COVID-19 has been hard on many of us. It has certainly changed the way that the world goes about its business. If you were wondering what good could come from social distancing and other restrictions, I can offer this suggestion: Duty-free is no longer duty-free.
It is not unusual for distilleries to offer duty-free exclusive expressions. It sucks for most of us, if we're not flying internationally, we don't get it, or at least we don't get it easily. But, because of a huge reduction in airline passenger traffic, particularly on overseas flights, there is a glut of duty-free-only whiskey on the market, which means duty-free shops aren't ordering more, which means the distilleries need to do something with the stocks that have come to age and need to be sold. The answer? They take away the exclusivity factor.
Today I'm pouring Maker's Mark 101. Most whiskey (or in this case, whisky) drinkers are familiar with Maker's Mark. It is a staple at most bars. It is affordable, easy-to-find, and consistent from batch to batch. Maker's Mark 101 is the exact same Bourbon as the 90° version, except it is bottled at 101°. It is made from a mash of 70% corn, 16% red winter wheat, and 14% malted barley. Maker's Mark fills #3 charred-oak barrels, with wood that has been seasoned nine months before being coopered. The Bourbon is then aged about six years. Each barrel starts its first three years on the top tier of the rickhouse and is then moved to lower tiers for the remaining three. You can find a 750ml bottle for about $40.00.
Maker's Mark calls this "A rare taste of our signature Bourbon."
For generations, we have welcomed special guests at our distillery to sample our signature bourbon at a higher proof. We're now offering this exclusive bourbon to you through this annual holiday release, so you can share it with special guests of your own throughout the season. Like all of our bourbon, we think there's a lot to discover within it -- front of the tongue bourbon smokiness, but with richer and more intense flavors from the higher proof. It's definitely different, and a rare treat for all that make the pour.
Reading the above, it is implied that Maker's Mark 101 will no longer be a duty-free only item, rather, it will be an annual release. But, there's nothing there saying that it would be an annual release to the general public, and if things change, could go back to being a duty-free only item. But, the big deal is that currently, there is no such restriction.
It has been many years since I've had a standard expression of Maker's Mark. But, I remember it having a synthetic cork closure. I checked my Maker's Private Selection bottle, and it certainly does. Maker's Mark 101 has a screwtop closure hidden under that red wax.
How's it taste? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious, so let's get to it, shall we?
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Maker's Mark 101 is an unmistakeable orange amber. That's not any different from the 90° version. A medium-thick rim stuck to the wall like glue, but fat, heavy drops raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine.
Nose: Aromas of cinnamon apples, caramel, and toasted oak permeated my nostrils. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, I found vanilla and orange peel.
Palate: An oily mouthfeel and airy body threw me for a bit of a loop. Subsequent sips added some weight. The first things I tasted were smoky vanilla and orange peel. As it moved to the middle of my palate, I experienced butterscotch, caramel, and nutmeg. Then, on the back, things got very spicy with dry oak and white pepper, but then boomeranged back to sweet with brown sugar.
Finish: That sweet and spice from the back carried over into the finish and built from there. It began with vanilla, then toasted oak, and from there, Maker's Mark 101 brought the heat with cinnamon red hots. As it subsided, I could swear I was eating cinnamon-covered french toast.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: My memory of Maker's Mark was a soft, smoky Bourbon. That "softness" was absent. Instead, Maker's Mark 101 was bold and demanded my attention. I'm not complaining at all, I really enjoyed what I was drinking. I hope this is something that will be available to the general public for years to come because, for $40.00, I'm handing over my Bottle rating for it. If you see it, grab it. I believe you'll enjoy it, too. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy it
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It