Whisky Advocate

More varieties of Maker’s Mark bourbon please!

October 2nd, 2009

Last week, I participated in a live webcast at the Maker’s Mark distillery with Kevin Smith (Master Distiller, Maker’s Mark) and John Campbell (Distillery Manager, Laphroaig). If you haven’t seen the video yet, here’s the link.

During the webcast, we tasted three different Laphroaig whiskies, including the new 18 and 25 year old expressions. We also tasted the one and only one expression of Maker’s Mark bourbon.

I was once again reminded how much I enjoy Maker’s Mark. It’s very gentle, smooth and easy to drink. This is partly because Maker’s is one of the few bourbons that use wheat as the spice ingredient rather than rye.

For those of you who haven’t been drinking whisky as long as me, there once was a time when there were three different Maker’s expressions: the standard one at 90 proof, a gold label 101 proof (which was the same formula as the standard bottling), and 95 proof black label called “Maker’s Mark Select,” which was a different formula (aged a little longer). The latter two were essentially for Travel Retail and the export markets.

Bottom line here: I liked all three, and I wish we still had all three! I have a bottle of Select which I’ve been hanging on to, but my bottle of the gold label 101 proof is long gone.

I kept thinking this past week how nice it would be to have more than one Maker’s Mark expression to chose from–especially given that there are so few wheated bourbons on the market.

I asked Kevin Smith about it before the webcast. He said that they are having enough trouble just making enough of the standard Maker’s to put out anything else. He also told me he would pass my comment on to Bill Samuels. (And I also hope he passes it on to Beam management, who now controls Maker’s Mark.)

It was nice to taste and enjoy the three Laphroaig whiskies. I wondered what life would be like with just one version of Laphroaig? Or to broaden this thought a little more: “What would life be like with just one Beatles album?” I think you get my picture.

Maybe we can start a petition or something?

16 Responses to “More varieties of Maker’s Mark bourbon please!”

  1. The leveller says:

    MM is a wonderful whisky and while I’d love to taste it at higher proof, extra aging etc., there is something wonderfully uncompromising and ‘classic’ about its sole expression

  2. I think its time for independent Bourbon bottlers to step up and fill this void.

  3. David Stirk says:

    Hi John,

    ok – would love to. Now find me a Bourbon distiller willing to sell their casks to me? Seriously, I think you are right and it is a shame that the only non-distilling companies who can add to the Bourbon world are ones are ones who are willing to add a brand (like Michters, Van Winkle, Bulleit). There was/is a company called Classic Cask but I don’t see much of their stuff anymore.

    I am torn on this subject as I love Maker’s Mark but they would certainly get more $$’s from me if they had a greater range.


  4. bgulien says:

    As a staunch Scotch single Malt drinker, I still have a soft spot for American Whiskey.
    I have 2 favorite US whiskies on the shelf.
    1 is MM and 2 is the Johnny Drum 15 yo Private Reserve.
    So out of sheer egotistical motives I applaud the petition of more MM expressions.
    So I certainly will expand the shelf space to accommodate a wider MM range!
    Nice broadcast John. Liked the tasting notes and for once I had all the whiskies at the ready.
    Only the 10 yo was a cask strength, because the 40% 10 is too watery for my liking.

  5. Mr Manhattan says:

    It’s hard to argue with success – and there’s little economic incentive for MM to divert anything away from the old red top bottling (though that scary looking mint is now being carried nationally). If you crave another wheated bourbon, there are any number of other good and even better bottles out there to try. Most notable to me is the William Larue Weller barrel strength in the BT Antique Collection.

  6. John Hansell says:

    Mr. Manhattan, I diagree. I think if they made another expression or two–or even the occassional limited-edition bottling–it would be good for their bottom line. See some of the comments above. (But perhaps not in this economic environment.)

    I will, however, second your comment about the William Larue Weller. And this year’s release (just coming out) rocks!

