As promised, we’re going to explore some BBQ sauces. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I am a fiend when it comes to BBQ, particularly BBQ chicken. As far back as I can remember, whenever a plate of chicken in staring me in the face, I have an uncontrollable desire to add BBQ sauce. If I am grilling and chicken is on the menu, you better believe I am slathering it with some sort or another of BBQ sauce. That may sound like the admission of full disclosure, but it’s not.
You see, I regularly commit a major offense in the sauce lover’s circle. I do make my own BBQ sauces, but not always. When I don’t, I generally go to one particular brand that can be found in any grocery store. I know, it’s junk, but it’s a guilty pleasure. My guilt is partly what has drawn me to start exploring the finer, and broader, side of BBQ sauces.
I decided to start with a sauce that is really popular with folks at Peppers: Maker’s Mark Bourbon Gourmet BBQ Sauce. It’s probably long overdue that I try this stuff as I’ve watched it fly off the virtual shelves online. I’m not a huge fan of bourbon, so maybe that’s what took me so long.
My wife cooked up some chicken, baked to be specific. Second to grilled chicken and BBQ sauce, for me, is a whole baked chicken cooked without any sauce and then dipping the pulled or sliced chunks deeply into a vat of BBQ sauce. Love it. She also made some potato wedges to go along with it and, of course, some veggies. If you are a fan of the BBQ, you probably also tend to smother anything else on your plate with the sauce as well. Potato’s match particularly well.
So, what’s the deal with this sauce; why is it so popular? There’s no heat in there and the smell is a bit on the sweeter side. It looks like a rich, slightly darker ketchup, which makes sense because it’s tomato based. A look at the ingredients reveals that it’s a rather complex sauce, but let’s save that for a minute and get to the taste.
As soon as I dip and eat, I can see why this stuff is in such demand- it’s phenomenal. It does have a sweet taste, but it’s not sugary. If you have ever had bourbon, you know that sweet molasses tone that it has? That’s what this is like, but there’s no indication of the bourbon past that. Even if you don’t care for bourbon, but love BBQ sauce, this is a winner. Over the years, I’ve had tons of BBQ sauces in restaurants and recipes of my own. The thing I love about it, and why I tend to gravitate to that one bottle of junk I usually buy, is that I really love that traditional, thick, BBQ sauce flavor. You know, the deep red stuff that has a sweet and tangy flavor. Alright, alright- it’s Hunt’s. Okay? It’s stinking Hunt’s- that’s the junk I buy and eat all the time.
Here’s why I think Maker’s Mark is so good- it has that same type of traditional flavor, but you can instantly tell it’s much higher quality. I can instantly recognize this sauce has a much better balance of flavors than that other junk. It’s really well rounded, but still has a great tang to it. The evidence can clearly be seen by the fact my kids are devouring it and they are not fans of my old go-to BBQ sauce. I have a new favorite here with this one.
Now, back to the ingredients. I saved this part for later, because there is a little issue for me here. Here’s what’s in the bottle:
Tomato Puree, Distilled Vinegar, Corn Sweetener, Pineapple, Sugar, Makers Mark Bourbon, Salt, Spices, Applesauce, Cornstarch, Lemon Juice, Raisins, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Molasses, Autolyzed Yeast, Caramel Color, Onion, Garlic Powder, Anchovies, Sardines, Natural Flavoring, Monosodium Glutamate, Paprika, Tamarinds, Cloves, Chili Peppers, Eschallots, Sodium Benzoate
You can see that the folks at Maker’s Mark put a lot of work into creating this sauce. It has a lot of ingredients, but comes together perfectly. So, what’s my issue? It’s the MSG. There have been tons of studies on MSG and most folks agree that it’s as safe as salt. I don’t disagree with that, but there is an unfortunate fact for me- I get migraines and MSG is a trigger for me. I feel like my dog just died. I really do. This stuff was, for a few moments, my best hope for the future of my oft indulged addiction to BBQ sauce. It’s really that good. Hopefully, that’s not an issue for you and you can slather and dip to your hearts content. Eat some for me too.
The bottom line? I’m sad, that’s the bottom line. Just writing this makes me want to go to the grocery store and get to work on trying to recreate this stuff. As far as the ratings go, Maker’s Mark is less than a 1 for heat- it has a slight tang, but no heat. For taste, I’m really tempted to go with the stick and donut. Heck, it’s really that good, so I’m going all in- this bad boy is a 10 out of 10 for flavor. If you’re a BBQ lover, get into a heated affair with a bottle of Maker’s Mark, you’ll be glad you did.