Nose: There’s a surprising amount of alcohol burn that overshadows the entire nose, although that seemed to dissipate after having the bottle open for a few days. Faint hints of cherries, cinnamon and vanilla underneath. It’s overall on the sweet side. Adding water helped cut the alcohol and allowed the other scents to come out a little more. The nose is in-line with the standard Maker’s Mark profile, but surprisingly not as potent as I would have thought being 113 proof.
Palate: Nice full-bodied mouth feel that coats your tongue. Notes of caramel, toasted nuts and cinnamon provide a wonderfully flavored sip. Deeper hints of allspice, dark fruit and a touch of molasses round it out. The palate also follows the standard Maker’s flavor profile, but it has much more life in it.
Finish: Medium to long finish that has a great mix of sweet and spicy. They play off each other nicely as they keep the high and lows in check. The tail end of the finish concludes with earthy tones. It may be on the low end of proof for a cask strength bourbon, but it still packs a decent amount of heat. Adding a few drops of water did help cut the heat and allowed me to focus more on the great flavors.
Uniqueness: This is the first time Maker’s Mark has ever offered its product in cask strength form. It has a similar style as Old Weller Antique (107 proof) and Old Grand Dad 114 (114 proof), although Maker’s Cask Strength does a better job keeping the spice in check. The sweetness has more of a presence and helps it from being more one sided like the aforementioned bourbons.
It is also one of the few barrel proof wheaters on the market. It may not be as potent as the 130-plus proof William Larue Weller, but it captures some of that rare bourbon’s best traits. High proof wheaters have a great interplay between sweet and spicy flavors that you don’t always find in corn or rye heavy barrel proof bourbons. Simply put, they’re delicious to sip.
Value: Maker’s was wise to soft-release this new version of their flagship bourbon in 375 ml bottles at their gift shop and slowly expand nationwide. With few barrel proof wheaters on the market, and company claims over the last few years of shortages, this allowed more bottles to get to more consumers. With 750 ml bottles now available nationwide for a respectable $55 price, consumers can now get their hands on a great product they have been clamoring for. Despite the proof being on the low side for a barrel proof bourbon, its competitive price and great flavors allow it to keep company among some of the best barrel proof bourbons on the market.
Overall: Credit must be given to Maker’s Mark that they finally listened to their customers’ plea for a higher proof and therefore, more flavorful Maker’s Mark bourbon. You can find Maker’s Mark in every bar, but I can’t tell you the last time I ordered one. The bourbon is too thin and the flavor too weak and bland for me to ever show any interest in it. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength goes a long way in correcting those faults. It is now on my radar, not because it’s a new exciting bourbon, but because the flavor now raises the bourbon to a higher level.
To sum it up: A good balance of sweet and spice with a full-bodied mouth feel that coats your tongue in complex flavors.
-Eric - Reviewed: 10/2014
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