  7. Joe M says:

    Sorry, John, have to disagree here. At last year’s ‘fest, I came to the conclusion that some high volume, high quality, whiskies represented a certain kind of brand perfection. For me, attempts to depart do not enhance the brand. Examples included alternate expressions from Tullamore Dew and Connemara. In both case, I thought the standard editions of both were significantly better. Like Makers, I’m really fond of the everyday quality TD – not too fussy, but distinct, flavorful, and good with ice, water, neat, or in a cocktail. I would not want to see Makers go down that route, unless they were confident they could produce something exceptional. Sometimes regular is just better.

  8. John Hansell says:

    Joe, have you TASTED the other two previous offerings? If you had, you might change your mind (not from a marketing perspective, but rather a whisky enthusiast perspective.)

  9. Joe M says:

    I’m a reasonable man, open to persuasion. When you’re ready to ply me with your remaining stash of Select, I can make myself available! ;^)

  10. Josh Kolchins says:


    Count me in on a petition! I fondly remember the gold and the black bottlings. I enjoy Maker’s but usually find myself drinking bourbon’s with more rye in the mashbill. Something bigger and heavier would be a welcome addition – in my opinion.

    – Josh

  11. Todd Phipps says:

    I would love to taste an expression of MM at a higher proof, preferably non chill-filtered. I’m a fan of Old Weller Antique 107, and also have a small cache of Old Fitzgerald bottled-in-bond from the end of the Stitzel-Weller era. MM was my “gateway” bourbon, and I still drink and enjoy a fair bit of it at gigs and at restaurants, it’s almost a “comfort food” type of whiskey. I can understand not wanting to detract from their core brand, which is working undeniably well for them. But after drinking higher-proof and longer-aged wheaters the basic MM seems a bit tame and almost bland…great for new drinkers and as a pour to have with a fine meal, but missing something for whiskey enthusiasts who desire a more complex and interesting drink. I love MM, but I think they could do a “select” higher-proof/longer age bottling for serious bourbon aficionados without negatively impacting their flagship red wax brand. Hope springs eternal…not expecting the second coming of Stitzel-Weller but still… 😉

  12. Henric Molin says:

    I repeat a statement made on facebook. Makers Mark is a truly good whisky, so I agree it would be fun to see varieties of it. I would love to try one matured in Mizunari oak, giving that menthol character, a smooth Mint Julep direct from the barrel. Another fun experiment would be finish on untoasted Russian oak giving that Cucumber, nutmeg and Cinnamon character that probably go well with the great original recipe of new make, and it would not affect the rules of Bourbon. Probably Fortune Brands already tried this out, if not I hope they will. It could be a good excuse to do a charity cause out of it. By the way I thought that it could be a a fun experiment to go the other way between Makers Mark and Laphroiag, i.e. maturing Makers Mark in ex. Laphroaig casks. I was wrong…they way I did it it was nothing to be fired up about, it might work with another approach, who knows… Again Makers Mark is one of the best whiskies in the world and perfect might not be able to get “perfecter” but even with a Rolls Royce you might desire a cabriolet for certain occasions. Cheers

  13. maker’s is one of my favorite bourbons and my only complaint is its proof is too low.. the older gold and black sound awesome and I’d love to see those come back.

    I was fortunate to try laphroaig 18, 25 Cask Strength, and 30 at nihon in san francisco a couple weeks ago (and I have 10 and 15 at home).. they were fantastic, especially the 18, which I was worried wouldn’t live up to the 15, but it definitely delivers..

  14. Todd says:

    I found myself at a bar earlier this week that featured about 15 whisk(e)y choices and I bought two that evening, a MM and for 4x the price of the MM, an 18 from a distiller whose recent merits have been discussed on this site. I have to say, I enjoyed the MM more both objectively and from the bang for the buck perspective. I love a good wheater once in a while and I would be happy to see more range from MM.

  15. Todd says:

    And also to note, I would love to be able to go out and buy the BT Antique WLW anytime during the year, but reality, it disappears quickly in the Fall.

  16. backtown says:

    Makers Mark Limited Edition 101 proof gold wax bottle

    is worth about $44.500

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