Maker's Mark

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This article is about the bourbon whiskey. For the marking used to identify a product's maker, see trademark.
Maker's Mark
Makers Mark.jpg
Maker's Mark
Type Bourbon whiskey
Manufacturer Beam Suntory
Country of origin Kentucky, United States
Introduced 1958
Alcohol by volume 45 %
Proof (US) 90
Related products Jim Beam

Maker's Mark is a small-batch bourbon whiskey that is distilled in Loretto, Kentucky, by Beam Suntory. It is sold in distinctively squarish bottles, which are sealed with red wax,[1] and bottled at 90 U.S. proof (45% alcohol by volume). The distillery offers tours, and is part of the American Whiskey Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.


Production of Maker's Mark started in 1954, after its originator, T. William "Bill" Samuels Sr., purchased the distillery known as "Burks' Distillery" in Loretto, Kentucky for $35,000[2] on October 1, 1953.[3]

The first bottle of Maker's Mark was bottled in 1958 and featured the brand's distinctive dipped red wax seal.[3] Maker's Mark holds a U.S. trademark (serial number 73526578) on the wax seal of their bottles.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Maker's Mark was widely marketed with the tag line, "It tastes expensive ... and is."[4][5]

The distillery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 1974, and designated a National Historic Landmark on December 16, 1980, listed as "Burks' Distillery". It was the first distillery in America to be so recognized where the landmark buildings were in active use for distilling.

Maker's Mark was sold to Hiram Walker & Sons in 1981.[2] Subsequently, Hiram Walker was acquired by the distillery giant Allied Domecq in 1987, which in turn sold Maker's Mark to Deerfield, Illinois-based Fortune Brands in 2005,[2] when Allied-Domecq was bought by Pernod Ricard. In 2011 Fortune Brands split; its drinks business became Beam Inc.

After the brand's creation by Bill Samuels, Sr., its production was overseen by his son Bill Samuels, Jr. until 2011 when he announced his retirement as president and CEO of Maker's Mark at the age of 70. His son Rob Samuels succeeded him in April 2011.[2]

On February 9, 2013, the company sent a mass e-mail announcing a plan to reduce the alcohol strength of the whiskey, citing supply issues as the reason for the change.[6] The result of this change would have been to reduce the product from 90 U.S. proof (45% alcohol by volume) to 84 U.S. proof (42% abv), which would have stretched inventory by about 6%. Maker's Mark said that their own tasting panel of distillery employees reported no taste difference in the lower proof, while industry analysts said that the difference would be subtle, and since most drinkers mix the bourbon or serve it on ice, few would be able to notice it.[7][8][9] According to Neil Irwin for The Washington Post's Wonkblog, the decision can be explained by Beam's desire to keep Maker's Mark competitive as a premium bourbon at mid-range bars, and a well drink among high-end bars.[10]

On February 17, the company said that it had reconsidered its decision after receiving a strong negative reaction from customers, and that it would continue to bottle at the original strength.[11][12] Some overseas markets like Australia will continue to sell the whiskey at 40%.[13]

In January 2014, Beam Inc announced its sale to Suntory Holdings, creating the third largest distilled spirits maker in the world.[14] News of the proposed sale included bourbon executives vowing "the product taste won't change – and neither will the company's historic purity standards."[15]

In 2014, Maker's Mark released a Maker's Mark Cask Strength Bourbon in limited quantities initially available to consumers only at their distillery gift shop.[16] ABV fluctuates each batch between 53% and 58%. The product was released on the global market in July 2016.[17]

In November 2015 Suntory announced a major expansion of its distillery.[18]

About the bourbon[edit]

Burks' Distillery
Historic Distillery
Nearest city Loretto, Kentucky
Built 1889
Architect George R. Burks
NRHP Reference # 74000893[19]
Added to NRHP December 31, 1974

Maker's Mark is aged for around six years, being bottled and marketed when the company's tasters agree that it is ready. Maker's Mark is one of the few distillers to rotate the barrels from the upper to the lower levels of the aging warehouses during the aging process to even out the differences in temperature during the process. The upper floors are exposed to the greatest temperature variations during the year, so rotating the barrels ensures that the bourbon in all the barrels have the same quality and taste.

Maker's Mark is sold in squarish bottles that are sealed with red wax. T. William Samuels' wife, Marjorie "Margie" Samuels, gave the whiskey its name, drew its label, and thought up the wax dipping that gives the bottle its distinctive look. It was introduced to the market in 1959. Three varieties are marketed; the original, a mint julep flavor with green wax on the neck released seasonally in limited amounts, and 46, a variety flavored by introducing seared French oak staves into the traditional charred white oak barrel toward the end of its aging.[20] The original has been bottled at 90 U.S. proof (45% alcohol by volume).

