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Maker's Mark review | Image: Christopher Osburn/Man of Many

Maker’s Mark Bourbon Review: An Honest Take

To say that there are a lot of distilleries crafting bourbon whiskey is a bit of an understatement. As of 2023, more than 2,000 distilleries are operating in the U.S., but if you wade through all of them, you’ll find a few massive names. In the bourbon world, very few are bigger and more well-known than Maker’s Mark. A stalwart on the list of top-selling bourbons worldwide, the label’s iconic Kentucky Straight release is one of the most popular ever bottled, but is it worth it? In this Marker’s Mark review, I’ll explain the taste, history, value and verdict of one of the world’s most famous bourbons.

Wheat growing on the Maker's mark distillery grounds | Image: Maker's mark
Wheat growing on the Maker’s Mark distillery grounds | Image: Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark Bourbon History

Based in Loretto, Kentucky, Maker’s Mark lineage of bourbon-making dates as far back as the 1800s; however, it was in 1953 that Bill Samuels, Sr. truly got the ball rolling. The former engineer bought the Burks’ Distillery, initially intending to distil whiskey using a 150-plus-year-old recipe. However, when he accidentally set fire to the family recipe, Samuels was forced to create his own based on experimentation with various grains; which is how we wound up with the Kentucky Straight Bourbon we all know and love.

Maker’s Mark Review

The mash bill for Maker’s Mark is 70 per cent corn, 16 per cent red winter wheat, and 14 per cent malted barley. The corn adds the expected bourbon sweetness, the wheat adds a delicate softness, and the barley adds a bit of complexity. It’s matured in charred American oak barrels between six to seven  years. The result is a soft, sippable, balanced whiskey that drinkers and bartenders alike enjoy neat, on the rocks, and mixed into various cocktails.

Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon | Image: Maker's Mark
Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon | Image: Maker’s Mark

How Much Does Maker’s Mark Bourbon Cost?

When it comes to the value-to-quality ratio in the bourbon world, it’s tough to beat the appeal of Maker’s Mark. It sells for around $50 for a 750ml bottle in Australia. For the quality, the price is right. If you like bourbon, this is a bottle that deserves a permanent spot on your home bar.

What Does it Smell Like?

Maker’s Mark begins with a very inviting, sweet-smelling nose. There are aromas of orchard fruits, raisins, vanilla beans, ripe berries, sweet wheat, and light spices right away. It moves into an herbal, almost minty fragrance before finishing with a nice hint of sticky toffee and charred oak. It’s the kind of nose that just keeps revealing new aromas every time you breathe it in.

What Does Maker’s Mark Taste Like?

The palate is surprisingly soft and mellow with a ton of candied fruits, toasted vanilla beans, and mint up front. This is followed by butterscotch, dark chocolate, freshly brewed coffee, oaky wood, and light wintry spices. The finish is long, lingering, very warm, and ends with a kick of butterscotch, cinnamon, candied nuts, and charred oak. It’s very complex and balanced. For the price, it’s an equally good mixer as it is a slow-sipper on a cool evening.

Its popularity should be obvious. It’s a well-made, flavourful, complex bourbon for the price. It’s also versatile. Instead of buying one bottle for mixing and another bottle for sipping neat, you can simply grab a bottle of Maker’s Mark. It’s not the best bourbon ever made, but for the price, it’s difficult to beat.

Producer putting the wax seal on Maker's Mark | Image: Maker's Mark
Producer putting the wax seal on Maker’s Mark | Image: Maker’s Mark

Why the Red Wax Seal?

There are few things in the bourbon world more iconic than Maker’s Mark’s red wax seal. It’s been a mainstay of the brand since it was first introduced in 1958 by Bill’s wife and co-founder Margie Samuels. She got the idea from seeing Cognac corks sealed this way and thought it would be a great way to keep the corks from leaking.

How to Enjoy It

Let’s face it, nobody is going to tell you how to drink Maker’s Mark; it’s not like Pappy Van Winkle. The value-for-money approach means you can enjoy it however you prefer without the lingering feeling that you are diluting some sort of liquid gold. I’d recommend using Maker’s Mark as a base for a classic Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, or any other whiskey-based cocktail. You can mix it with a can of your favourite soft drink. It’s all good. That being said, you won’t be unhappy if you drink it neat, on the rocks, or with a splash of water either. It’s a do-it-all bottle.

Is Maker’s Mark Worth It?

In a word? Absolutely. As I mentioned, Maker’s Mark isn’t on the level of Weller, Pappy, Old Fitzgerald, EH Taylor, and other over-the-top expensive bourbons, but when it comes to excellently-priced, everyday bourbons, it’s at the top of the pile. For $50 Australian, you can get a versatile, do-it-all bottle. That sounds like a good deal to us.

Maker’s Mark Varieties

Maker’s Mark makes a variety of expressions. While we’re most concerned with the classic Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, the distillery also makes:

  • Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series
  • Maker’s Mark 46
  • Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged
  • Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
  • Maker’s Mark 101
  • Maker’s Mark Private Selection.