Maker’s Mark is one of the iconic American whiskies, though one suspects this has as much to do with its iconic look as with anything else about it. That famous red wax makes it unmistakeable and also makes everyone who tries to cut through it to open the bottles curse mightily. As you probably know, it is also relatively unusual among widely available bourbons in that it is made with no rye in the mashbill (replaced by wheat) and quite unusual in that they spell the word “whisky” without the “e” on the label. Only one of these facts is interesting.
Of late Maker’s Mark has been in the news on account of their acquisition, or rather their parent company’s acquisition by Suntory (as the subsidiary Beam Suntory). This caused some underpants twisting among the xenophobic (and uninformed: Maker’s Mark and Beam are by no means the only iconic bourbon makers owned by Japanese companies). But this fruitless controversy was not as loud as that over the decision a year earlier to lower the proof of the whisky from the traditional 45% to 42%. That controversy actually bore fruit as Maker’s Mark quickly reversed course.
I’ve enjoyed Maker’s Mark in the past but haven’t tried it in the last few years, which is when my experience of American whiskey began to become less shallow than it was earlier (when it was very shallow indeed). I’m interested to see what I make of it now; but I wasn’t interested enough to purchase an entire bottle—hence this mini (which is at 45%).
Maker’s Mark (45%; from a purchased mini)
Nose: A little blank at first and then there’s some indistinct sweetness with a slightly sour edge (some kind of fruit; hard to tell what it might be). With more time there’s some dusty wood. That’s about it. Water brings out a touch of caramel on the nose.
Palate: Mellow and sweet on the palate as well with no real distinguishing notes. There’s a little more caramel corn in the sweetness here and then a bit of spice on the back-end. Thinner than I would have expected at 45%. The sweetness gets more expansive with time, with some red fruit and there’s a bit more oaky bite too now. Dustier with water.
Finish: Medium. The spicy note changes to a menthol coolness (so maybe clove?).
Comments: There’s not a whole lot happening here. It’s a decent bourbon that will not offend and will not make any demands on your attention—and sometimes that’s just what you want.
Rating: 78 points.