PDA

View Full Version : Maker's Mark Confessions and Reflections



angelshare
08-16-2004, 17:56
As I pulled the mail out of the mailbox today, I smiled to myself when I saw the "Bourbon Country Reader" envelope. I was barely inside the house when I tore open the envelope to peruse the contents. This is the first issue I have received in the mail; the preceding issue was wrapped as a Father's Day present.

I enjoyed the entire read, but I found myself reflecting most on the Maker's Mark review. I must confess that since visiting this forum, I have developed a bit of ambivalence about MM. Chuck's piece challenged me to explore this ambivalence.

I have been sucked into the marketing in the past for sure. Believe me, we jumped at the chance to dip our own bottle while touring MM, and we also bought a blue label/white wax bottle signed by Bill Samuel, Jr. Actually, I think dipping our own bottle was kind of cool, but the signed bottle thing is a little embarrassing in retrospect. It was really a great illustration of the marketing philosophy of MM. For $24.95 (or whatever it was), I could buy Bill Samuel's signature on a fancy bottle. At WT when we toured, Jimmy Russell stopped to chat with us at no charge.

But I enjoy the whiskey. I am having a neat pour in response to Chuck's article, and I am starting to appreciate the lemon candy notes about which he so eloquently wrote. Tasting isn't my strong suit, so that may be the power of suggestion, but what the heck. The bottom line as Chuck points out is that marketing doesn't alter the quality of the product, and I think the quality is there.

Taking it one step farther, however, Chuck remarks that "even the best marketing can only sell a product once." I'm not sure I agree with that 100%. Sure, if you absolutely hate something, you'll only be duped once. I think where MM may succeed is in convincing the general occasional bourbon drinking populace that they don't have to explore and the "known quantity" brand is always easy to find. Also, if they convince bar/restaurant owners who may not consume themselves that the MM brand is easily recognized, the quality issue is secondary. Just MHO.

Chuck, great stuff as always. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/bowdown.gif

jeff
08-16-2004, 18:05
I'm glad you're giving MM a second chance Dave. I have always enjoyed it for what it is; a strong middle-shelf bourbon that's always easy to enjoy, especially on a hot summer's day. My problem is that three years ago I could frequently pick up a fifth for $14.99, now I'm lucky to find it under $19; $20 in some places. I like to keep some around because friends and aquaintances will recognize it as a measure of a well-stocked bar, and if that's what they like, I'm happy to give it to them. It also keeps them out of the good stuff http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

cowdery
08-16-2004, 19:03
Thanks, Dave. The Book (http://cowdery.home.netcom.com/sbbsoffer.html) contains that review in a modified form, but there is also a full chapter in which I dissect the Maker's Mark mythology in some detail. You are exactly correct about what Maker's Mark has accomplished and it is no small feat. I think they also deserve some credit--though not as much as they are claiming--for the premiumization of American whiskey that has made our little hobby possible.

TNbourbon
08-16-2004, 20:59
I think too often here we tend to give the impression that we hate Maker's Mark, but if you read closely you realize that's far from the truth. Most of us acknowledge that we enjoy it well enough, but it gets lost in the talk here about the Staggs, BMHs, Rock Hill Farms and other 'premium' premium bourbons.
But, the folks here are knowledgeable -- that is, they realize there are many better values out there, including the VanWinkles and Wellers among wheaters.
So, Maker's Mark provides a real service in getting people interested in bourbon, and if they never get beyond that single brand, fine for them. But those of us that do explore, I think, just prefer the better values elsewhere -- at least, with our own money.

TrueBarrel
08-17-2004, 15:16
I think too often here we tend to give the impression that we hate Maker's Mark, but if you read closely you realize that's far from the truth. Most of us acknowledge that we enjoy it well enough, but it gets lost in the talk here about the Staggs, BMHs, Rock Hill Farms and other 'premium' premium bourbons.
But, the folks here are knowledgeable -- that is, they realize there are many better values out there, including the VanWinkles and Wellers among wheaters.
So, Maker's Mark provides a real service in getting people interested in bourbon , and if they never get beyond that single brand, fine for them. But those of us that do explore, I think, just prefer the better values elsewhere -- at least, with our own money.



