In my never-ending quest for the perfect Old Fashioned, I bulldozed my way through every bourbon I could get for under R350. The goal was to find something easily available and affordable for my Old Fashioned fix, a default “go-to” Kentucky Straight to keep constantly stocked.
I found that most bourbons will honestly do the job just fine (blasphemy!), but once I ventured away from Bulleit Bourbon I realised the ones that stood out for me had a lower-than usual rye content. Nothing wrong with rye, but the most “classic” Old Fashioneds I made seemed to dial down the spiciness in favour of those stronger vanilla and caramel flavours of regular corn. Let the bitters handle the spices!
Secondly, the winners were also clearly the stiffer drinks – we’re talking about a cocktail that is almost entirely pure liquor with an aggressive stirring-over-ice regime that dials the alcohol down by design.
Enter Maker’s Mark. With no rye at all (a mash bill of 70% corn, ~15% “red winter” wheat and ~15% malted barley) bottled at a hearty 45% ABV and cheerfully priced, I’ve found my daily Old Fashioned driver. Also, it’s pretty great on its own:
Beautifully untainted ruddy copper.
Cherries, cherries, cherries… and booze. It takes a little while in the glass for the heat to die down, which is likely also what helps it stand out in a cocktail. Dripping in toffee flavours, vanilla ice cream, marzipan, hazelnuts. Where you often get that faint paprika zing, you won’t find it here – it’s simple, sweet and buttery.
Extremely uncomplicated. Perfume, oak, white sugar, vanilla, straw, and something sort of meaty twang in the background there. Scarily drinkable, perhaps why rappers are blaming Maker’s Mark for their relationship issues. Or product placement, who knows.
Arguably the best way to enjoy a cup ‘o Maker’s is over ice. I found the cold helped tame the booze, without destroying the taste. As expected ice or water does render it a little sweeter however, which might be a little overwhelming for some. No doubt popular with brandy drinkers!
Bananas. Oily and enduring and lovely.
Yup, this one is a no-brainer. Unfortunately it takes a little price bump to find a sipping bourbon that can lure me away from even super-cheap Scotch – I’m thinking Eagle Rare or Knob Creek – but this one comes very, very close. A masterful piece of blending, confidently strong and downright chuggable – and it truly nails those Old Fashioneds! Old Fashioned score: 8/10