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Maker’s Mark vs Old Forester 86: Head to Head!

Discover the differences between Maker’s Mark vs Old Forester 86 in this head to head comparison and decide which Bourbon is better for You!

Maker’s Mark

NoseCinnamon, clove, nutmeg, almond
PalateRye spice, caramel, dried fruit, nuts
FinishLong, caramel, rye spice
Alcohol content90 proof (45% ABV)
How to drinkRocks, cocktails
Similar toJim Beam, Four Roses, Rebel Yell

Maker’s Mark is one of the best-selling bourbons in the United States.

Its popularity lies in its signature smoothness and affordable price making a great entry-level bourbon.

The nose has a nail polish note that fades into vanilla and cherry as you let it develop in the glass.

On the palate Maker’s Mark delivers vanilla, caramel, cherry and honey providing a pleasant mouthfeel.

The finish has a moderate length, is sweet with very little warmth and just a dash of black pepper.

Adding a drop of water makes it taste like a Tootsie Pop, while tuning down the spicy note making it easier to sip.

This makes the Maker’s Mark a bit sweeter and smoother while providing a bready flavor.

Nothing stands-out but there are no off-putting notes as it is nicely balanced, yet with enough body.

It makes a good bottle to those new to bourbon or liquors in general or a nice “everyday whisky” for those looking for a non-challenging sipper.

There are few facts about Maker’s Mark worth knowing:

  • Maker’s Mark is made from 70% corn, 16% red wheat, and 14% malted barley. 
  • While most whiskeys age for a set amount of time, Maker’s is bottled when the tasters call it to be ready; that is between 6 and 7 years.
  • This one of the few whiskey brands in the United States that uses “whisky” instead of “whiskey” in its name due to the founders Scottish heritage.
  • Maker’s bottles stand out from the rest due to the red wax seal that is still made by hand nowadays.
  • Maker’s Mark is owned by Beam Suntory, a Japanese drinks giant who also holds Jim Beam, although they are crafted at different distilleries.

Old Forester 86

NoseBrown sugar, caramel, ethanol
PalateVanilla, banana, oak, spice
FinishCaramel, oak
Alcohol content86 proof (43% ABV)
How to drinkRocks, cocktails
Similar toJack Daniel’s, Wild Turkey 81

The nose delivers a sharp ethanol hit that quickly fades into a sweet scent of brown sugar and caramel.

On the palate, the Old Forester 86 has a decent body showing a medium texture.

Flavor is smooth and a bit musty, with hints of vanilla, banana, cinnamon and a whiff of charred oak spice providing a bitter note.

The finish is short, with caramel and oak to it with very little to no warmth.

It drinks nicely neat or rocks and the little higher than average proof (86) makes it a good option for an affordable cocktail.

Old Forester 86 is an easy drinker with nothing remarkable or off-putting, getting the job done providing good value for the money.

It tastes way better than whiskeys at this price range such as Jack Daniel’s or Evan Williams making it a no-brainer.

There are a few facts worth knowing about the Old Forester 86:

  • Aged for around 4 years.
  • The mash bill is comprised of 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley.
  • This was the first bottled bourbon sold in sealed glass bottles instead of from barrels, to ensure consistent quality.
  • Old Forester has been on the market continuously since 1870, which is longer than any other bourbon.
  • Old Forester was launched in 1870 by George Garvin Brown and named for Dr. William Forrester, who prescribed bourbon to his patients.
  • Crafted at the Brown-Forman Distillery in Shively, KY.

What’s the difference between Maker’s Mark and Old Forester?

The difference lies in the mash

Maker’s Mark70%16%14%
Old Forester72%18%10%

In general, bourbons that carry wheat as secondary grain behind corn tend to be smoother and sweeter than those with rye that makes whiskey spicier.

Other distinguished wheated bourbons in the market are Pappy Van Winkle, Weller Bourbon and Larceny.

Maker’s Mark vs Old Forester 86: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

Maker’s Mark$22
Old Forester 86$20

Maker’s Mark vs Old Forester 86: Which is better?

The Maker’s Mark is a bit smoother

WhiskeyMaker’s MarkOld Forester 86
  • Both bourbons offer good value as they are free of harsh notes and drink quite nicely.
  • Yet, the Maker’s Mark is a bit smoother and sweeter due to the wheat content in the mash making the better sip.
  • If you are exclusively looking for a whiskey to make cocktails, then the Old Forester is a better choice as it moderate spicy note sits better in Old Fashioneds and other homemade mixes.