Maker’s Mark Tasting Notes

Maker's Mark

A staple to any bar around the world is Maker’s Mark. The bottle alone creates a buzz with its presence, but it’s not, well compared to other major presences like Jack Daniels, Jim Beam or Woodford Reserve, really been around for that long. 1958 to be exact.

Well the production of Maker’s Mark started in 1954 to be fair. A gentleman named T. William Samuels Sr, or Bill as he was more commonly referred to as, purchased a distillery known as ‘Burks’ Distillery’ in Loretto, Kentucky for a sum of $35,000. 1958 came the first bottling of the now distinctive dipped red wax seal, which itself is a U.S. trademark.Production was overseen by Bill Samuels son Bill Samuels Jr until only as recently as 2011 when he announced his retirement. Son Rob Samuels succeeded him.

With its marketed trademark tagline of “It tastes expensive … and is”, the distillery became a historical landmark with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark. The Burks Distillery became the first distillery in America to be recognized where the landmark buildings were in active use for distilling.

In 1981, Maker’s Mark was sold to Hiram Walker & Sons, which six years later sold it to distillery giant Allied Domecq in 1987, which in turn sold it to Fortune Brands in 2005. In 2011 Fortune Brands split and its drinks business became Beam Inc. home of brands including Jim Beam, Courvoisier and Canadian Club.

So despite a rather topsy-turvy history, Maker’s Mark stand strong as one of the worlds most recognised brands. And it has a rather unusual recipe.

Maker’s Mark can actually be attributed to limestone-purified spring water that comes from a spring-fed lake right at the distillery. With a foundation of red winter wheat rather than traditional rye, this, along with naturally malted barley, and yellow corn, results in a double distillation within a copper pot still. Once distilled, charred white oak barrels are used to age. Although no specific age is ever given, the master distiller tastes each batch five times during the maturation process. When they think it is ready, it is then bottled.
A rather unique method that Maker’s Mark incorporate is barrel rotation. Rotated by hand, workers rotate the barrels from the upper to the lower levels of the aging warehouses during the aging process to even out the differences in temperature. The upper floors are exposed to the greatest temperature variations during the year, so rotating the barrels ensures that the bourbon in all the barrels have the same quality and taste.

So two rather unique processes – red winter wheat instead of the traditional rye, as well as barrel rotation. But how does it fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –

Maker’s Mark – 45%

Rich fruit mixed in with a hint of spice aroma on the nose, followed by a well-rounded palate of spice, vanilla and oak. A long, lingering spice finish that warms nicely.

A fantastic sip, and one that can even win a competition –

Fashionable Manhattan
Fashionable Manhattan

Fashionable Manhattan

Glass –


Ingredients – 

30 ml Maker’s Mark
12.5 ml Sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Wedges of lime, lemon and orange

Method – 

Place two dashes of Angostura Bitters and wedges of lime, lemon and orange into a cocktail glass. Macerate the fruit until the bitters and fruit oils cover the entire inside of the glass. Remove fruit remnants. Pour Maker’s Mark and sweet vermouth into a shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Strain into cocktail glass. Run a bar spoon around the inside of the glass to release the fruit oils and bitters into the drink. Garnish with a broken maraschino cherry.

This was the award-winning recipe at the 2006 Kentucky Bourbon Festival Cocktail Challenge, and a fantastic way to combine two classic drinks in one – the Old Fashioned and Manhattan. Of course, it’s not just cocktails that Maker’s Mark is famous for –

Maker’s Mark Morning After Sugar Crusted Marshmallow Pancake Stack with Bourbon Blueberry Compote and Naughty Syrup


Bourbon Blueberry Compote

(Makes 3 cups)

1/2 cup Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 cups fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch salt

Combine 6 tablespoons of the bourbon with the sugar and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.
Add the berries and cook until they start breaking down and the mixture thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 4 minutes. Stir in the remaining bourbon and lemon juice.

