At this past January’s monthly meeting , Flight Club sampled six different Maker’s Mark offerings. We promised to post tasting notes. This past week, Chris Crow, Stephen Netherton, Scott Hill, and Jay Cary got together and (re)sampled five aged Maker’s Mark products. Their groupthink tasting notes are below:
Nose: Toasted wood leads the nose, with a grain/grass/hay aroma following; sweetness of honey and wheat mash envelop the other notes.
Palate: Sweet and light spice, vanilla and tasted wood; a bit thin; something different here (in all the Maker’s products) than in other bourbons, which some of us equate to the high malted barley content in the mash (almost like an Irish Whiskey or Scotch Whisky grain flavor).
Finish: Surprisingly very short on everything other than some light lingering sweetness, which itself doesn’t last long.
Overall: The group’s best description of this product is that Maker’s Mark has gone out of its way to be inoffensive. This bourbon plays to the masses. There is really nothing off-putting, but no note really stands out to make it unique. It is enjoyable.
Nose: Much like the standard offering, but with a definite banana aroma; the grass/hay and toasted wood are more prevalent.
Palate: The addition of the oak staves has added a more robust vanilla and caramel flavor at the beginning of the palate, a bit more white pepper spice, and a much thicker mouthfeel. Some of the group picked up on a rough charcoal flavor.
Finish: This lingers longer than the standard offering (although still not long or even medium), but does contain some additional fruitiness.
Overall: A nice attempt to differentiate from standard Maker’s Mark. If you like the original, however, the higher price may not really be worth it, especially with the cask strength offering of standard Maker’s at a discount (more below). But if the original does not quite fit your profile, then give this a try.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength – 110.4 proof
Nose: Much more defined flavors of vanilla, brown sugar and caramel, which subdues the toasted wood.
Palate: Best defined as a richer version of standard Maker’s Mark (which isn’t always the case with higher proof offerings of the same product); white pepper, caramel, dried cranberry/black cherry.
Finish: A short to medium-short finish that starts with toasted oak, then moves into a dried candied fruit (dark cherry and cranberry); more oak throughout than the standard offering; dry.
Overall: A favorite among many. This drinks under proof. It still brings the typical Maker’s profile, but it brings it best with the best complexity and the best finish. In other words, there really isn’t a negative side effect to the increase in alcohol content. Currently this can be found locally for around $37, which is a great buy. At non-sale prices of $60-$65 we would all probably pass.
Maker’s Mark Private Select – Bill Samuels Jr. Release – 110.9 proof
Nose: Vanilla cake frosting.
Palate: The thickest mouthfeel of all the Maker’s products, with a creamy wheat texture; the granulated sugar flavor from the nose has transition to a light brown sugar.
Finish: The sugar notes again transition, this time to a lingering caramel and finally even molasses (almost akin to a dark rum).
Overall: A favorite among some. It has a nice, transitioning sweetness to it that is absent from the rest. The most traditional “Maker’s” of all the barrel-strength Maker’s offerings – which can be both a positive or a negative depending on one’s general feelings of Maker’s Mark.
Maker’s Mark Private Select – Distillers Spring Release 2016 – 111.3
Nose: Softer wood than the rest, with a whole-wheat bread graininess.
Palate: Still a backbone of the Maker’s Mark profile, but softer. This packs the most heat, which starts late at the end of the palate.
Finish: Nearly unremarkable; dry and short. Once the heat burns off the flavors are all gone.
Overall: This defines a different direction on Maker’s. It’s softer. It’s nicely influenced by different flavors from different woods and wood treatments. While the above tasting notes are minimal, this isn’t to say it’s boring. It’s just…softer. Of the five tasted, it is the only offering that may not be easily definable as Maker’s in a blind tasting.