit you, with your permission.  (3)  Photograph of Maker's Mark whisky glasses taken by Flickr member: thewhiskeyroad, who holds all copyright and no reproduction permitted without his permission.


  1. Hey Jason, nice blog! I got here by typing "Scotch Reviews" into Google. I was an long ago cheap Whisk(e)y drinker and as such I never loved the stuff.

    Recently I found that if I spend a couple more dollars I could find something I REALLY liked. It started with trying Jim Beam black rather than white (I agree with your assessment). But I was really sold on my second Swallow of Knob Creek. So I became a Bourbon man.

    I have since sampled a Rye from my home state (Templeton Rye) that I really liked. That left giving Scotch another try. And I think your site is going to be a big help! I figure your taste in Bourbon is so close to mine, that I might enjoy Scotchs you suggest.

  2. Here's two suggestions for a nice transition or introduction to scotch: Cragganmore 12 yrs or Johnnie Walker Green Label. Both are amazing and not too peaty or smokey.

    Glad you like the blog.


  3. Thanks for the advice! The first scotch I tried in High School was JW Red and I wasn't a fan. Then again I was not really a fan of any of the brown liquor I was swallowing then.

  4. howdy jason,

    would you mind telling me what the actual difference in price between the two are?

    much appreciated

  5. In the United States I have seen Jim Beam Black for $19 - $20 and Maker's Mark for $28.

    In Canada, the price disparity widens. Jim Beam Black goes for $28 and Maker's is priced at $40. Ouch!

    I like both bourbons for different reasons, but I think the Jim Beam Black is the better bang for your buck!

  6. Maker's Mark is a wheated bourbon, in that most of the grain used in the mash bill beyond the minimum 51% corn is wheat instead of rye. Wheated bourbons tend to be more mellow and less spicy than ryed bourbons. Of the wheated bourbons, I find pretty much anything put out by the Van Winkle distillery to be very good, with second place going to Old Weller offerings. Maker's Mark is not bad, but I think it is overpriced, and Old Weller is a much better bang for the buck.

  7. Hey Jason, after reading ur review of JB Black, I got one, & it was awesome! Where I am, MM costs $21, & JB Black $18. So, which is a better value-for-money?

    1. Hi Curious!

      They are both excellent. Technically I suppose the Jim Beam Black is better value at $18 as the savings is what? $3.00 but dude, buy one, when it is gone, buy the other.

      Jim Beam Black is one of those few rare gems where the price is way below the great product. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend other products being put out by Jim Beam like Red Stag Black Cherry.

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Hola Jason! Have u tried Makers 46? $28.. same price range as Eagle Rare 10 Yr, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Woodford Reserve, Wild Turkey Russell Reserve, & Knob Creek 100. All lie in $28-$31 range. Which is the best pick?


    1. Those are all great choices and fantastic prices! If it was me, I would grab the Knob Creek. Real old school stuff! Enjoy!

  9. Hey Jason! I can see your blog is better than others , your reviews are awesome,a question,
    Maker´s Mark or Jim beam black, Which one do you prefer?

    1. I guess for me it would be Jim Beam Black. There is a black licorice aspect to it that reels me again and again. It is also half the price of Maker's.

      Maker's is a very refined, sophisticated bourbon that I enjoy very much too. It is tough to say one is better than the other. It is like saying I like BMW over Mercedes.


  10. Hi There, Any chance you know how many Barrels are blanding to make Makers Mark?

    1. I haven't got a clue. For such a technical question you might consider emailing them directly. They are quite responsive to consumer email.

      Interesting question. If I had to guess, each "batch" for a particular bottling I would imagine would involve over 1,000 barrels, but that is pure guessing.