Maker's Mark 46 Review - Possibly the finest outdoor summer bourbon

Photo credit: Suresh Doss

Photo credit: Suresh Doss

Maker's Mark 46
Maker's Mark Distillery
Category: Bourbon, Wheated, NAS
Score: 90.5
Whisky Cabinet Rating: ★ 

Maker’s Mark 46 tastes great in a Glencairn glass, in a plastic cup, on ice, with some water, or from the bottle (I haven’t actually tried this!). It’s the whisky that’s most likely to make an appearance when I’m hosting a party with a mix of wine, beer, and whisky drinkers. It pops nicely with flavour, it doesn’t require fancy glassware, and it's a whisky that stirs conversation. 

Bourbon often contains a recipe of mostly corn, with some rye, and malted barley. The rye component is the flavour part of the profile. The higher the rye, the edgier the spice with peppery notes. Bulleit, Wild Turkey, and Four Roses are great examples of successful high-rye bourbons. While high rye bourbons contain about 30% rye, most bourbons with milder flavour stick to around 12% rye.

Contradicting this trend, there is a ‘secret society’ of bourbons (which is not as secret these days) that use the wheat grain instead of rye. Maker’s Mark follows a similar (some say identical) recipe to Julian Van Winkle’s Pappy Van Winkle. In place of the rye, the recipe uses wheat. Wheated bourbons have a smoother middle palate and finish. They lack the edgy, peppery spice found in heavy rye bourbons, but they aren't entirely without edge.

Maker’s Mark white label is intended to be smooth and without any bitter notes. Maker’s Mark 46 gets its moniker from spending extra months maturing in barrels with seasoned oak staves. These uniquely seasoned oak staves are responsible for the cinnamon spice flavours. This added complexity turns the same whisky from Maker’s Mark white label into a whisky that pops with flavour. 

Maker’s Mark is aged to taste, from between five to seven years. If it’s been a warm five years, it’s likely to be bottled earlier, but if the weather has been colder then it can take as long as seven years. The bourbon isn't an oak bomb, though. It's more of a flavour bomb. Maker’s Mark 46 doesn’t always do well with an audience that is expecting big oak forward sweetness. 

I find myself buying Maker’s Mark 46 more often during the summer months. Many whiskies, especially rye-forward bourbons, tend to display harsher notes when above room temperature. Marker’s Mark 46 sits wonderfully on ice, in a tasting glass, or under the hot sun in a solo cup. 

Nose: Beautiful yeasty warmth, cherries, nice cinnamon spice, burnt sugar, and blood oranges. 

Palate: Starts thin with vanilla. Oily butter overtakes the palate a moment later, with plentiful seasoned oak spice. Lots of cinnamon and toffee notes. The flavour hits a high at mid palate, and then softly settles on the tongue. The finish is wonderful with peppery spice and oak. 

Balance: Maker’s Mark 46 starts thin in the first taste, but the progression of this whisky is beautiful through the middle and end. It’s oaky, but not forward-oak like an oak bomb bourbon might be. Instead, it’s all about the middle and finishing flavours. Those flavours are wonderful. While some whiskies need Glencairn glasses to truly shine, Maker’s Mark can be sipped out of almost anything. 


*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆  Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆  Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆  Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆  Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★  Extraordinary, memorable, and original