Origin: Kentucky (USA)
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Ageing casks: American virgin oak
Added colouring: No
Owner: Beam Suntory
Average price: € 35.00
Official website: www.makersmark.com
Appearing many times in American films and TV series, Maker’s Mark is one of those classic bourbons that may not mean much to us Italians, but which is widely known in its homeland.
Based in Loretto in the home of Bourbon, Kentucky, the distillery was founded as the Burks Distillery in 1889 by George R. Burks, and was acquired in 1953 by T. William “Bill” Samuels Sr., starting production the following year under its current name, and with the typical red wax pouring on the cap.
Wax intended to give a tone of elegance and exclusivity to the bottle, so much so that between the 1960s and 1970s the advertising slogan was “It tastes expensive… and it is”, launching this bourbon into the empyrean of the most popular whiskies in the country.
And it was in the 1980s that the ballet of changes of ownership began, first Hiram Walker & Sons, then Allied Domecq, which in turn was subsequently acquired by Pernod Ricard, with the simultaneous sale of the label in 2005 to Fortune Brands, which then divided its business by passing whiskey production to Suntory six years later.
The Samuels family has always remained in charge of production, deciding in 2013 to lower the alcohol content of the bourbon to make up for the lack of raw materials, from 45% to 42%, believing that there would be no difference in taste.
The market strongly disagreed, and they backed down within a few weeks, although there is still low-alcohol production for some parts of the world.
The heart of Maker’s Mark is not the usual rye but a mix of red winter wheat (16%), malted barley (14%) and corn (70%), with this recipe chosen in a peculiar way: Samuels at the time didn’t have the patience to wait for the various combinations to mature before deciding which was the best, so he had bread made from each recipe, evaluating the one without rye as the most successful.
About six years of ageing for this version, called small batch (which for large-scale production doesn’t mean much), with the barrels rotated from the top to the bottom of the warehouse to compensate for temperature differences during maturation. It’s flanked by a cask strength edition, a 47%ABV edition (called 46, just to mix things up), a Private Selection and annual limited editions with ageing in different casks.
Copper in the glass.
The nose is soft and spicy, with nutmeg on maple syrup, caramel, apple strudel, chutney, honey. Sweet but not too sweet, rather persuasive. Initially it has a slight metallic note, which soon fades.
The palate is rather light, with a nice alcoholic tingle on a spicy (cinnamon and nutmeg) and less complacent profile, with molasses, caramel and vanilla combined with a consistent note of dried fruit and aniseed. Brown sugar.
Not particularly long, spicy finish of vanilla, baked apple, fruit chutney.
A combination of flavours that are not trivial but lack incisiveness, it can offer personal sensations but it doesn’t carry them through to the end, remaining on the surface. As a bourbon with a “popular” price it certainly stands out from the average.