View Full Version : Maker's Mark...good bourbon or gimmick?

04-20-2004, 19:42
i live in an area that is dominated by maker's mark. i like it but most people assume it is the best bourbon around. i strongly disagree. but i am absolutely amazed by the way people will do anything for a "collector's bottle" or some trinket dipped in wax. kudos to their marketing department but how do bourbon afficianados rate maker's mark. i apologize if this issue has been discussed before.

04-20-2004, 20:00
Here in Missouri, we use Maker's Mark to thin paint, polish silver, and kill crabgrass. You mean you can drink the stuff? Just kidding. A lot of bars in my area have only Beam and Makers as call bourbons. I prefer Makers to Beam white label. Many on this site do like it, but find it to be rather bland compared to many similar or lower priced bottlings. Nobody disputes the power of their marketing though as it's top notch. But then maybe there's a reason they have to spend so much?

04-20-2004, 20:04
I don't think Bill Samuels Sr had any gimmickry in mind when he started a defunct distillery back up in 1954. He is the last person to pull that off, for that he has my respect. At the present time Beam , Brown -Forman( Labrot& Graham) or any of the other high rollers( all of them) could build a fire under an old still. Don't hold your breath to see any other up & comer to do that. Makers has distinct brand appeal. Even in Louisville where everyone knows the brand, the billboards on the interstate cry forth with red wax.

Most complaints lodged here regarding Maker's fall like this;
for what it is the price is a little steep. They sell all they can make so no help coming there.

Most would like to see things done with age and proof, a single barrel( Who could afford it if they did?) They would rather ride the same horse home that they won the race with.

Some of their claims are quite a stretch, ie reinventing the premium bourbon catagory. Don't ever believe that Pappy VanWinkle and Jim Beam himself only made rotgut that was passable and would have to wait till the mid 50s to follow Maker's lead.

04-21-2004, 07:55
The answer is YES!!
Good Bourbon, not great, somewhat pricey for a one horse show. Gimmick, YES. They've taken the marketing route as the shortest distance between the rick house and the bank. They deserve credit for being the springboard to premium bourbon for many enthusiasts. I am personally infatuated with the whole Wax Dipped Collectible thing. (A tragic personality flaw hat has me collecting porcelain insulators, Harley Beer, Beer steins, old lab glassware and anything shiny found on the side of the road)
There are distilleries that skip the hype and put out good products. There are distilleries that put out hype and sell crap (Have you tried Old Whiskey River?) Half the fun is being able to tell the difference.

04-21-2004, 09:36
In our non-expert opinion, we would have to agree with the general sentiments that it is good but somewhat overpriced. Tina probably likes it more than I, but I like it quite a bit. I think it has one of the smoother finishes around.

Confession: we have allowed ourselves to fall victim to the gimmickry, too. We have a 375ml bottle that we dipped ourselves on a distillery tour as well as a blue label/white wax bottle signed by Bill Samuels, Jr. Still, when a Maker's Mark fan comes over, they make fun conversation pieces.

I think Bobby's comments above say it best in terms of summarizing all sides of the issue. Actually, I respect the philosophy of sticking with one predictable quality product. It's fun for us bourbon drinkers to try new stuff, but if a single barrel Maker's Mark experiment tanked financially, I bet we would foot the bill with our next purchase of "plain old" Maker's Mark.

As for the wax - I think it looks cool, and it's fine if you're not planning to drink it; however, I find wax covered bottles annoying. Sometimes the pull-tab breaks, wax crumbs fall everywhere, etc. I vote for a test run of waxless MM - how much could that cost? Ditto on EWSB, Bookers, etc.

04-21-2004, 14:05
I'll quote myself from another thread here (not because I like the sound of my own voice, but because my sentiments haven't changed) about Maker's Mark:
It's not bad, not memorable, not cheap. I have to remind myself sometimes to taste it again, because there are many other brands I go to first. And, because I like the small-distillery mystique, its absolutely beautiful physical setting in Loretto, the tall-tale marketing, et al, I am almost always disappointed that it isn't better than it is.

04-21-2004, 17:52
Reading this thread prompted me to pull out my copy of My Autobiography by Bill Samuels, Jr. and review it. When I read it initially about 2 years ago, I thought it sounded more like ad copy than autobiography. Heck, the last quarter is ads. Still, I enjoyed it for the interesting tidbits, some great pictures, and, well...some amusing ads.

