Posts tagged ‘Maker’s Mark’

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon Review

A few years back, Maker’s Mark made big bourbon headlines when they announced that there was not enough 6 year-old stock to go around, and Maker’s Mark’s flagship bourbon was going to be bottled at 84 proof instead of its traditional 90 proof.  Needless to say, there were not a lot of people happy about this announcement – especially since there were a lot of folks that already wanted to see Maker’s at something higher than 90 proof.  Not long after, Maker’s Mark had a change of heart (or supply), and brought back the standard 90 proof.  What ensued was even more mysterious – Maker’s Mark Cask Strength.  The particular bottle I have on hand is from Batch 15-03, and it is 111.4 proof (55.7% abv).  The general consensus among the whiskey-drinking public is that Maker’s Mark Cask Strength bottles are probably about the same age (6 years) as Maker’s Mark, but that does vary from batch to batch.

The nose is wonderful and warm, with sticky cinnamon buns, sugar vanilla frosting, blueberries, blackberry jam, fresh corn, and sawdust.  It is a hot nose at bottle strength, but there is a lot going on (although water opens the nose a little bit, it takes away some of the intensity of the flavor, so I prefer this one neat).  Every time I pour a glass of this bourbon, I enjoy sniffing it for quite a long while.  The palate is medium to full in its body, with some eucalyptus, mint, sawdust, corn, caramel, and brown sugar. This is definitely a soft, wheated profile, but with a lot of body, and a good amount of spice along with it.  The finish leaves toffee, walnuts, caramel, and a warming (slightly bitter) oak note across the palate, lingering for a good long while.  Overall, this is a very good bourbon with a lot going on, and a different side of Maker’s Mark.  There is more spice and oak influence here, but it does come through a bit tannic through the end of the bourbon.

This is a picture of a Reuben sandwich because everyone already knows what a Maker's Mark bottle looks like.

This is a picture of a Reuben sandwich because everyone already knows what a Maker’s Mark bottle looks like.

Maker’s Mark has definitely answered some prayers with this bourbon.  It is big, bold, and is just what you would expect.  It has all the traditional flavors of Maker’s Mark, just ramped up a lot.  Truth be told, this bourbon might be one of the best-smelling bourbons I have ever lifted up to my nose.  In my humble opinion, the palate didn’t quite live up to the nose’s billing, but this is still a fantastic whisky at a fantastic price for a cask strength bourbon.  My grade: B+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  There just aren’t a lot of bourbons at 111.4 proof that you can find on the market for under $70, which is what makes this bourbon an absolute winner.

Maker’s 46 Bourbon Review

Maker's 46Today, I am reviewing (and currently enjoying) a glass of Maker’s 46.  As many of you who know me and read the blog know, I am not a Maker’s Mark fan.  Honestly, I really don’t like that stuff.  However, I had been told by some of my bourbon friends and other bourbon blogs that I should get my hands on some Maker’s 46.  I’m glad I listened.

Maker’s 46 is the standard Maker’s Mark recipe aged 6 years just like Maker’s Mark.  Then, the 46 is finished in specially-made barrels that have seared French Oak staves running down the middle of the barrel.  The name “46” comes from the number of the searing recipe that eventually went into new barrels.  After a few weeks/months finishing in the special barrels, Maker’s 46 is ready to go (bottled at 94 proof).  Its a cool process, but the proof is in the pudding.

Maker’s 46 has a rich, dark amber color, and it smells wonderful.  To me, the nose smells like freshly baked banana bread (oh yeah).  There are also notes of cinnamon sugar, vanilla frosting, and drying oak.  The palate follows nicely.  It is sweet up front, big vanilla and caramel.  There is also some hot cinnamon and some bitter tannins.  The finish is long and warming.  The banana bread comes back along with some berries and vanilla frosting.  There is a slight tannic influence that I hope doesn’t take over the whiskey as I go through the bottle, but the tannic zip is not enough to ruin this one.

Overall, this is a monstrous step up from Maker’s Mark.  The palate is more complex and much tastier, and the finish is long, warming, and delicious.  Of course, it is a few dollars more than Maker’s Mark, but I would still reach for this one every time.  My Grade: B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  This is a great wheated bourbon, and definitely one of my favorites at the price point.  Pick up a bottle and let it ride!

John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Bourbon Review

Today, I am reviewing John E. Fitzgerald Larceny bourbon.  This is a relatively new product from Heaven Hill Distillery, makers of Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and Rittenhouse Rye, all fine whiskeys at good prices.  As it is, Larceny has high standards set for it.  It has to live up to Heaven Hill’s tradition of great value, but it also has to live up to its namesake, John E. Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald was a bourbon maker in the late 19th century, who eventually sold his distillery to Julian Van Winkle to become a treasury agent.  After the sale, Fitzgerald became famous/infamous for sneaking into the Van Winkle distillery to obtain whiskey from his favorite barrels.  Over time, these became known as the “Old Fitzgerald” barrels.  In honor of Fitzgerald’s discerning tastes, Heaven Hill created the Old Fitzgerald line of wheated bourbons.  Larceny is the newest addition to this line, a six-year old bourbon bottled at 92 proof.

Before giving my review, I will openly admit that I am not a huge fan of wheated bourbons.  Maker’s Mark, Weller, and the Old Fitzgerald line tend not to suit my palate as nicely as other bourbons.  That is not to say that I hate all wheated bourbons.  William Larue Weller and W.L. Weller 12 yr. are both very enjoyable (especially the former).  I just want to acknowledge my bias coming into the review.

On the nose, Larceny is dense and rich.  There are notes of caramel, butterscotch, corn, vanilla, and brown sugar.  I think the palate brings the whiskey down, though.  There is a dense caramel sweetness, balanced by hearty cereal grain flavors.  The back of the palate picks up cinnamon and drying oak spices.  The finish is medium to short, with the oak remaining along with some dense caramel.

Overall, this is a solid wheated bourbon.  It is not especially expensive (usually around $25/750 ml), which makes it a very good value if you enjoy wheated bourbon.  In most stores, this is cheaper than Maker’s Mark, which makes Larceny the better buy.  However, I don’t see too much between them in flavor profiles.  Larceny is not the bourbon for me, but that does not mean it isn’t the bourbon for you.  My Grade: C-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  For me, I leave this one on the shelf.  There are better whiskeys at the price point, and I don’t think this would make a great mixer.

Old Weller Antique Review

Today, I am reviewing Old Weller Antique.  It is a 107 proof wheated bourbon from the same distillery and family as W.L. Weller (I have reviewed the 12 yr. old).  It is another whiskey from the Buffalo Trace giant, and it is sold at very reasonable price.  It is usually in the low $20’s, making it a good bottle to keep around the house.  How does it fare in a tasting?  (Special thanks to my good friend, Henry, for enabling my tasting of this whiskey)

The nose of Old Weller Antique is tight, revealing very little depth.  The alcohol and the wheated recipe mask a lot of the scents that are traditionally associated with bourbon.  What does come through are notes of butterscotch, toffee, and wet oak.  This bourbon picks up on the palate.  Old Weller Antique has a viscous mouth feel that yields notes of sweet oak, caramel, vanilla, candied almonds, and honey roasted peanuts.  It is very sweet and rich, but it has very few layers.  The finish is long and warming, but it is simple.  It is sweet and dark, as if somebody was pouring melted caramel and toffee fudge down my throat.

On the whole, this is a classic wheated bourbon.  It is sweet, and not overly complex.  It is exactly what a wheated bourbon should be, with a more powerful palate than Maker’s Mark or Rebel Reserve, which are in a similar price range.  Old Weller Antique is to wheated bourbons what Old Grand-Dad Bonded is to rye bourbons.  It is exactly what it should be, and not much more.  My grade: C+/B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is good whiskey, not much of a mixer, though.  If you like wheated bourbons, its worth a try.

W.L. Weller 12 Year Review

Today, I am reviewing W.L. Weller 12 year-old, the self-proclaimed, “Original Wheated Bourbon.” It is made at the W.L. Weller and Sons Distillery, and bottled by Buffalo Trace.  I have already reviewed Maker’s Mark on the site, which is also a wheated bourbon.  This means that these whiskies are made from a mash bill that is comprised of only corn (at least 51%) and wheat.  As you may recall, I am not a big fan of Maker’s Mark.  I think it is overpriced, especially for what you get.  However, Maker’s Mark is only aged 6 years, a rather short time, especially for wheated bourbons.  One thing you commonly hear in the bourbon world is that wheated bourbons take oak well, meaning they dramatically improve with age in the oak.

W.L. Weller is a bourbon label bottled at many different temperatures, ages, and proof points.  The most famous in the bourbon world is William Larue Weller, part of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (I have tried the 2010 bottling, and it is quite delicious).  However, William Larue Weller is a bit beyond my price range.  At about $28-$30 per bottle, W.L. Weller 12 year-old is a very nice price range, especially for a quality whiskey.

The first thing you might notice about W.L. Weller 12 year is the color.  It is a dark, rich amber, which makes sense considering the time it spends in the American oak.  On the nose, it is very sweet (a trademark of wheated bourbons).  There are rich scents of maple sugar, brown sugar, caramel, and butterscotch.  There is also some nuttiness and some cinnamon spice that creeps through.  On the palate, the sweetness continues.  The first thing that jumps out is the caramel, which dominates the front of the palate.  However, soft notes of butterscotch and vanilla begin to arise over time.  As the whiskey moves to its conclusion, the oak begins to take hold, giving the whiskey notes of sweet oak and charred almonds.  The finish is long and very warming.  It starts out very sweet, as if somebody soaked a brown sugar cube in caramel and dropped in the back of my mouth.  However, as time passes, the oak begins to show more, leaving a sweet, charred feeling that lasts a while.

On the whole, this is a very impressive whiskey.  A bottle was given to me as a birthday gift, but I would definitely buy it again.  It seems like it would be a wonderful whiskey for the fall, so I plan to make it last until the leaves are turning to their gold and auburn hues.  It definitely shows that not all wheated bourbons have to achieve the dross flavor profile that Maker’s Mark does.  My grade: B-. Price: $25-30/750ml.  If you like wheaters, this one should be in your cabinet; its a great day-to-day pour.

Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs

Like every product ever sold, bourbon depends on packaging.  Great bourbon deserves great packaging.  Of course, what defines a great bottle of bourbon is just as subjective as the bourbon itself.  I like an iconic bottle of bourbon that brings forth an air of confidence that the product inside is going to be good.  If that is properly balanced with a bottle that looks cool, then you’ve got the ingredients for a great bottle.  Now all that remains is to fill it with great bourbon.  With that in mind, I present my Top Ten Bourbon Bottle Designs.  (Note: I have not reviewed all these bourbons, nor I have I even tried all these bourbons.  I am judging primarily on the packaging.)

10. Maker’s Mark – The wax-dipped top of Maker’s Mark is probably the most iconic symbol in the bourbon world.  However, the rest of the bottle leaves something to be desired.  Nevertheless, any whiskey drinker recognizes the red wax as Maker’s Mark.

9. Buffalo Trace – The epic bison on the front makes for an epic packaging.  It also makes for an awesome logo for Buffalo Trace Distillery.

8. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon – I believe that Old Forester is one of the best value bourbons you can find.  However, Brown-Forman also produces the Birthday Bourbon, a higher-end version of Old Forester.  It comes in an old-fashioned decanter-style bottle that exudes class.

7. Rock Hill Farms – This single barrel bourbon comes in a sleek, square bottle with horses and forest landscapes decorating the bottle.  It is a bottle design that could inspire some fine bourbon-induced poetry.

6. Angel’s Envy – The Angel’s Envy looks divine, with its angel wings and massive size.  It seems to tower over almost everything else on the shelf at the liquor store.

5. Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel – Speaking of tall bottles, there are few bottles taller than the decanter-style of Willett Pot Still Reserve.  It just looks awesome.  You can’t buy a bottle and not feel on top of the world.

4. Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel – This bottle is just plain epic.  It is tall and elegant, but the eagle on the front and the jagged edged label also makes it seem bold and rugged.

3. Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve (15 yr., 20 yr., 23 yr.) – All three of these bottlings are recognizable by the picture of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle, Sr. on the front of the bottle.  He is puffing on a big cigar (and most likely drinking some good bourbon).  There are few things more iconic than a bourbon legend like Pappy.

2. Woodford Reserve – I love the simplicity of this bottle.  To me, Woodford Reserve’s bottle design says, “The bourbon contained herein is a great bourbon; it needs no embellishment.”

1. Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, and Eagle Rare 17 yr.) – These three bourbons are consistently among the contenders for bourbon of the year, and there bottle designs are indicative of the quality.  The bottles are tall and powerful.  There are no fancy designs on the bottles, allowing you to see the perfect color of the whiskey.  Even more so than Woodford Reserve, the Antique Collection’s bottle designs say, “No frills needed, this is great whiskey.”  And judging from the only one I’ve tried (William Larue Weller), the bottles don’t lie.

These are my favorite bottle designs (I’ve included pictures below), what are yours?  Leave me a comment, and let me know if I missed any.

Bourbon Rankings (Taste)

I have had several people ask me to provide a ranking of the bourbons I have reviewed based solely on the bourbon.  Well, here are my bourbon grades.  Check out my grading scale here.

1.  Booker’s (A)

2. Four Roses Single Barrel (A-)

3. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year (B+)

4. Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select (B+)

5. Noah’s Mill (B+)

6. Rowan’s Creek (B+)

7. Maker’s 46 (B+)

8. Rock Hill Farms (B+/B)

9. Wild Turkey 101 (B+/B)

10. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2002 (B)

11. Woodford Reserve (B)

12. Eagle Rare 10 Year Single Barrel (B)

13. Blanton’s Original (B)

14. Wild Turkey Rare Breed (B)

15. Four Roses Small Batch (B)

16. Knob Creek 9 Year Single Barrel Reserve (B/B-)

17. Elmer T. Lee (B/B-)

18. Basil Hayden’s (B-)

19. Buffalo Trace (B-)

20. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut (B-)

21. Elijah Craig 12 Year (B-)

22. W.L. Weller 12 Year (B-)

23. Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Family Reserve (B-)

24. Jefferson’s (B-)

25. Four Roses Yellow Label (C+)

26. Wild Turkey 81 (C+)

27. Old Forester (C/C+)

28. Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch (C)

29. Old Grand-Dad Bonded (C)

30. Old Weller Antique (C)

31. Jim Beam Black Label (C)

32. Evan Williams Black Label (C)

33. Bulliet Frontier (C)

34. Berkshire Bourbon (C)

35.  Fighting Cock 6 Year (C-)

36. Kentucky Vintage (C-)

37. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny (C-)

38. Maker’s Mark (C-)

39. Wild Turkey 80 (C-)

40. Jim Beam White Label (C-)

41. Jesse James (D+)

Those are my bourbon rankings ranked solely on my tastes.  That’s the fun of bourbon, you might rank these completely different.  Which ones would you change?