Maker’s Mark started with bread, of course. Bill Samuels bought the Burks’ Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, in 1953 and did the predictable – just not in a predictable way.
He wanted to select the right mashbill for his new Bourbon. He took inspiration from the Old Fitzgerald and W. L. Weller recipes made by Pappy Van Winkle. He did not want to take the time to distill, age and taste each candidate, so he made a loaf of bread from each mix of grain. One had no rye in it.
No rye? Samuels liked the loaf without the rye best so he ran with it. The winner contained the customary corn with malted barley and a large dose of red winter wheat. The product is in stark contrast to rye-heavy spirits like Bulleit or Knob Creek.
The result is less spicy than the rye-influenced whiskeys. Bring a glass to your nose. You’ll smell spiced honey, cut fruit and citrus peel. Have a sip. Barley malt, butterscotch and vanilla bean will gradually bloom on your tongue. Wait a moment. The finish is of medium length with gentle caramel and dry oak spice.
This collection of flavors makes Maker’s Mark very friendly with sweet vermouth. It makes a fine Manhattan with a cherry. Go light with the bitters. It’s also a great choice with an Old Fashioned, particularly if you have dark purple Bing cherries to muddle.