Exactly. For many people (such as myself), MM is what got them on the road to the super premiums and the better value bourbons. If at Christmas '92 the Montgomery County, MD liquor store didn't have Booker's and Rock Hill (the nice old bottle with the medallion and the "bottled in bond" neck wrap) right above the MM, who knows when I would've tried them.

tlsmothers
08-17-2004, 17:39
You are so right. I wish I had a quarter for every customer that walks in my store and says, "Well, I'd like to explore more bourbon. I like Maker's Mark." Next thing you know they are drinking Van Winkle and trying all kinds of goodies.

chperry
08-18-2004, 14:08
Makers Mark is the bourbon that got me started tasting better products. In college I drank mostly very (I mean very) cheap bourbon. Then (mid 80s), Jim Beam white was considered premium to me. As a senior, a fellow student who happened to be from Kentucky, introduced me to Makers Mark. Wow. What a difference. That is when I stopped mixing bourbon with anything. It took many years, but eventually I started trying even better bourbons (and other whiskeys). Now I am amazed at the price I have paid for single bottles of bourbon. Heck, for the price of one of my bottles I could have kept myself in cheap bourbon for over a month in college!

I do still like and drink MM. Delta serves it in their lounges and on their planes http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif

clayton
08-18-2004, 14:39
MM is one of the few "premiums" that I've tasted and not particularly liked. In fact, it's the only bourbon I've ordered at a bar and not finished due to dislike. I've given it a few tries over the last year, and still just can't drink it. Strange perhaps, since I like other wheaters quite a bit. I'm very glad it wasn't the first bourbon I tried, or I might not have gotten much further in my explorations.

Barrel_Proof
08-18-2004, 20:32
I have to chime in here. I am the last person that would describe MM as a premium bourbon, but it sits admirably a shelf or two above the cats and dogs in a five or six shelf bunker.

It's drinkable, especially at 30,000 feet, where, I do have to admit, it's often the best American whiskey available!

ratcheer
08-18-2004, 20:46
I, for one, really do not care for MM. While some describe it as very smooth, to me it is fairly harsh. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif

Tim

ratcheer
08-18-2004, 20:49
It's drinkable, especially at 30,000 feet, where, I do have to admit, it's often the best American whiskey available!



I'm afraid I would have to choose scotch. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif

Tim

wadewood
08-18-2004, 22:23
On the West Coast, I fly Alaska Airlines 90% of the time. I fly often and probably 80% of time get "first class" upgrades. In Jan. of this year, Alaska removed Wild Turkey from the liquor list. Now, when I ask for Bourbon, they respond would that be Jack D. or Crown R.?

I wrote two emails to their customer service pointing out this injustice to the true American Spirit. I suggested if Wild Turkey was not popular enough, perhaps they should add Makers Mark as alternative.

Now, I ask for a glass of ice and for them to turm their eyes away http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/ooo.gif

bourbonv
08-19-2004, 07:31
Maker's Mark at one time deserved the reputation that they have now. Find a bottle of Maker's Mark from the 70's or early 80's - anytime before the family sold the distillery - and you will find a product that is equal to any of the Weller products or Rip Van Winkle 10yo. The problem is, in my opinion, that they became a victim of their own success and sold it faster than they could make it so they lowered age and raised barrel proof. It is still a decent product, but still a mere shadow of what it used to be.
Mike Veach

HGB3
08-19-2004, 07:42
Don't feel alone! I tend to prefer wheaters myself but cannot drink MM; it has no distinguishing characteristics. When I fly Delta, which I do quite often on business, I drink Jack Daniels which at least has the distinguishing characteristic of tasting like charcoal!

Bamber
08-19-2004, 09:18
I have to admit I prefer JD to MM http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif

In fact MM and JB white label are the only 2 American whiskies that have really not done it for me at all.

Furthemore I would go so far as to say MM stopped me trying premium Bourbon's many years earlier as I distinctly remember getting a bottle years ago and just not liking it. It condemned me to years of JD abuse http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Cheers,

B.

pepcycle
08-19-2004, 11:03
Last night, a beverage wholesaler mentioned to me that MM is going on allocation. Until the new production capacity kicks in, a few years down the line, it will be shortages and price increases. Why would MM change a thing?
I can testify to the quality of vintage MM, thanks to Mike V's generosity at last year's festival. If only the boutique market existed then, that we enjoy now. They might've kept the product the same and been able to charge more for it. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/soapbox.gif

OneCubeOnly
08-19-2004, 14:58
Wasn't *ALL* bourbon much better in that era? I seem to recall Chuck talking about how there was so much unbought aged bourbon that even the bottom shelves were what would now be considered the "good stuff." You can thank the trendiness/revival of the clear spirits for that phenomenon.

