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Buffalo Trace vs Maker’s Mark: What’s the Difference? (2022)

Last Updated on August 11, 2022 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 & Buffalo Trace on desk

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. 

Maker’s Mark, on the other hand, uses red winter wheat (1) on their mash bill, offering a sweet and smooth texture. 

Key Differences 

Key Differences 

Origin

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 

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. 

Maturation

Buffalo Trace does not have an age statement released. However, since this is labeled as Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, it should be aged for no less than two years. 

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. 

Mash Bill (Wheated vs Rye) 

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. 

But is Buffalo Trace wheated bourbon whiskey?

As A Cocktail Mixer 

Maker’s Mark & Buffalo Trace with cocktail glasses on table

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. 

Ownership & Distillery 

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. 

Serving Options

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. 

Read: Buffalo Trace & Woodford Reserve Comparison

Bottle Design

Bottle Design:

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. 

Tasting Notes

Buffalo Trace

  • 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 

Maker’s Mark

  • 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

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

FAQs

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 smoothness. Maker’s Mark’s nose may be stronger, but Buffalo Trace’s is spicier, which may be intense for some beginners.  

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. 

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. 

Final Thoughts

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.

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/soft-red-winter-wheat
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354674361

4 thoughts on “Buffalo Trace vs Maker’s Mark: What’s the Difference? (2022)”

  1. I found Makers 46 inconsistent for myself. I contacted MM in the main office , and the lab with bottles and batch numbers. I was happy with my original bottle, then pored the flat, no flavor second bottle down the drain. Lol, want the emails?

    Reply

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