Maker’s Mark started right after prohibition when Bill Samuel’s burned his family’s old ‘harsh’ bourbon whiskey recipe and started making something new. Him, and his board of other prominent whiskey makers wanted to change the direction of bourbon from what it was, to what it is more like today. Previously, bourbon was meant to hit as many parts of the tongue as possible, creating a less appealing whiskey. This panel decided that it was time to focus more on the front of the tongue and towards the sweetness and sweet spice flavors in bourbon whiskey. The also focused on how to break down the grains, use other grains(like wheat in MM’s case) and create better barrels. From these new changes, a sweeter, better bourbon was born.
There is no records of Makers Mark changing their bourbon recipe from the 90s to 2000s, but there had been people talking about how the flavor of the whiskey had changed. I was lucky enough to get a sample from the 90s to put this to the test myself.
Maker’s mark definitely focuses on the front tastes of your mouth
Nose: Sweet with mild vanilla, raisin
Initial taste: The sweet wheat flavor hits you first, there is a very mild spice with light caramel and oak. Smooth and mild flavor
Body: Mild viscosity, does not coat the palate well
Finish: Minimal finish with mild alcohol, after it hits the front of your taste buds, it leaves you wanting more. That makes it a very drinkable whiskey, but not complex.
Nose: Vanilla, Oak, Orange, toffee
Initial taste: You initially taste the oak, vanilla, creamy caramel with hints of orange and other citrus.
Body: Great mouthfeel, much more viscous
Finish: Very nice finish. The buttery caramel stays in your palate with some oak and vanilla. The complexity missing in today’s Maker’s Mark was found with the older sample.
The two whiskies are really night and day. The sweet, wheat mash and mild flavors are what keep you knowing that these are the same bourbon. But besides that they are totally different. It seems that the older ones were aged longer, or had a higher char bringing out other, more complex flavors. While the current version leaves you wanting, the older sample filled in all those voids. To me, it is like new Maker’s Mark had a baby with older National Disillers juice to produce what Maker’s used to be.