To stay on topic...as for MM, it was my stepping stone into the premiums. Except now when I go back to my former faithful friend it doesn't really do it for me any more. When I can have BT for less money MM just doesn't end up in the cart.

bobbyc
08-19-2004, 15:25
I often hear folks exclaim how good and how much they like Makers and I chuckle deep down and think that they would piss themselves if they had a drink of the real " Good Stuff". We're a jaded bunch here, you know what they are! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

RedVette
08-19-2004, 17:06
I can drink and enjoy Makers, but there are so many others I like better. The only Bourbon I have found so far that I cannot drink is JB White, which is weird because I like JB Black quite a bit. Makers Mark just seems somewhat bland, but entirely drinkable. I should note that I am a rocks drinker, and maybe it would be more intersting neat, but I will never find out.

gr8erdane
08-19-2004, 17:49
I don't know, but I had MM on the rocks at a local casino before last call one night and it seemed to taste better that way than the times I had it neat. The reason I had for ordering on the rocks was to allow me to cradle it longer while sitting at the blackjack table. As all last call drinks go, it didn't last very long anyway. Now that I recall, neither did my luck. (Note to self, no MM when on a winning streak is added to gambling superstitions) http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/falling.gif

Paradox
08-19-2004, 17:58
I've spoken about MM before but I am yet another one who got turned onto bourbon by buying a bottle of MM. Shortly after that first bottle I rarely bought another bottle; That is, to drink. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Though I gave up on collecting them as well after the nfl set. Anyway, the thing that would really make me go back to buying MM more often is if they made their 95 proof black wax available here, even if only for a limited run once a year. The difference between their red wax 90 and black wax 95 is apples and oranges. But I don't think it will be happening anytime soon so I'll just keep giving my money to all the other wonderful distilleries out there that make more than one product that are as good if not better than MM.

bourbonv
08-20-2004, 07:26
I don't know if I would say that ALL bourbon tasted better back then. There were some real bad ones then as well as now. The thing is the accountants had not taken over the distillery then as they have now and the product was made with lower distillation proof, lower barrel proof and aged longer when needed. The result was a more flavorfull product when it was done right. My prime example is the old Stitzel-Weller bourbons made while the Van Winkle's owned the distillery. Even the Cabin Still was an excellent product better than today's Maker's Mark. When the family still owned the distillery the whiskey was distlled at 130 proof and put into the barrel at 107 proof, then aged in those iron clad warehouses until needed. Julian is trying to get his future product made in this manner at Buffalo Trace and I hope he pulls it off. It may cost more to make this way, but I would pay the extra for this type of bourbon.

Maker's Mark needs to get back to their roots and do it the way they used to do it. They could steal a line from Coca Cola and make small batches the old, family way and bottle it as "Maker's Mark Classic".
Mike Veach

bluesbassdad
08-20-2004, 08:41
Mike,

How close does MM black label, 95 proof (at a whopping $59.99 at Hi-Time Wine Cellar (http://www.hitimewine.com/istar.asp?a=3&dept=85&class=&subclass=&manufacture r=&pos=90) ) come to your ideal? Is the proof the only difference between it and the red label bottling?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

bourbonv
08-20-2004, 09:06
Dave,
The Black Label is better, but still just a shadow of the former Maker's Mark quality. Last year at Bardstown I brought a bottle of the "Gold Wax" 101 proof Maker's Mark from about 1980. We tasted it against Maker's Mark Red Wax and Maker's Mark Black Wax. Everyone agreed the older, Gold Wax was by far superior.
Mike Veach

BourbonJoe
06-28-2005, 04:56
I'm afraid I would have to choose scotch. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif

Tim



I also choose scotch. To put in my windshield washer to remove bugs from my windshield. Keep all the scotch in Scotland, I'll take the Makers Mark anyday.
Joe http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/usflag.gif

Edward_call_me_Ed
06-28-2005, 07:31
I have wanted to try the black wax for a long time, but a bottle is around twice the price of the red wax. If it was, say, 20 or 30 proof higher I would consider that, but not 5 proof. I may get it at the bar someday, but my favorite place has WT 12, Elijah Craig 18 and any number of other really good bourbons plus some first rate scotch.
Ed

CrispyCritter
06-28-2005, 22:34
I don't know, but I had MM on the rocks at a local casino before last call one night and it seemed to taste better that way than the times I had it neat.



