Maker’s Mark was founded in 1840 by T.W. Samuels, in
Nelson County, Kentucky. Records suggest a distillery
and mill might have existed on the site earlier, but the
official year remains 1840. The small distillery
initially used a family recipe which was used for six
generations. The distillery suffered under American
Prohibition and was closed for a time. When the ban was
lifted Bill Samuels Sr. decided to reopen the distillery
and relocate it to Loretto, Kentucky. He also decided to
make a new kind of bourbon and thus re-equipped the
distillery accordingly. The new bourbon was based on
maize (corn), barley and winter wheat.
Bill's wife Marge was given the honor to name the new
whisky and also to design the bottle. She quickly came
up with Maker's Mark which was a tribute to the
distiller’s (maker’s) contribution (mark) to the
character of the whisky. Marge was a collector of Cognac
bottles, which probably influenced her into choosing a
rounder-shaped bottle than what was usually used.
Maker’s Mark also had the top of its neck dipped in wax
like many cognac bottles.
The new distillery was inaugurated in 1958. The new
Maker's Mark with its classic red wax top was priced at
$7. The whiskey quickly became popular and the company
soon begun putting ads into magazines and newspapers. In
1975 Bill Samuels’ son, Bill Samuels JR, took over from
his father. Five years later, in 1980, the distillery
was declared a National Historic Landmark by the U.S.
Secretary of the Interior.
from being declared an historic landmark, Maker’s Mark
received further PR in 1980 when an article was
published in The Wall Street Journal. The article very
positively described the whisky and its “…distinctive
and gentle taste”. The response from the public was
strong; thousands of letters came in to The Wall Street
Journal asking where Maker’s Mark could be purchased.
The interest was so great that an ad was placed in The
Wall Street Journal thanking the readers for their
interest in the whisky and informing them of which
retailers to visit in order to purchase a bottle of
Maker’s Mark. The increasing interest for the whiskey
inspired Maker’s Mark to become one of the first Bourbon
distilleries to open a visitor centre (1980). The
positive development continued and the capacity of the
distillery was doubled in 2000 due to increased demand.
Today the company employs 70 people.
Maker’s Mark has always cared for the traditional
workmanship connected to whisky production. As a result,
the distillery is still quite small in spite of its
The water which is drawn from an on-site spring has
flowed through limestone and is clear and free of iron
and other unwanted substances. The cereals used are
maize (71%), winter wheat (16%) and barley (14%). The
distillery claims the winter wheat is a very important
factor in creating the special Maker’s Mark taste.
The mash is heated in an open ‘cooker’. The process is
much slower than in most other distilleries in the
United States and extends the grain flavors into the
whiskey. Each mashing yields 18 2/3 barrels of raw
spirit, which allows Maker’s Mark to call themselves a
‘small-batch’ whiskey distillery (the limit is 19
The distillery uses 41 open cypress
fermentation tanks. The staves in the fermentation tanks
are replaced individually and the oldest remaining are
over 100 years old. Each fermentation tank holds more
than 40,000 liters (9,300 gallons). Maker’s Mark use the
traditional sour mash method, where some culture is
always left over from one batch to start another.
Maker’s Mark is double-distilled; first in a copper
column still, and then in a traditional copper pot still
which holds approximately 20,000 liters (4,600 gallons).
Maker’s Mark second run has the lowest alcohol content
of all bourbon distilleries (130 proof).
The barrels are freshly charred white oak barrels.
Maker’s Mark uses four different warehouse areas in
three states. Each warehouse holds 20,000 barrels,
adding up to a current total of 250,000 barrels in
storage. Bottling is done on site, which includes the
classic red wax seal. The annual production in 2005 is
600,000 boxes, or 3.6 million bottles of Maker’s Mark.
Considering the success in recent years, the goal is to
reach one million boxes before 2010.
Maker's Mark Distillery, Inc. 3350
Burks Spring Road. Loretto, KY 40037
Production Manager: Kevin
About 60.000 people visit Maker’s Mark every year. Those
who make the trip experience one of the best tours in
the US with insights into the entire whisky making
process. Admission is free.
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