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Maker’s Mark 46 – 47% ABV

Overall rating 5/5

Maker's Mark is a benchmark in Kentucky bourbon. It is a distillery that ripped up the rule book when they were starting out, while sixth-generation distiller Bill Samuels Sr actually burned the family's 170-year-old recipe. It was a statement of intent as he wanted to put together his own 'mash bill' – the mix of grains that goes into bourbon.

Bill Samuels was also radical in opting for red star wheat instead of rye to create gentle sweetness on the palate rather than bite, a feature that now defines the Maker's Mark brand. Margie Samuels, his wife, was just as crucial to the company’s success. She did the marketing, taking inspiration from her favourite cognacs when settling on Maker’s striking square, wax-sealed bottle.

The thinking behind this decision was that, if the whisky is different from other bourbons, it should look different on the shelf. The joke at the time was that people bought their first bottle because of Margie and their second because of Bill. Later, Bill Samuels Jr introduced Maker’s Mark 46 after promoting his parents' recipe for years.

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The 46 expression is created using French oak staves (the name is derived from use of the so-called 'stave profile 46'), which help draw out smooth and mellow flavours such as vanilla and caramel. On the nose, aromas of toffee hang thick along with popcorn, enticing you to indulge.

Notes of vanilla make for a gentle opening taste, with candied apple also evident, before a stampede of spices led by cinnamon. Cloves and pepper follow, giving a full, warm and smooth profile to the whisky, and the finish is gradual as the spices fade out into the sweetness.

The perfect whisky gift for...

...the bourbon drinker in your life. This is one of the ultimate value-for-money bourbons. Maker's 46 takes a renowned whisky and somehow improves a decade's old recipe. The end product is a complex and satisfying tipple bound to please any fan of whisky from the States.

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This review was last updated in November 2019. If you have any questions or suggestions for future reviews, or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at For information on alcohol guidelines, read our guide to drinking responsibly.

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