Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Buffalo Trace’s oak barrels helped blend its complex flavor, while Maker’s Mark nose promises depth and smoothness. However, which is better, Buffalo Trace or Maker’s Mark?
To help you decide, we compared Buffalo Trace vs Maker’s Mark comprehensively.
Maker’s Mark vs Buffalo Trace: Bourbon Face-Off
Maker’s Mark and Buffalo Trace are great introduction bourbons as these two bourbons have reasonable prices. The flavors are also not so complex. However, the similarities end here.
Buffalo Trace contains rye in its mash bill, which is the reason why spice notes are more defined. Its strength falls on its round palate.
Buffalo Trace’s history traces back to 1775 when George T. Stagg Distillery still produced it. Upon Sazerac’s purchase in 1992, it became the oldest continuously operating distillery in America.
Maker’s Mark started in 1954 when its founder, Bill Samuels, bought Burks Distillery.
However, it was dear Marjorie, Bill’s wife, who came up with marketing ideas, including bottle design and wax seal.
Fast forward to the present, this company is now owned and distributed by Beam Suntory.
Production & Distillation Process
Two-thirds of Buffalo Trace’s standard mash ingredient is freshly fermented sweet mash, while the remainder is sour mash. They have four different water sources: spring water, reservoir, river, and municipal water.
Maker’s Mark ferments their product for three days. They use sour mash on all their bourbon variants. It is distilled twice, first in a copper column still and second in copper pot stills. But how long is Maker’s Mark bourbon aged?
Sazerac Company improved its aging process by making its warehouse “climate controlled (2)” per se.
Maker’s Mark is also NAS— No Age Statement bourbon. However, these are also Kentucky straight, thus within the same aging range.
They have a meticulous aging process as they have to manually move their barrels to the lower parts of the warehouse and vice-versa for specific temperatures during the aging period.
Check out Maker’s Mark vs Knob Creek bourbon here.
Mash Bill (Wheated vs Rye)
The mash bills used between Buffalo Trace vs Maker’s Mark differ.
Buffalo Trace bourbon uses a low-rye mash bill, although the exact recipe was not disclosed. It is believed that approximately 10% of rye is added.
The mash recipe for a regular Maker’s Mark whiskey contains 70% corn and 16% soft red winter wheat; the remaining 14% is malted barley.
The texture is smooth, and the sweetness is mainly from the high corn percentage.
As A Cocktail Mixer
Between Buffalo Trace vs Maker’s Mark, the first is the popular choice. It could be because of the added spicy taste rye ingredient contributed.
However, the standard Maker’s Mark is also preferable because it blends easily with other ingredients. It perfectly works side by side with an Old Fashioned cocktail. Learn what to mix with Maker’s Mark here.
Ownership & Distillery
Buffalo Trace Distillery is now owned and operated by the Sazerac team. Maker of bottled bourbons along with many other rare and specially concocted spirits, such as Pappy Van Winkle.
Maker’s Mark was initially purchased from Samuel’s by Hiram Walker and Sons in 1981. It passed on to various owners before Beam Suntory finally bought it.
Buffalo Trace is one of the most flexible brands in the bourbon category that you can enjoy straight or on the rocks.
This brand is also a favorite cocktail base for many because of its spicy and woody notes.
Maker’s Mark bourbon is one of the smoothest entry-level whiskeys, which makes it perfect for sipping. A small drop of water or ice also makes it a solid option.
The design team assigned for Buffalo Trace bottling and packaging began in 1998 and got the idea of using the copper orange and dark green colors from the original paint of the old plant.
They decided to create the bottles short with the bulbous body. The label has a painting of a buffalo swimming across the Kentucky River.
The Maker’s Mark packaging is courtesy of Marjorie Samuel, who was doodling with a wax seal.
- Palate: Bold spice notes with black pepper, walnut, vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, and cherry
- Nose: Strong notes of spice with hints of oak and wood barrel and occasional leather and tobacco
- Color: Reddish copper
- Finish: Medium length finish with caramel, oak, cinnamon, and vanilla notes and rich lingering earthy spice taste
- Palate: Rich sweetness of vanilla, honey, almond, and maple syrup with a hint of caramel
- Nose: New woody oak notes with cherry and vanilla with honey and malted cereal
- Color: Light golden copper
- Finish: Long and smooth with maraschino cherry, baking spices, vanilla, and chocolate notes
Price Point & Alcohol Proof
|Bourbon Brand||Average Price (Drizly)||Alcohol Proof|
|Buffalo Trace||Roughly $35/750mL||90-proof|
|Maker’s Mark||Roughly $32/750mL||90-proof|
Which is better for beginners, Maker’s Mark or Buffalo Trace?
Maker’s Mark is better for beginners than Buffalo Trace because of the simplicity of its taste as well as its smoothness.
Maker’s Mark’s nose may be stronger, but Buffalo Trace’s is spicier, which may be intense for some beginners. Check the differences between Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey 101 here.
Is Maker’s Mark sweeter than Buffalo Trace bourbon?
Yes. Maker’s Mark is sweeter than Buffalo Trace with vanilla tasting notes, while its scent is spicier and fruitier. Check out Maker’s Mark bourbon vs Woodford Reserve here.
Does Buffalo Trace have more complex flavors than Maker’s Mark?
Yes, Buffalo Trace has a more complex flavor than Maker’s Mark, considering that these are small batch bourbon bottles that are specially chosen. When the two are placed side by side, it is easy to distinguish the difference in their flavors.
Between Buffalo Trace vs Maker’s Mark, we find Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace better.
Savor-wise, Buffalo Trace’s complex offering is not a disadvantage, even for beginners.
This bourbon whiskey has a wide array of flavors. Introducing the palate early to flavorful brands is a good start.
However, Maker’s Mark wheated bourbon whiskey is also a good choice. It will teach you to appreciate the simple sweetness of vanilla and oak poured into a glass.
But in this face-off, we choose the bottled goodness from Sazerac over Beam’s cask strength bourbon.