Maker's Mark is unusual in that no rye is used as part of the mash. Instead red winter wheat is used, along with corn (the predominant grain) and malted barley. During the planning phase of Maker's Mark, Samuels allegedly developed seven candidate mash bills for the new bourbon. As he did not have time to distill and age each one for tasting, he instead made a loaf of bread from each recipe and the one with no rye was judged the best tasting. Samuels also received considerable assistance and recipes from Stitzel-Weller owner Pappy Van Winkle, whose distillery produced the wheated Old Fitzgerald and W. L. Weller bourbons.[21]

Maker's Mark is marketed as a small batch Bourbon. Most producers of so-called small batch Bourbons do not clarify exactly what they mean by the term. The producer of Maker's Mark says that the traditional definition is "A bourbon that is produced/distilled in small quantities of approximately 1,000 gallons or less (20 barrels) from a mash bill of around 200 bushels of grain".[22][23][24]

Maker's Mark is one of the few American-made whiskies to be labeled using the Scottish spelling "whisky" rather than with an "e" as is typical in American use, although Maker's Mark is not the only brand to use the other spelling on its labels (e.g., it is also used for George Dickel and Old Forester).[25]

Bourbon House & Lounge[edit]

Maker's Mark Bourbon House and Lounge in Fourth Street Live!, Louisville.

In addition to the distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, there are also branded restaurants, the first of which is located in the Fourth Street Live! entertainment complex in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. The lounge opened in October 2004 with the grand opening of the Fourth Street Live! complex. It is decorated with backlit Maker's Mark bottles and the traditional Maker's Mark wax dripping from the ceiling. While the lounge focuses on Maker's Mark, it also features other bourbons from each of Kentucky's distilleries. The menu was designed by Chef Al Paris of the famous Zanzibar Blue restaurant in Philadelphia.

In May 2008, the Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge opened in Kansas City, Missouri's downtown Power & Light District. In March, 2009, the third Maker's Mark Bourbon House & Lounge opened at the Indiana Live Casino in Shelbyville, Indiana just outside Indianapolis.


The production line at the Maker's Mark distillery

Maker's Mark bourbon has earned solid marks at international Spirit ratings competitions. Its primary bourbon earned a gold medal at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirit Ratings Competition and a score of 90–95 from Wine Enthusiast in 2007.[26] The Maker's Mark 46—which benefits from longer aging and exposure to toasted French oak staves—has earned similar ratings.[27] Jane MacQuitty, spirits writer for the London Times, said of Maker's Mark that "What separates this bourbon from the rest is the softness and smoothness of its rich oak, vanilla and raisiny-like flavours."[28] Food critic Morgan Murphy said "Dark as its red wax seal, this beautiful whiskey packs apple spice, vanilla, and a front-of-the-mouth crispness that is admired the world over."[29]

Limited edition collector's sets[edit]


Maker's Mark began special edition bottles featuring Keeneland bottles for horses in 1997. The label was white with a dark green horse and green wax. Other Keeneland bottles include famous Derby winners such as Secretariat (2003), Seattle Slew (2004), Affirmed (2005), and American Pharoah (2016).

University of Louisville[edit]

On July 20, 2012, Maker's Mark started selling a limited edition bottle featuring University of Louisville's Head Football Coach Charlie Strong. The bottles were created to raise money for a new Academic Center of Excellence on UofL's campus. Maker's Mark also has marketed special label bottles with the images of Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Rick Pitino and dynamic Athletic Tom Jurich for the same purpose.

University of Kentucky[edit]

Maker's Mark has featured several University of Kentucky sports personalities on its University of Kentucky (UK) line of limited release bottles. A limited quantity of bottles can be signed for free by the personality that was selected for the bottle and by a member of the Samuels family. The signing party is held at Keeneland horse track in the university's home city of Lexington.