After searching here, I find the MM phenomenon even more fascinating. Betty Jo posted an article here (hope I did this link right) that I really enjoyed:

Bettye Jo's Post (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=history&Number=18857&Forum =All_Forums&Words=autobiography&Match=Entire%20Phr ase&Searchpage=0&Limit=25&Old=allposts&Main=18857& Search=true#Post18857)

Thanks, Bettye Jo - VERY interesting!

Having said that, it seems that in a time when marketing triumphs financially, it is up to bourbon enthusiasts to keep up discussion of what represents quality regardless of the marketing. So, I have two questions:

1) If marketing raises bourbon awareness in general, is it redeemed, at least partially, as a "good" thing?

2) Bobby C: what are your thoughts on the taste of MM itself? We know that taste is subjective, but your wisdom and hospitality are exceeded by no one here, in our humble opinion, so we anxiously await your impressions.

Just to clarify once again, we have been sucked in by the marketing of Maker's Mark, so we are posting as "sinners," not "evangelists," when it comes to bourbon marketing.

04-21-2004, 19:40
1) If marketing raises bourbon awareness in general, is it redeemed, at least partially, as a "good" thing?

As long as you got to where you are on the bourbon journey, how it started is less important. The <font color="red"> Red Wax </font> is their version of the Nike Swoosh or the emblem on a Cadillac. They are counting on a new drinker to be overwhelmed by the choices on a good bourbon bar , and for that person to feel confident that choosing the bottle with <font color="red"> Red Wax </font> Puts them clearly in the know and that they are drinking a Premium Bourbon.

2) Bobby C: what are your thoughts on the taste of MM itself? We know that taste is subjective, but your wisdom and hospitality are exceeded by no one here, in our humble opinion, so we anxiously await your impressions.

It is I that is humble now, I appreciate the compliment.

What I said of Makers some time ago (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&amp;Number=8204&amp;page=&amp;view=&amp;sb=5 &amp;o=&amp;vc=1)
As far as the Bourbon goes it is fine and I don't have a problem with it. It seems apparent to me that that their ad budget is massive. That in the end adds to the cost, I would like Makers more if it cost less.

I own several bottles of Makers .Each year since my sons 21st birthday I have given him a VIP Makers. All with the same lettering except his age and the current year. I figure I'll do 10 of them. He still has them all. I got a Seattle Slew bottle for my wife, complained that the store I bought it from stuck me for an extra 3 dollars from the first shipment he got to the second. I felt proud today when I saw them at Liquor Barn for $69.99. I remarked that I wondered if they would buy the one I have, Bad idea, according to Amelia!

As long as Makers bring people to the fold , that's a good thing, If after a trip around the block, one finds they like VanWinkle Bourbons a lot better, or that 12 year Weller is better and cheaper, then that's part of it.

My Grandfather worked for Bill Samuels Sr at TW Samuels. After that was sold he went to Jim Beam. I think he regreted that Bill was out at TW Samuels and wished it had went on. Once at Jim Beam, he never as far as I knew ever regreted being there.

04-22-2004, 06:17
The thing about Maker's Mark is that it has a fine reputation that at one time was well deserved. If you get a chance to open a bottle of Maker's from 20 years ago and taste it against the new Maker's and the difference is night and day. It was so much better back 20 years ago. Very full bodied (not thin like now) with lots of caramel and vanilla making it taste much more like a Van Winkle Stitzel-Weller wheated bourbon, but not quite the same. In that time it was probably one of the best bourbon's made.

What changed? I would say being bought by a corperation with lots of accountants. I would guess barrel proof increased, while time in the barrel decreased. It is still a good bourbon, but not great as it was at one time.

Mike Veach

04-22-2004, 09:31
After sampling your 80's MM at the festival, I wholeheartedly agree. It seems that the popularity of brown liquor has forced increased production. (Higher proof in the barrel, shorter aging) In order for MM to get back on track, whiskey needs to become unpopular with the masses again. I suggest a ban on bourbon exports. Could you imagine what would happen to the industry if Japan put a ban on imported spirits?
We'd have more Four Roses Single Barrel than you could shake a stick at.

04-24-2004, 18:25
Makers was an early favorite but I find that the more "better" bourbons I try the less I find MM to live up to its rep. The more I learn the more it seems like marketing, I also tend to agree that it has lost some quality over the years. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif

Too Bad!!