Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Beam Suntory
Distillery: Maker’s Mark
Release Date: 2023
Age: NAS (Aged at least 4 years per TTB regulations)
Mashbill: 70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley
Color: Bright Copper
MSRP: $65 (2023)
A waft of rich burnt caramel greets you as you raise the glass and inhale. Underneath are charred oak, light leather, and a dollop of marshmallow. A tingle of ethanol is present but thankfully isn’t distracting, instead serving as a reminder of the bourbon's proof. Inhaling deeper reveals scents of baked cinnamon apples and baked pie crust. The sweeter scents coalesce nicely with the weighty oak and leather notes, providing for a nice foundation to kick off the sip.
The sweet notes from the nose carry over adding dark caramel and brown sugar and making their presence immediately known. Bright cinnamon pushes through and carries with it faint notes of summer fruits and a light drizzle of honey. The flavors are deliciously sweet yet don’t veer too far into the overdone category thanks to an anchoring presence of charred oak. It’s a delicious midpoint for the sip and makes you appreciate what an increase in proof does to the standard Maker’s Mark 46 flavor profile.
Sweetness in the form of fresh cinnamon bread lingers for a beat before quickly transitioning to more dry flavors in the form of dry charred oak and leather. A light white peppercorn grounds it further before quickly departing. The finish ends on a lingering dried charred oak note supported by a warming heat. Similar to the nose, the finish doesn’t reach the same height that the palate does, however, overall it’s a pleasant way to wrap things up.
When Maker’s Mark originally released Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength in 2015, I quickly fell in love with it. It was a fun quirky 375mL bottle with a label that looked like it was printed out on an inkjet printer in the distillery’s gift shop. It was also notably slightly lower in proof. The pour it delivered was really great and I’ve been chasing that flavor from Maker’s Mark ever since.
Maker’s Mark has managed to release some equally great bourbons since that initial release, mostly in the form of their Wood Finishing Series which started in 2019 and ended in 2023. When Maker’s Mark RC6 came out it was a great reminder of just how important the company's wood stave finishing process plays in the final flavor profile. However, while interesting to enjoy as a fan of Maker’s Mark, it left a lot to be desired for consumers who were looking for big bold high proof wheated bourbons.
Specifically since 2015, the market for high proof wheated bourbons has drastically changed. Weller Full Proof was introduced, and more importantly, so was the Larceny Barrel Proof Bourbon line. It’s this latter bourbon which has been setting the new bar for what it means to be a high proof wheated bourbon. While Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength provides a nice variation from a standard Maker’s Mark 46 pour, it’s hard to deny that other wheated barrel proof bourbons deliver a consistently better pour time and time again. That’s not to say that this is a bad bourbon, more so that Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength has a hard time standing out as a star in both the Maker’s Mark brand portfolio and the overall high proof wheated bourbon space in general.
As bourbon has continued to skyrocket in price, Maker’s Mark has been one of the few brands that seem to not be taking advantage of trying to wring every last dollar out of consumers. Their standard Maker’s Mark bourbon continues to be a consumer-friendly priced bourbon, and even their limited-release bourbons have capped out at $70. The end result is that Maker’s products feel like more and more of a bargain as the bourbon market continues to rise at a rapid pace.
Since the brand was more widely distributed starting in 2021, Beam Suntory has only raised the price of Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength by $5. That’s quite incredible, seeing as other cask strength brands from the company’s own portfolio (I’m looking at you Booker’s) have seen continuous price increases over the years. Coming in at $65, this barrel proof wheated bourbon is an above average value in today’s marketplace. While its predominant secondary grain of wheat won’t appeal to everyone, for those who are a fan of wheated bourbons, this price will hit just right.
Ditching its unique bottle shape and adopting the Maker’s Mark brand standard design, doesn’t change the fact that Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength is still an enjoyable wheated barrel proof bourbon at a consumer-friendly price point.
Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength is a bourbon that continues to deliver an above average poor time and time again, but struggles to grow beyond. As different batches are released, that may change in the future, however for now it seems to be stuck in a time warp. The sip itself is enjoyable, delivering rich sweet notes that highlight both its secondary wheat grain component and also its use of wood staves to finish the bourbon. Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength’s updated bottle design gives it a fresh new feel, and hopefully, more consumers are able to find it on the shelves on an ongoing basis. If you’ve never tried Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength, now is as good a time as any. You won’t walk away being blown away, but you’ll also be far from disappointed.