The first UK special edition bottle was produced in 1993. In celebration of the 1996 NCAA Men's Basketball Champions, Maker's Mark printed a bottle that had a denim background with white type. The team's coach at the time, Rick Pitino, signed the bottle.[30]

Other bottles include: Wildcat Bottle (2001), Bill Keightley (2002), Rupp's Runts (2006),[31] The Unforgettables (2007),[32] Joe B. Hall (first in 2008[33] and again in 2016[34]), Rich Brooks (2009),[35] John Calipari (2010),[36] Tim Couch (2012),[37] Dan Issel (2013),[38] Mark Stoops (2014),[39] and Adolph Rupp (2015).[34] The 2015 bottle was the first in a series honoring the five basketball coaches who won NCAA titles at UK; future entries in the series will feature Pitino in 2017, Tubby Smith in 2018, and Calipari for a second time in 2019.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maker's Mark Wax". Maker's Mark. Retrieved 2015-11-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d Samuels To Step Down As Maker's Mark President Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press, 12 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b Riddle, Becky. "Old Grist Mill and Distillery". Kentucky Historical Society. Retrieved 2017-04-08. 
  4. ^ It tastes expensive ... and is tradeark description page. Trademarkia. (accessed 2017-04-08).
  5. ^ "Maker's Mark review page at ''Bourbon Central''". Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  6. ^[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Wilson, Jason (February 26, 2013). "Maker's Mark debacle: The proof is in the overreaction". Washington Post. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Maker's Mark waters down bourbon to meet demand". CBS Moneywatch. Associated Press. February 11, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  9. ^ Otts, Chris (February 12, 2013). "Maker's Mark defends watering down its bourbon". USA Today. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  10. ^ Irwin, Neil (February 17, 2013). "Bourbonomics 101: What the Maker's Mark dilution debacle says about corporate strategy". Washington Post. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  11. ^ Cooper, Rachel (18 February 2013). "Maker's Mark reverses move to water down whisky". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Maker's Mark to restore alcohol content of whiskey." Archived December 9, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ "No change to Maker's Mark ABV in Australia: Beam - The Shout, Hotel News, Liquor News, Bar + Club News". 
  14. ^ Schreiner, Bruce (13 January 2014). "Maker of Jim Beam, Maker's Mark bought by Japanese company". Knox News. Retrieved 7 March 2014. 
  15. ^ Chumley, Cheryl K. (14 January 2014). "Jim Beam, Maker's Mark to be sold to Japanese company: Consumers told 'nothing has changed'". The Washington Times. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  16. ^ Hahn, Fritz (October 8, 2014). "This thing you should try: Maker's Mark Cask Strength bourbon". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  17. ^ Hayes, Annie (12 July 2016). "Beam Suntory GTR Unveils Maker's Mark Cask Strength". The Spirits Business. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  18. ^ Schreiner, Bruce (November 20, 2015). "Crank up the flow of red wax: Maker's Mark is boosting its bourbon output". U.S. News & World Report. Louisville, Kentucky. Associated Press. Retrieved November 22, 2015. 
  19. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  20. ^ Schreiner, Bruce (2010-06-07). "Maker's Mark to uncap first new bourbon since '50s". Archived from the original on 2012-07-28. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  21. ^ Cowdery, Charles K., Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey,
  22. ^ Maker's Mark Bourbon Glossary, official web site.
  23. ^ Maker's Mark Distillery Tour in Loretto, KY Watch it made in the U.S.A.
  24. ^ Bourbon – Maker's Mark, Edencroft Fine Wines.
  25. ^ Asimov, Eric (December 4, 2008). "Whiskey versus Whisky". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  26. ^ "Maker's Mark Ratings Summary from". Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  27. ^ "Maker's Mark 46 Ratings Summary from". Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  28. ^ Texas Monthly. p. 43. 
  29. ^ Murphy, Morgan; Editors of Southern Living magazine (2014). Southern Living Bourbon & Bacon: The Ultimate Guide to the South's Favorite Foods. Oxmoor House. ISBN 978-0848743161. 
  30. ^ "UK Wildcats Maker's Bottle". 2010-03-16. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  31. ^ "Rupp's Runts Maker's Bottle". Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  32. ^ "Unforgettables honored on Maker's Bottle". Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  33. ^ "Joe B. Hall Featured on Maker's Bottle". 2008-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  34. ^ a b c Patton, Janet (April 6, 2016). "Maker's Mark Joe B. Hall bottle goes on sale Friday". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved April 24, 2016. 
  35. ^ "Rich Brooks Honored with Maker's Bottle". Lexington Herald-Leader. 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  36. ^ "Calipari to be Featured on Maker's Bottle". 2010-03-01. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  37. ^ "UK Great Tim Couch Honored On New Maker's Mark Charitable Bottle". 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  38. ^ "UK basketball great Dan Issel graces Maker's Mark commemorative bottle". 
  39. ^ Patton, Janet (April 1, 2014). "Maker's Mark, Keeneland unveil bottle with Mark Stoops". Lexington Herald-Leader. Retrieved April 24, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°38′52″N 85°20′56″W / 37.64778°N 85.34889°W / 37.64778; -85.34889