Interesting. When I tried Knob Creek with ice, it developed a rather sickly, cloyingly sweet taste. When I poured it neat into a Glencairn glass, I liked it a lot better.

As for MM, I've only had one bottle of it, and I had yet to start drinking whiskey neat at the time. In any case, I did find it very enjoyable.

Hedmans Brorsa
06-30-2005, 09:27
For some reason, MM, together with O.Potrero and Tennessee whisk(e)y, have been singled out as never-do-wells on this forum.

Needless to say, I disagree wholeheartedly. I suspect that psychological reasons rather than reactions from the tastebuds are at play here. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

As for MM black, Iīve already sung its praises on these pages. Suffice it to say that, with all due respect to Mike Veach, I think his verdict is really up the creek. MM black is an essential bourbon and, curiously enough, not that dissimilar in style to Russellīs reserve.

musher
06-30-2005, 10:04
Perhaps that is due to the fact that most of us here can only get the red-wax 6-year-old variety, which is not a very remarkable bourbon to the connoisseur.

Hedmans Brorsa
07-01-2005, 04:38
Perhaps that is due to the fact that most of us here can only get the red-wax 6-year-old variety, which is not a very remarkable bourbon to the connoisseur.



Point taken but I happen to enjoy the red-wax, as well.

If I remember right it was awarded a respectful 8 out of 10 by Michael Jackson in Whisky Magazine. Surely that must count for something?

BourbonJoe
07-01-2005, 07:42
I agree with Hedmans.
Joe http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/usflag.gif

Hedmans Brorsa
07-02-2005, 03:52
Thanks, Joe!

I reckon itīs us against the world, then. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

bobbyc
07-02-2005, 21:24
If I remember right it was awarded a respectful 8 out of 10 by Michael Jackson in Whisky Magazine. Surely that must count for something?




One would hope! Recently at Makers, while waiting for the tour to begin, an award was observed prominently on display where Makers won an International Exhibition against the esteemed company of Bourbons like Old Granddad, Old Crow, Jim Beam, Old Forester,Early Times, Wild Turkey, and even the non Bourbon Jack Daniels! Talk about setting the deck, to even be close to fair, One would like to have least seen a Weller or Old Fitzgerald in the lineup. Whoever set it up went for heavy rye, with heavy barrel char, and even the every drop charcoal filtered drink our Tennessee brothers make. What the criteria was for judging I know not, but I think most would find Makers a smooth drink in that lineup. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

If you like it, drink it. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

Hedmans Brorsa
07-03-2005, 07:17
If you like it, drink it. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif



Yep. Drink and let drink! Cheers to that! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

Vision
07-18-2005, 20:49
LOL, I think MM is high priced and WAY overrated..IMHO

BourbonJoe
07-19-2005, 04:59
Anyway, the thing that would really make me go back to buying MM more often is if they made their 95 proof black wax available here, even if only for a limited run once a year. The difference between their red wax 90 and black wax 95 is apples and oranges.



Not to mention the old gold wax 101. That stuff was awsome. They should offer more than just the 90.
Joe http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/usflag.gif

bobbyc
07-19-2005, 08:35
You know it all seems in the realm of possibilities when Fortune Brands takes over, but they have lots of opportunities at present to expand some lines and aren't doing it, or we might see an Old Taylor Single Barrel, Small Batch Old Overholt etc, so we will have to wait and see.

Rughi
07-19-2005, 09:25
Bobby,
I haven't been following the merger news very closely. Has a final decision been made yet?

By the way, the mere mention of the possibility of
"Old Taylor Single Barrel", and "Small Batch Old Overholt" gets my full attention.

Roger - Just another bottle, please - Hodges

bobbyc
07-19-2005, 10:09
It hasn't been announced. Brown Forman dropped out, so unless someone makes an end run, Fortune and Pernod Ricard Are the only ones in the game.

TNbourbon
07-19-2005, 19:36
British law, I understand, is such that any bidder must have 100%-arranged financing approved and in hand before even tendering a formal bid -- that's what did in Constellation/Brown-Forman. And virtually no one else has the wherewithal to do that within the necessary time frame. It's a done deal.