Maker’s Mark bourbon, with its red wax seal, is undeniably one of the most recognizable spirits on the market. For more than 50 years, it has been known for its quality; as the market has become glutted with fine, expensive small-batch bourbons in recent years, Maker’s Mark somewhat incredibly has become something of a value product. A 750ml bottle can usually be found for about $22.
Last summer the company launched Maker’s 46, a new, premium bourbon that, while clearly maintaining the same sensibilities, is not just a rejiggering or extended aging of the original. Rather, the process incorporates French oak for a different flavor profile. The price is higher as well, typically about $34.
Here’s what the neophyte whiskey drinker can appreciate about original Maker’s Mark: it’s just so damned approachable. A bust of sweetness leads into something fiery with cherry/cinnamon/vanilla/caramel tones; never cloying just unmistakably delicious.
The new, premium version is a little more aloof. The alcohol content is only a smidge more, a mere 2% (94 proof versus the original’s 90 proof), but it’s noticeable. It doesn’t so much as welcome you in as announce that it’s arrived, a big upfront performance. Be sure to pay attention to the subtleties that follow, though: more vanilla throughout than the original, a big woody finish, and hints of fall spice. Perfect for sipping; a little splash of water does open it up some as well.
Many are touting it as better than the original; your mileage may vary. It is very good, and worth trying, especially if you are a fan of Maker’s Mark. Even if you like it equally or somewhat more, the approximately 33% price difference may not be worth it to those who appreciate the “bang for the buck” quality of the original. But definitely worth a shot.