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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Maker's Mark 101

While Maker’s Mark has offered a number of special releases, the introduction of a higher proof version of its signature brand was a welcome addition to the lineup. In 2013, Maker’s shocked fans when it announced to stretch limited stocks would lower the proof of its flagship whiskey from 90-proof to 84-proof. Outraged fans rebuffed the announcement, resulting in Maker’s standing pat on its 90-proof bourbon.

Fast forward several years and Maker’s is offering an amped-up version of its flagship. How does this new special release stand up to the long-time signature version of Maker’s Mark? Let’s check it out.

Travelers-Only when Introduced

Unveiled in 2018, the 101-proof version was initially a travel retail exclusive, available only while passing through an international airport. In 2019, the release expanded to include your neighborhood store – significantly reducing the cost (as an airline ticket was no longer required to purchase).

The brand was introduced in 1953 when T. William “Bill” Samuels Sr. began distilling his signature whiskey, replacing the traditional rye grain with soft winter wheat, imparting smoothness to the finished product. Until the 1980’s the brand was independent, until purchased by Hiram Walker purchased the label. Fortune Brands subsequently laid claim to the brand in 2005 until it merged with Beam Suntory in 2014. Maker’s shares claiming rights to Clermont, Kentucky as its base of operations along with the massive Beam distillery nearby.

The Tasting

This 101-proof version shares the same mash bill as Maker’s Mark flagship product: 70% corn, 14% malted barley, and 16% soft red winter wheat. Maker’s is one of a limited number of wheated bourbons, including Pappy Van Winkle and W.L. Weller (both from Buffalo Trace) and Old Fitzgerald and Larceny (both from Heaven Hill). The bourbon is aged around 6-7 years; its signature variety is bottled at 90-proof – this rendition amps up the flavors to a hefty 101-proof.

From our tour of the Maker’s Mark facility, we learned of a unique facet of the operation. The Maker’s Mark brand is one of the only brands to rotated barrels during the aging process – moving barrels from the lower levels to the upper levels – to ensure a consistent quality and taste.

Eye: Dark copper with thick, viscous legs in my Kentucky Bourbon Trail tasting glass.

Nose: Traditional notes of caramel, toffee and vanilla.

Palate: Solidly hits with more caramel, vanilla, and light baking spices. This is very good.

Finish: Medium-long, with warming sweetness and a light spice at the end.

Overall: This is quite tasty. I confess that I’ve always been intrigued by Maker’s trademark wheated mash bill and have shared with friends how I feel I should enjoy it more than I do. This up-proofed sibling, though, hits all the notes well. With more pronounced flavors and priced at $40, this makes a great upsell from the 90-proof version. Put this one on your buy list!

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