Excellent Cask Strength Whiskey – and maybe a gateway Cask Strength for Novices/
Notes: This bourbon, much like its founder, is iconoclastic, not to say obstreperous (in the case of Bill Samuels*, anyway). This whisky comes in a few variations/incarnations – most of which are distinguished by different colors of sealing wax, and the coveted over dip bottles. Spelled without the “e”, unlike most bourbon. While we have not done a lot of other Maker’s Mark Whiskies, we do have a few in the archives, The Standard Maker’s Mark, The Maker’s Mark 46, and now this one, the Cask Strength
It uses wheat instead of rye (hence the designation wheated bourbon) giving it a lighter taste, bouquet, and mouthfeel than its rye brethren. The formula statesred winter wheat (16%), along with corn (70%) and malted barley (14%) in the Mash Bill.
We took a tour of the distillery a few years back, and it is quite a showcase. It is one of the few to still use cypress wood vats instead of stainless steel tanks and all that copper and brass in the still safes gives it a wonderful antique feel rather than the high production factory (not to say soulless computer-controlled chemical plants) that some of the others remind us of.
Appearance: Bright wheat gold color with a bit of a redshift in the color. Nice edge line on the glass when you swirl it, smooth layer of whisky on swirling, some legs.
First Impression: Definitely more dense band deeper bouquet than their standard stuff. Caramel, cocoa, dried fruit, and oak notes on nosing. A bit more spirity than a rye whiskey blend but sweeter. Lots of oak influence on the whisky both in color and smell.
Taste: Definitely an improvement over their standard proof fare. This Cask Strength has a much heavier almost oily mouthfeel to it. More vanilla and fruit notes in front with malt, chocolate, and pepper notes to it. Oak and more sweetness to it. Vanilla and caramel come out from the oak barrels and are in full measure. Caramel taste and thick mouthfeel yields to the heavy citrus and fruity notes are more evident than in many bourbons – probably the wheat mash bills influence. Fair amount of warming burn as it goes down but in a pleasant way. Finish is medium-long, with citrus, and fruit notes. Almost like a really good fruitcake as the melange of flavors is complex and satisfying.
Drinks: We, of course, tried it in a Manhattan and the consensus was. . . depends on what you like. The spiciness and sweetness are nice but it is not the heavy style I prefer at times. As to other drinks – You will need to experiment and adjust recipes if you are used to using a heavier bodied rye bourbon.
Cigars: Yes, works well with a milder cigar such as an Avo or natural wrapper Fuente.
Final Thoughts: A very approachable Cask Strength bourbon. An easy-to-find and good value for the money.
Bottle: The bottle has is a good bit different from the standard-issue Makers Mark Bottle. The bottle still has an old-style paper label in the front with a scalloped edge to it with an antique-looking script. It is a lot narrower and says ” Cask Strength ” on it. It also has the words “Makers Mark and their sigil/mark on it. The bottom of the clear glass bottle is a tapered rectangle with rounded shoulders. Dipped in its iconic red sealing wax (dipping these bottles is harder than it looks, by the way) it is hard to miss on a shelf of other whisk(e)y.
The Wax – got to say they have the composition down. The Makers Mark wax is the best wax seal I have encountered. It is sufficiently plastic to make it a joy to pull that tab ( outside of the obvious reason).
I’ve opened probably hundreds of bottles with wax seals, and it is far and away the easiest wax to pull a tab through. Other waxes have required sharp objects or butane torches to get through – neither are recommended during/after drinking.
Web site: http://www.makersmark.com
Fast loading after getting past the annoying date-of-birth screen (okay, it helps them gather some demographics, but I always wonder what those sites do with the information). Decent information and good pictures of the whisky and some basic recipes.
If you become an Ambassador you will get a number of perks and a special section of the web site – I highly recommend the tasting information and printable tasting/evaluation notes – originally written by Gary Regan with commentaries and amplifications by Bill they are very helpful for beginners and will give you a glimpse what you will be facing if you ever run into these guys at Bourbon Fest.MAkers