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Jan 31, 2007 06:53 AM

My informal taste test: Makers Mark vs. Old Overholt

For some reason last night I felt inclined to do a taste test between the two. Surprisingly, I preferred the Old Overholt rye over the Makers Mark bourbon. Although the Makers Mark had more obvious flavor, the rye was far smoother and I enjoyed its subtlety.

Anyone have any explanation/thoughts/other recommendations?

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  1. Sure. One is a Bourbon. One isn't.

    Although Maker's Mark does contain rye, it is first and foremost a Bourbon, and as such, must be a) made from a minimum of 51 percent corn, and b) must age in new American white oak barrels.

    Old Overholt is a rye whiskey -- made from rye, not from corn. That's a substantial difference right there. Also, I do not *think* there is a requirement for new oak aging (I'll have to check when I get home and can access my library).

    6 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      Just to set the record straight:

      A) Maker's contains no rye. It contains only malted barley, wheat, and corn.
      B) Straight rye must be at least 51% rye, but the rest of the mash bill usually includes corn and malted barley, just like bourbon. Aside from that, the aging requirements in new oak, etc, are the same as for straight bourbon.

      1. re: davis_sq_pro

        To be exact, Makers Mark is 70% corn, 14% barley malt, 16% wheat.

        1. re: davis_sq_pro

          An average mash bill for a rye whiskey is 60% rye, 23% corn, 12% malted barley.

          1. re: JMF

            Is the rye usually malted? I'm wondering if such a small percentage of barley malt has enough enzymatic power to convert the starches in that much corn and rye if the rye is not also malted. I guess they're using 6-row barley? (Trying to remember some of the detail from when I used to do all-grain brewing, but it's not coming back too easily at the moment.)

            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              As far as I know malted rye is almost always the type of rye used in whiskeys, but I am not 100% positive. I've heard that as low as 5% malted barley is enough to convert the starches. On average Bourbon whiskeys have around 5-12% barley malt, 13% rye, and 75+% corn. On average American rye whiskey is 65% rye, 23% corn, 12% malted barley (I had a typo earlier in the thread.) Anchor uses 100% malted rye in their rye whiskeys.

              1. re: JMF

                I asked around and I think I was wrong that malted rye is in common use. A few places use it, most use regular rye. Hard to get info sometimes. While artisanal distillers are open to sharing some info, the big guys won't.

      2. That's sort of like comparing apples and lychees.

        1. Recently I went on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky and I had the opportunity to visit Maker's Mark and on the tour the guide said that their particular variety of Bourbon had a larger amount of wheat than many of the other Bourbons, which gives it the smoother taste.

          5 Replies
          1. re: km137805

            Exactly. In the bourbon world it's called a 'wheater'. W.L.Weller and some others use wheat too, for the reasons your guide stated.

            Unfortunately, to me it makes for a rather bland whiskey compared to one with more rye like Wild Turkey.

            1. re: km137805

              There is an all wheat whisky made by Bernheim. I had it at a tasting a few years ago and while not entirely captivating, it does have differnt taste and mouthfeel than just about anything else out there. If you need an interesting addition to your bar, I'd recommend it for the $40 they charge.

              1. re: cannedmilkandfruitypebbles

                Bernheim isn't all wheat. To be called a wheat whiskey it just has to be 51% wheat. I don't know the total amount of wheat in the mash, but it is probably less than 70% because wheat just doesn't have the flavors and sugars to make a good 100% wheat whiskey. Just a guess from tasting it I would think it has 60% wheat, 25% corn, 15% malted barley. Those figures probably aren't exact, but I bet they are in the apx ballpark

                1. re: JMF

                  it's funny, those were my *exact* approximations as well.

                  1. re: JMF

                    I did a little hunting around and it seems that Bernheim may have only the minimum 51% wheat, with corn being the majority of the rest, with malted barley being in the minority.