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Woodford Reserve vs Maker’s Mark Bourbon Comparison (2022)

Last Updated on October 30, 2022 by Lydia Martin

Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark are two of the most prominent bourbon whiskey brands. Both have great representation in their price range, but their big differences set them apart. 

But which of the two brands is the better bourbon? Here’s our take on Woodford Reserve vs Maker’s Mark. Read on. 

Comparing Woodford Reserve & Maker’s Mark

Woodford Reserve and Maker's Mark bottle

Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark are both Kentucky Straight bourbon whiskey, but Woodford Reserve bourbon uses rye, and Maker’s Mark uses wheat as flavoring grain.

The grain recipe is different, which makes Woodford bold and spicy, while Maker’s Mark is sweet. 

While the two premium brands are popular in the market, Maker’s Mark is cheaper than Woodford Reserve. In addition, Woodford Reserve is bottled at 90.4 proof, while Maker’s Mark is bottled at 90 proof. 

Maker’s Mark is owned by Beam Suntory, while Brown Forman Corporation acquired Woodford Reserve.  

Head To Head Comparison

History & Origin

Woodford Reserve has a rich history that started way back in 1812. The Brown-Forman purchased the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery (Labrot & Graham Distillery) to restore the facility that had fallen in despair after the war.

In 1996, the distillery released the Woodford Reserve Kentucky bourbon. 

Maker’s Mark started with Bill Samuels Sr, a sixth-generation distiller. The first batch of wheated bourbons was out on the market in 1958, and it is continuously available today. 

How It’s Made 

bottles of Maker's Mark

Maker’s Mark is known for being hand-made, and it is aged to taste. The mash bill is fermented using an heirloom yeast before undergoing double distillation in copper stills. The barrels are rotated by hand, and the red wax seal is hand-dipped. 

Woodford Reserve is made using premium grains and proprietary yeast. After fermentation, it is distilled using pot stills and column stills.

It is matured inside newly charred barrels, and Master Distiller Chris Morris and his production team are in charge of the whiskey production.  But which bourbon is similar to Woodford Reserve?

Mash Bill

In Maker’s Mark vs Woodford Reserve mash bill, Woodford Reserve uses rye grain while Maker’s Mark uses red winter wheat as flavoring grain.

Woodford Reserve uses 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley, and the rye lends a bold and spicy note. 

On the other hand, Maker’s Mark uses 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley. Samuels replaced rye with wheat for a sweeter, mellow, buttery mouthfeel.

Most bourbons exceed the 51% corn requirement [1] to give their whiskey a nice layer of sweetness. 

Maturation & Age Statement

bourbon barrels

Maker’s Mark is aged to taste, and unlike most distillers, they do not simply set the clock. The whiskeys are aged in new charred oak barrels between six to seven years.

The barrels spend three summers on top of rickhouses, then moved to a cooler section by barrel hand rotation. 

Woodford Reserve is aged in new charred oak barrels, and the brand considers barrel aging a key ingredient to its process [2].

Like Maker’s Mark, Brown-Forman has a tasting team that controls the aging process from barrel char levels to maturation. 

Flavors & How It’s Served

Cocktails

Woodford Reserve is packed with a nice punch and bold flavors, so it is best to consume cocktails than wheated bourbon. Woodford Reserve has a nice flavor profile that easily stands up the cocktail. 

It is spicy and punchy, like Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey, which can help elevate your classic cocktail.

Neat

Maker’s Mark is nice to sip neat because it is smooth, sweet, and mellow. It has a nice balanced flavor profile that you will appreciate, especially without any mixers. 

Woodford Reserve is also great to consume neat because it is nicely balanced and does not have demanding notes. It has the right level of heat that bourbon aficionados will surely appreciate. 

On The Rocks

Woodford Reserve is a versatile bourbon and great to consume on the rocks. The ice will help open up the aroma and flavor profile of the bourbon whiskey. 

Maker’s Mark bourbon is also great on the rocks because it has the right level of warmth and tasting notes.  

Ownership & Distillery

Maker’s Mark is distilled in Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, and is owned by Beam Suntory. On the other hand, Woodford Reserve is distilled at Woodford Reserve Distillery, and Brown Forman owns the brand.

Beam Suntory acquired the brand from the Samuels family in 1981. Some brands they own are Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, and Baker’s Bourbon. 

Brown Forman repurchased the establishment in 1993. It is the same owner of Jack Daniel’s, Glendronach, Slane, and Old Forester. 

Brand Popularity & What Experts Say

bottle of Woodford Reserve and a jigger

Brewer Richardson is a bar manager in Virginia beach; for him, choosing the winner is difficult. Both whiskeys are the brand’s flagship expression, versatile and hard to turn down. 

Eric Vanderveen is a bartender at the Empire, and for him, Woodford does a good job with cocktails. Based on his personal taste, it has a nice heat and is well-balanced. It can get in line with higher-priced bourbons. 

Both distilleries have a huge impact on the growth of the bourbon market, and based on the experts, you can never go wrong with these two. 

Tasting Notes

Maker’s Mark Bourbon

Palate: Sweet honey, oak, dried fruits, maple syrup, almond flavors, and vanilla

Nose: Cherry aromas with hints of oak, vanilla, bright fruit, and wheat

Color: Amber honey

Finish: Smooth, creamy, soft spice with a clean finish

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Palate: Rich, rounded, smooth, and complex with citrus, cherry, cocoa, toffee, caramel, cinnamon, dark chocolate, baking spices, and spicy notes

Nose: Heavy with hints of mint, orange, cocoa, vanilla, tobacco, and dried fruit

Color: Honey amber

Finish: Smooth, silky, creamy, warm, long, and lingering notes of tobacco and leather

Alcohol Proof 

In Maker’s Mark vs Woodford Reserve alcohol proof, Woodford Reserve contains higher alcohol proof. Woodford Reserve is bottled at 90.4 proof (45.2% ABV), while Maker’s Mark is bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV). 

Price & Value

In Maker’s Mark vs Woodford Reserve price and value, Woodford Reserve is more expensive than Maker’s Mark. In Drizly online, Woodford costs around $39.99 per 750ml bottle, while Maker’s Mark is roughly $31.99 per 750ml bottle. 

FAQs 

Which is spicier, Maker’s Mark or Woodford Reserve?

Woodford Reserve is spicier than Maker’s Mark. Woodford Reserve whiskey contains rye as a flavoring grain that gives spicy notes to the whiskey.

Is Woodford Reserve easier to find than Maker’s Mark?

No, Woodford Reserve is not easier to find than Maker’s Mark. While both bourbons are popular, we find it more challenging to find Woodford Reserve than Maker’s Mark. Here are some Woodford Reserve bourbon variants.

Final Verdict

Woodford Reserve gets the upper hand in the battle of the better bourbon.

While Maker’s Mark is a good bourbon whiskey, Woodford Reserve is versatile enough to stand in cocktails and is well-enjoyed neat and on the rocks. It is well-aged and has the right balance and flavor profile. 

References:

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/04/5-rules-that-make-it-bourbon.html 
  2. https://www.thespruceeats.com/effect-of-aging-on-liquor-759921 

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