The Samuels family sold the Maker’s Mark Distillery and brand to Hiram Walker in the mid-1980s. There was flavor drift that followed the sale as Hiram Walker took the brand nationwide and to international markets. Before the sale, the brand had a very limited market that was easily supplied by the small distillery. When the market expanded, the older stocks of Bourbon were quickly used and the brand flavor profile drifted as they disappeared. This bottle is from about 1991 or ’92, when the full impact of the loss of aged whiskey was at its height.

The distillery started expanding in the mid-1990s. It expanded two more times since then as they struggled with the increasing demand for their Bourbon. The brand has changed ownership a couple of times since the first sale and is now part of Beam Suntory. The brand is getting back to the flavor profile created by the Samuels family. The flavor was always good, but the younger Bourbon they were forced to use in the 1990s, made it thin and simple. It lost the rich caramel and apple fruit that it had in the early 1980s and of today.

Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Date: ca. 1991

Proof: 90

Age: No Age Statement

Nose: Very simple – vanilla, corn and a little ripe apple and oak.

Taste: Thin mouth-feel, vanilla, corn a slight hint of apples and pepper, oak tannins. When tasted with a dried cranberry, a little caramel starts to come through and the mouth-feel gets a little thicker. When tasted with a pecan, the flavor becomes very peppery with a little oak and vanilla.

Finish: short with some vanilla fading into some oak wood. The dried cranberry lengthens the finish and adds a little more oak with a hint of pepper spice. The pecan makes the finish very peppery with oak wood.

I would pair this Bourbon with a NUB Maduro cigar. I believe the vanilla and rich tobacco of the smoke would enhance the vanilla of the Bourbon and maybe bring out the fruit flavors.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller