There's no need to read the label. When you see red wax dripping down the long neck of a whiskey bottle, you know it's Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky. It is one of America's most iconic brands of whiskey, offering a sweet flavor profile that's as well known as it's familiar wax.
This whiskey also has the ability to make some of the most impressive whiskey cocktails you will have the pleasure of drinking. Whether you're a long-time fan or anticipating your very first taste, it is one bourbon that will never disappoint.
Making the Bourbon
Maker's Mark is a fine example of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey at its best. Just like all bourbons, it is distilled primarily from corn, with some malted barley thrown into the mix. However, this whiskey comes with a twist that helps define its signature taste, opting for red winter wheat in the mashbill rather than the more common rye. That single ingredient imparts a soft, rich sweetness that has propelled Maker's Mark to be one of the most popular bourbons in the world.
Unlike many others, this whiskey carries no age statement. That's because the distillery prides itself on pulling the spirit out of the new charred American oak barrels it's aged in "when it's done." This is generally between five and eight years. It is bottled slightly stronger than most whiskies as well, at 45 percent alcohol by volume (90 proof).
The Loretto Distillery
The whiskey is produced, aged, and bottled entirely at the Loretto, Kentucky distillery. They even print the old-fashioned labels on site. It is one of the most picturesque industrial sites you will find, which is why it's a popular stop for travelers.
Not much has changed since 1953 when Bill Samuels Sr. and his wife Margie first developed the bourbon. Though the brand is now owned by Beam Suntory, it has remained under the watchful eyes of the Samuels family. For years it was led by Bill Samuels Jr.—a legend in the whiskey world—who has since turned over the reins to his son, Rob Samuels.
There are many fascinating aspects to the Samuels' story. Among those is the fact that the family has Scottish-Irish roots. This heritage is why Maker's Mark takes on the scotch spelling of "whisky," dropping the "e" that is more commonly used for American whiskies.
A Single Bottle No More
For decades, Maker's Mark was a single-bottle producer. It's said that Bill Sr.'s main goal for the legacy was not "screwing up the whiskey," a motto the following generations have adhered to. However, in 2010 Bill Jr.'s brainchild, Maker's 46 was released and it was everything fans of the brand expected it to be.
Following up on that success, the brand has since offered Cask Strength and Private Select bottlings. Each of these holds up to the distillery's high standards and are only slight deviations from the original recipe and process that made Maker's Mark the icon that it is.
The experience of tasting Maker's Mark is unlike any other whiskey. It has a signature taste—much in the way Jack Daniel's does—that is unmistakable. Once you get to know it, you will be able to recognize it instantly, even without the bottle in sight.
It begins with rich and soft caramels on the nose. The inviting aroma is kissed with honey and fruit. This leads to the ideal mouthfeel—a light sweetness that caresses the tongue—and the perfectly balanced body that is neither too thin nor too full. You'll taste caramel, vanilla, and molasses, all accented with the most delightful layer of oak. The smooth elegance continues into the finish where spices begin to appear and quickly dissipate, leaving you wanting more.
Maker's Mark Cocktails
As delightful as it is to sip Maker's Mark straight—a splash of water opens it up wonderfully—it also guarantees a fantastic tasting cocktail. The soft sweetness makes it very mixable with a variety of flavors, but the whiskey still has a punch so it will never get lost.
A perfect place to begin is with any of the best-known bourbon cocktails. This includes the old-fashioned, mint julep, and Manhattan. Check those off your list, then you're ready to explore some of the modern cocktails that have been created around Maker's Mark.
There are many impressive recipes that call specifically for this whiskey. Among them are the Mile High Manhattan, with its vanilla, orange, and anise accents, and the white peach julep, complete with fresh peach as well as bitters and liqueur made with the fruit. It even stands up in the wildest of mixes, as seen in the unusual beer, bourbon, and barbecue cocktail.
On the tame side, Maker's is fantastic in a spiked lemonade like the Packers punch and sweet soda mixes such as the summer breeze. It's quite fun in the playful but sophisticated sour sunrise where it replaces tequila in the famous orange juice-grenadine combo. Plus, you can warm things up in the winter with recipes like the Steelers cider and warm old-fashioned.
The mixability of this whiskey knows no bounds! If you're ever in doubt on which whiskey to pour in any cocktail, rest assured that picking up that bottle of Maker's Mark will never let you down.