Maker’s Mark Morning After Sugar Crusted Marshmallow Pancake Stack with Bourbon Blueberry Compote and Naughty Syrup
Maker’s Mark Morning After Sugar Crusted Marshmallow Pancake Stack with Bourbon Blueberry Compote and Naughty Syrup

Naughty Syrup

(Makes 1-1/4 cups)

2 tablespoons Maker’s Mark Bourbon
1 cup Grade A or Grade B maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 piece fresh orange peel, 1″x 3″, minced
2 tablespoons butter

Combine the maple syrup, cinnamon, clove and orange peel in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium high heat to a simmer then remove from the heat and allow the syrup and aromatics to steep for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a small saucepan.
Gently warm the syrup over low heat. Add the butter and Maker’s Mark Bourbon and stir until well blended. Serve warm.

Pancake Stack

(Makes 8–12 pancakes)

2 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 jar marshmallow cream (Fluff)
1 recipe bourbon blueberry compote
1 recipe Naughty Syrup
Butter for making pancakes
Granulated sugar

Beat the eggs until frothy in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture. Stir until well-incorporated, then stir in the butter. The batter should be fairly smooth with a few small lumps.
Heat a large griddle or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon of butter to the hot griddle and then spoon a 1/2 cup of batter to form a pancake 5″-6″ in diameter. Cook the pancake until bubbles stop forming and the batter begins to set, then flip the pancake (the cooked side should be a deep golden brown). Cook until the other side is set and golden brown. Remove the pancake and set aside on a baking sheet or plate, tented with aluminum foil to keep the pancakes warm. Wipe the griddle/pan down in between with a damp towel or paper towel. Repeat with the melted butter and remaining batter until all of the batter has been used. The griddle may get hot over time, so adjust and lower the heat as necessary.
To make a pancake stack, place a pancake on a plate and top that pancake with a few tablespoons of marshmallow cream. Add another pancake and top again with a few tablespoons of marshmallow cream.
Add a third pancake to the stack. Brush generously with melted butter and then sprinkle the top pancake with a thin, even layer of granulated sugar. Melt the sugar using a hand torch, keeping the torch 6-8 inches away and in constant motion, to melt the sugar evenly without burning it. When the sugar hardens it will form a deep amber brown crust.
Top the pancake stack with the Bourbon Blueberry Compote and then drizzle generously with Naughty Syrup. Serve immediately!

Makes you hungry doesn’t it! It may have not been around for as long as the others, but it sure is making strides in the bourbon whisky market. Play around today and join in the fun. Or if you ever get the chance, try Maker’s Mark 46. The first new Makers Mark recipe for at least 50 years, Maker’s 46 is named for the number of different wood ‘recipes’ they tried before getting it right!

Check out the rest of the photos, taken at Dawnvale Leisure Interiors, via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

24 Days of Christmas Cocktails – Day 10

Day 10 has arrived in the form of the American craft beer Blue Moon.

Blue Moon

Day 10 – Blue Moon Winter Punch – Blue Moon

Glass –

Heat proof Highball glass

Ingredients –

6 bottles Blue Moon
1 litre Orange Juice
100ml Bourbon
75ml Sugar syrup
75ml Gingerbread syrup
Handful of cloves
Handful of broken cinnamon sticks

Method –

Combine and stir all the ingredients in a saucepan on a low heat until simmering.

Garnish with orange slice.


Each day for the next 15 days their will be a different christmas cocktail added to the site, so sign yourself up to be the first to find out! Make sure you follow me on Twitter (and the hash tag #24daysofchristmascocktails) or Facebook for instant updates.


© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

BBFB American Odyssey Review

The Bacardi Training Team were back in Manchester recently for the next round of their training sessions, this time held in the Champagne and cocktail bar Epernay. Leanne and Tom were our hosts in this popular Manchester bar and perfect setting to learn about Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve!

The range of whiskey to be tasted

Starting off with a cocktail named Stonefence, a mix that I’ve surprisingly never heard off yet so simple – whiskey and cider! Apparantly made around the 1800’s in the time of Jerry Thomas, it was surprisingly nice and balanced quite well!

Leanne then spoke about the 400 year history of whiskey in America whilst we sampled rye whiskey (not very strong on the nose, gave off a soft vanilla scent. The taste gave a slight fire burn which resulted in a long after-taste). To be classed as Rye Whiskey, it must be made from at least 51% rye, distilled at less than 80 percent and stored in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years and most Rye whiskies are made in Indiana and Kentucky. An example of rye whiskey is Rittenhouse, a brand that I used to sell in my last place of work.

We then learnt about the start of whiskey, where in the late 1800’s, the Scottish and Irish settlers brought over to America their knowledge of the production of whisky and settled in the surrounding regions of Virginia. Since corn is native to America, this resulted in the use of corn as a basis for whiskey production. We tried a small sample of corn whiskey, before the start of maturation, that gave off a very overpowering and a scent of fresh bread which came more alive upon tasting. To compare, we also tried a wheat whiskey that gave a smooth scent and taste but a rather bland and virtually no recognisable flavour on the palate.

The legend of Elijah Craig was also explored. He apparently is credited in being the pioneer of the first true bourbon whiskey and also the charred barrel method of ageing the whiskey. Many stories for the charred barrel legend include that he purchased a barrel that had previously been used to store fish and burnt the inside to remove the smell. He then put his whiskey in and transported it down the river.

Next, the laws of American Bourbon were mentioned. These include –

  • Bourbon can be made anywhere in the USA (but mainly found in Kentucky)
  • Only Bourbon from Kentucky can advertise the state in which it is made
  • Must contain at least 51% corn
  • However no more than 80% with the other 20-49% having a combination of rye, barley and wheat
  • All American whiskies must be aged in new American white oak casks that have been charred on the inside for at least 2 years.

As mentioned above, the charring of the barrels releases sweet and smoky flavours to the Bourbon which give it a stronger, more flavoursome whiskey than that of Scottish or Irish whisky. The barrels can’t be re-used, so they are sold to other spirit distillers of rum, tequila and Scotch.

The Epernay bar

The addition of ‘sour mash’ is also a signature of American whiskey. 25% of the mash from a previous batch is added to the fermentation process so to keep a consistent style.

The Lincoln County Process was also mentioned by Leanne, which is the main difference between Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. In Tennessee, the whiskey is filtered through maple charcoal before ageing and must be made by at least 51% of single grain and can only be made in Tennessee. This brought us nicely onto Jack Daniels. Being from Lynchburg, Tennessee, it is therefore classed as a Tennessee whiskey. We sampled Tennessee whiskey both before and after charcoal ageing. The before whiskey had the same nose as corn however the taste wasn’t as strong and gave a smoother more delicate flavour. The post whiskey had a more subtle nose and a creamier taste than before charcoal ageing.

2 different Manhattans were then made to both see and taste the difference between the one made using Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels Single Barrel. Being a Manhattan drinker, both = excellent! And one sip was definitely not enough!

The Jack Daniels Single Barrel was next on the agenda to be tasted. On the nose it gave off a subtle vanilla aroma with a slight oak lingering behind. The smooth vanilla extracts were released upon tasting which made it just that little bit easier to drink than its Old No.7 version.

The Gentleman Jack on the nose gave off a very strong vanilla aroma yet on the tongue it was very smooth and not as harsh as you may think after the initial nosing. It gives a gentle vanilla/toffee colour compared to a more Old No.7 style colour for the Single Barrel.

We also tried Woodford Reserve to have a comparison. On the nose it gave off a strong caramel scent with a smooth lingering vanilla aroma which carried on to the taste. However the caramel becomes more subtle in flavour resulting in a smooth lingering after-taste.

This was an excellent insight to American whiskey and really helped my understanding of the American side of a subject that I’ve not always fully understood. With this and my recent Dalmore and Glenfiddich Masterclasses ( and ) I have been able to fully appreciate both the history, techniques used, taste and understand the differences in the whisk(e)y that is produced.

If you are close to any of the BBFB Training Shows, make sure you go along and check them out. It’s a great chance to learn and sample the brands that Bacardi Brown-Forman have got underneath them. Check out there website at

Also, check out my review of their Rum Roadshow at